Social impact assessments for projects to get standard template

The assessment will remain optional in most cases and will only become a requirement if a Strategic Environment Assessment says so

The Planning Authority has proposed rules regulating the manner in which Social Impact Assessments are carried out
The Planning Authority has proposed rules regulating the manner in which Social Impact Assessments are carried out

The Planning Authority has finally proposed rules to regulate the way Social Impact Assessments (SIA) are carried out.

SIAs are meant to address the impact of developments and projects on local communities.

SIAs are only mandatory when assessing tall buildings, but in the new rules they will be mandatory when it is deemed necessary in a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) – an impact assessment on prospective policies or local plans, which however tend to be rare procedures.

In the remainder of cases, the Planning Authority’s executive council will need to decide on a “case by case basis” whether or not new plans and policies require an SIA.

The executive council is chaired by the authority’s powerful CEO Johann Buttigieg, and includes two representatives from the Environment and Resources Authority, and the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the PA’s planning board.

It will be this council to decide on whether an SIA is required on the basis of the type, scale and geographical context of the proposed plan or policy.

As for individual planning applications, SIAs will only be required when dictated by the policy or plans regulating them. Presently, SIAs are only a policy requirement when it comes to the development of buildings higher than 11 storeys.

This means that mega-projects which do not include high-rise developments, will still not be obliged to carry out such assessments.

Nor will they be mandatory for the cumulative impact of development clusters, or areas which have been impacted by a number of projects.

The PA has now issued a template for the terms of reference for SIAs, which must include a community profile developed as a result of engagement of stakeholders including residents, rights-holders, employees and other users.

This has to include the assessment of the differing needs, interests, values and aspirations of the various subgroups of the affected communities, including gender.

The SIA will have to determine the significance of potential impacts during both the construction and operational phases of the project, as well as the impact on the social fabric in the impacted area and how the different stakeholders are likely to respond.

SIAs must also propose measures addressing the impacts of the development proposed.

The SIA process has to be carried out in accordance with best practice and take due account of the most recent guidance of the International Association for Impact Assessment, carried out by a qualified consultant with a post-graduate degree and experience relevant to the field of SIAs.

The new rules have been issued for public consultation and the public has till 28 June to send its feedback.

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