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SPG8013 : Environmental Impact Assessment

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor John Bythell
  • Lecturer: Professor Mark Whittingham
  • Owning School: Engineering
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


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 report.
*       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

Outline of Syllabus       Following an introductory online session from the module leaders, the following on-line study sessions 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 Week 2 of the module will mainly 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. This will involve approximately 9 hours student time, 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 completion134:0034:00Post-school report preparation based on project work and research undertaken in small groups.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:001:00Class online MCQ test (Week 2)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching35:0015:00PiP Small group sessions on tasks in break-outs and present findings to class.
Guided Independent StudyProject work38:0024:00PiP Group work and independent study on case study materials.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesScheduled on-line contact time11:001:00Introduction to course (Week 1) - synchronous online.
Guided Independent StudyDistance Learning Advance Preparation55:0025:00Self-study based on five online learning units (Week 1)
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Web based 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 on Day 3 of 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.

Students should consult their individual timetable for up-to-date delivery information

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M70Post School Report. Max 8 pages
Written exercise2M30Online MCQ test (scheduled 1 h)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment2MMultiple choice quizzes associated with each unit of learning (5 in total).
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.

Reading Lists