What is the future for Environmental Impact Assessments?

We (funded by Innovate UK) wanted to discover how Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes could be transformed. Our human-centred design approach has explored a more designed, digital and data informed future for EIA. Having identified key challenges, an imagined future vision has been designed and a roadmap for change has been developed. This website has been created to share our work so far, and to start a conversation.

Read the report

Who we are

Funded by Innovate UK, The Digital EIA project is a collaboration between Connected Places Catapult (led by their Digitising Planning Programme), Quod, Temple Group, ODI Leeds and Liquorice Marketing.

Aims and Objectives

The Digital EIA project aims to:

  • Understand the existing EIA process to identify challenges and pain points, and to pinpoint key opportunities for digitisation
  • Design a collection of future-facing ideas with the aim of resolving the identified challenges
  • Demonstrate the ‘art of the possible’ through a series of prototypes
  • Develop a roadmap for the implementation of a digitally driven EIA system, outlining where legislative and technical changes are required
  • Explore the feasibility and economic impact of a new data led and digitised EIA process
  • Make our work open and accessible to all, thereby catalysing industry-wide innovation and stimulating further collaboration
The thames river

Why it matters

Environmental Statements (ES) are critical to ensure the environmental and social effects of development proposals are understood prior to decisions being made. They’re a crucial part of the design evolution process for major developments and should aid and inform public participation in decision-making.

But they also tend to be bloated and inaccessible, and as such often seen as a burden.

Did you know:

  • The average Environmental Statement for a 500-dwelling housing development is 4,350 pages long (source: surveys and interviews)
  • Planning Consultants, EIA Coordinators and Technical Specialists report spending between 5 and 40 days preparing content beyond the minimum, for a typical 500-dwelling housing development (source: surveys and interviews)
  • The High Speed 2 (HS2) Environmental Statement, was estimated to be approximately 49,000 pages long, cost over £15,000 to print one copy, and weigh as much as a small car (source: Woodland Trust / City A.M.)

In the midst of a climate crisis, making sure this process is efficient, effective and accessible is more important than ever. What’s more, beyond reducing negative impact, the EIA process should also identify ways for developments to have a positive impact on the environment.

Get involved

We’re proud to be able to share insights from the work we’ve undertaken for our report, which included workshops and interviews with key stakeholders from organisations including Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the Cabinet Office, the Environment Agency, Historic England, Natural England, IEMA, local authorities, lawyers, consultants and developers.

This is only the beginning. The project will continue to push further and welcomes input from all who would like to contribute.