Health Impact Assessments

Once considered the poor cousin of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Health Impact Assessments (HIA) have been slowly gathering pace. Most controversial and significant developments are now accompanied by HIAs, either as a policy requirement, or a voluntary step to help inform the local community and the local authority (LA) on the likely health impacts.

Many LAs undertake HIAs on new plans, policies, and programmes to understand the wider health implications for their communities or to raise awareness of the health benefits associated with a new initiative. This was the case with Bristol’s Central Area Action Plan and Bradford’s proposed Low Emission Zone, both of which were subject to an HIA.

The latest development in the rise of HIAs went almost unnoticed, when last October the European Commission launched its proposals to amend the EIA Directive, (Directive 2011/92/EU). One of the new topic areas proposed is Human Health, and as with many of the EIA revisions, this is seen by most as an attempt to streamline and incorporate EIA’s little brother, HIA, into the family.

The proposed measures are currently being considered by the European Parliament and Council. Once agreed they will become EU law and in turn become adopted into UK law. A fundamental change in the legal position is still some way off, but developments that require an EIA are increasingly likely to be expected to address the associated health impacts by the LAs. Developers may also want to highlight the health benefits of a scheme, increase transparency, and help ease the way for a controversial development.

If you would like to discuss the implications of HIAs further please call Georgina Dowling on 0203 544 3996 or email georgina.dowling@greengage-env.com.