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SPG8013 : Environmental Impact Assessment

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Aileen Mill
  • Lecturer: Dr Elisa Lopez-Capel
  • Owning School: Engineering
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0
European Credit Transfer System


The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process should inform decision makers about the likely effects of a proposed development on the natural and man-made environment. It is a consultative and participatory process between scientists, environmental managers, developers, public bodies and government authorities which requires a wide range of skills and expertise to complete successfully. Its aim is to identify likely effects and possible mitigation measures at an early stage and thus improve the quality of both project planning and decision-making. This course will provide a background to the principles and practice of the EIA process and hands-on experience and skills training with realistic environmental impact scenarios. Although the course is designed for international applications, much of the documentation and procedures are based on EU EIA frameworks and is particularly suited to work within the EU countries.
Specifically, it aims to:

*       Provide a background outlining the principles and practice of the EIA process.
*       Provide training in undertaking EIA projects, including the communication of outcomes via final written
*       Promote development of a wide range of transferable skills that are an integral part of the specialist
ability to contribute to the EIA process.

Outline Of Syllabus

The following on-line study topics each involve approximately 5 hours work and are associated with formative on-line multiple- choice tests so that students can monitor their progress.

Recommended background texts provide a framework and links are provided to further reading aimed at specific applications.

1. Introduction. What is EIA and how does it work? Objectives of the module; preparation and presentation of EIA
reports; evaluating and reviewing EIA statements and reports; sourcing information; introduction to the EIA
projects and case studies.

2. Issues and trends in EIA. Types of EIA; integration into a sustainable development framework; approaches to
developing effective EIA procedures; strategic EIA (SEA); trans-boundary issues.

3. Stages in the project cycle. Project screening; initial environmental evaluation; scoping studies; baseline
studies; impact prediction and significance; mitigating measures; monitoring requirements.

4. Techniques used in the EIA process. Checklists; matrices; mapping techniques; assessing social, fiscal and
human health impacts; risk analysis.

5. Success of EIA. Historical and regional overview of EIA practices; case studies and cost-benefit analysis;
where and why has EIA failed to be effective?

In addition to viewing the above 5 online sessions participants are also required to review existing Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) using appropriate methodologies and templates provided. By recognising the deficiencies and limitations of historical EISs participants should develop a deeper understanding of good practice in the EIA process and the final reporting stages.

The EIA process is best learnt by doing, and the module will involve hands-on group work and engagement in
guided case-study exercises (experiential learning). There are three elements to the programme:

1. Case Study Review – a review of an historical EIA document using a structured EU EIA Review process. The case
study seeks to clarify how to ‘present information useful to the decision maker’.

2. Case study exercises: a simplified (fictional) case study exercise will introduce students to aspects of EIA
practice and provide formative assessment of performance. Based on a proposal for a development, you will be
asked to develop an EIA project structure and plan Terms of Reference (ToR) for the implementing agency.
Elements of the exercise will include: a) setting out the problem, identifying the main environmental
impacts; b) establishing and evaluating project options and mitigation; c) establishing priority inputs (data
and information) required for the decision-making process; d) creating and describing specific ToR, including
aspects such as logistics, expert teams, time-scales and costs.

3. EIA project: the final exercise is based on the EIA process for an existing windfarm development and you will
research, prepare and present specific aspects of an EIA drawn from a real development project. You will
initially receive documentation outlining the development and the approach to be used, plus supporting
materials. Acting as sub-contractors to an EIA consultancy, students carry out an initial scoping exercise to
focus on the main environmental impacts and outline the data requirements for the EIA. Once the scoping
exercise is completed, you will be supplied with further information and data sheets relating to the EIA.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion134:0034:00Report preparation based on project work and research undertaken in small groups.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:001:00Class online MCQ test
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops72:0014:00Computer cluster sessions
Guided Independent StudyProject work125:0025:00Group work and independent study on case study materials.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time11:001:00Introduction to course
Guided Independent StudyDistance Learning Advance Preparation55:0025:00Self-study based on five learning units
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Sessions available during week 1 provide fundamental information on EIA and indicate further and most appropriate information sources for further study. The knowledge outcomes are formatively assessed via online MCQ and summatively assessed in an in-class MCQ during the intensive teaching week. Case study exercises carried out in small group tutorial sessions are used to enhance problem solving skills and reinforce relevant EIA material, application of legislative materials, data collection approaches and interpretation. During group learning sessions, (Project Work), EIA project work uses fundamental information delivered via the web and applies this knowledge in a simulated ‘real world’ EIA project, providing experiential learning of the skills of impact prediction and EIA project management on a project relevant to renewable energy development.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M70Report - Max 8 pages
Computer assessment2M30Online MCQ test (scheduled 1 h)
Formative Assessments

Formative Assessment is an assessment which develops your skills in being assessed, allows for you to receive feedback, and prepares you for being assessed. However, it does not count to your final mark.

Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2MMCQ Test Unit 1
Computer assessment2MMCQ Test Unit 2
Computer assessment2MMCQ Test Unit 3
Computer assessment2MMCQ Test Unit 4
Computer assessment2MMCQ Test Unit 5
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Factual knowledge of EIA process, procedures and nomenclature is assessed via online MCQ. The post-school report assesses the ability to a) problem-solve and summarise a diverse set of information in a scoping study, and b) undertake a review and evaluation of an existing EIA using standard assessment methods.
Each online learning unit (5 units) is associated with a formative online MCQ, similar in structure and content to the final MCQ assessment designed to test factual knowledge and terminology associated with EIA (legislation, policy and practice).

Reading Lists