New Framework for Assessing the Significance of Soil in EIA Aims to Plug Guidance Gap

8th December 2015

The Professional Committee of the British Society of Soil Science (BSSS) and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) will be working in partnership to produce the new framework. They will take expert technical advice from Natural England to collectively plug a UK gap in available guidelines for assessing the significance of effects of EIA development on soil, including agricultural land.

This move to produce a much-needed framework comes after recent substantive amendments were made to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive 2011/92/EU. Project lead Rob Askew commented on the framework moving from concept to reality, saying today: “Given that the amendments must be transposed into UK law by May 2017 – and that they require a greater consideration of the effects of development on land, human health and biodiversity – a new framework to support EIA professionals is now essential.”

To kickstart production of the framework, a Significance of Soil (SOS) Working Group has been created. Populated by members of the Professional Committee of the BSSS and IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network, the group will look at how the framework will advise on:

  • how to characterise both the impact and the receptor;
  • how to determine a likely effect;
  • how to apply professional judgement to justify the evaluation of a specific effect’s significance. 

This follows the approach of existing guidance on EIA topic assessment, produced by IEMA and other professional bodies, including landscape, ecology and noise.

The Significance of Soil Framework will focus on agricultural land and the production of food and fibre – a key soil function. It will also provide guidance on assessing other key soil functions, including the role of soil in carbon sequestration, soil as a store of physical and cultural heritage, and soil as a biological habitat and gene pool will be developed in the near future.

The framework is now in production and is set for publication on World Soil Day 2016 - 5th