The overall objective of the environmental assessment is
- to identify the environmental receptors within the scheme area
- to establish the interactions between the environmental receptors to ensure that they are understood and assessed in terms of significant environmental impacts.
The first step in the environmental assessment process is the identification of environmental constraints. The Constraints Study will be primarily delivered via desk-top work and targeted field assessments by various experts. The Study will identify environmental constraints that might be relevant to, or impose restrictions on, the design and construction of the proposed flood relief scheme. The Constraints Study will be informed through consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, collation of background information, relevant national datasets & mapping, public information days (including feedback) and relevant information from the Engineering team & Steering Group. Previously commissioned reports and surveys for the flood relief area will be reviewed and their findings incorporated into the constraints process. Consultation will seek to request comment, observations and relevant information regarding the scheme and likely sensitive receptors.
The findings of the constraints process will be presented in a Constraints Study Report and will include an assessment of the constraints on receptors such as:
• population and human health,
• biodiversity including ecological designations,
• protected habitats and species,
• watercourses and waterbodies (hydrological connectivity to the wider environment),
• groundwater vulnerability,
• karst features,
• groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems,
• cultural heritage including features of archaeological and architectural interest,
• landscape character areas etc.
The output of this study will be to inform the design process for the scheme from an environmental viewpoint.
The next step will be for the environmental experts to conduct an environmental assessment of the viable options. This will be an iterative process with the engineering team and the steering group to identify an option that delivers the objectives of the scheme whilst seeking to avoid or minimise impacts on the environment. RPS will identify the likely environmental impacts for each viable option while also identifying feasible avoidance or mitigation measures and environmental enhancement measures required for each. Potential impacts will be described in terms of quality, significance, extent and context, probability, duration and type as defined in the EPA Draft Guidelines for Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) 2017.
The preferred option will then be subject to Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment screening in accordance with the EIA Directive 2011/92/EU (as amended by EIA Directive 2014/52/EU) and Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC as transposed into Irish legislation under the European Union (Planning and Development) (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2018 and Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. The outcome of these screening assessments will determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment Report and Natura Impact Statement are required for the scheme.