Research Handbooks in European Law series
Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Michael N. Cardwell
Chapter 7: Environmental governance and land use policy in tension? Applying environmental impact assessment to intensive agriculture
European environmental law is increasingly exerting a strong influence on both the shape, and the extent and range, of land use controls applied to agriculture. The principal agent for this shift in the regulatory framework has been the introduction of environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 1985. Agriculture has in the United Kingdom (UK) been largely free from planning controls and other regulatory requirements, due in large part to the exemption of agricultural land use from the planning regime by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and its successors. The architecture of the post-war planning settlement remains largely intact. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the introduction of EIA, a key instrument of European Union (EU) environmental law, is now driving an extension of regulatory control over land use with major implications for agriculture. The introduction of EIA for some changes in land use (for example, intensifying production on semi-natural land) represents a major extension of regulatory control into an area previously untouched by legal controls. This may be seen as a direct response by EU environmental policy to the now widely recognized and damaging impacts of intensive and industrial scale agriculture on the natural environment across the EU. In the domestic context, environmental law has also had more subtle impacts on the governance of land use, both within the town and country planning system itself and in land use controls applied through other governance structures.
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