"Public Watchdogs": An analysis of the role of the public in Environmental Impact Assessments

Author:Daniel Mosley
Position:Student at the University of Dundee (3rd Year LLB English Law). The author would like to thank George Dick for his suggestions and comments.
Pages:1-13
1
Dundee Student Law Review, Vol. 4(1), No.3
Public Watchdogs: An analysis of the role of the
public in Environmental Impact Assessments
Daniel Mosley
Introduction
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) provide an opportunity for the public to
participate in the decision-making process behind approving, or rejecting, projects which are
potentially, or palpably, environmentally harmful. The role of the public in the decision-
making process, however, is merely consultation. It is reasonable to assume that public
participation is an invaluable contribution to EIAs; as Holder notes:
“[Participation] contributes to the correctness or validity of decisions, by allowing
assertions to be checked against the views of those who have local knowledge of an
area, or are interested parties”.
1
Furthermore, public participation also allows the exercising of democracy and discussion in
an area which is traditionally technocratic. However, this technocracy shuts the public out of
the discussion (as shall be discussed later in the article). It only seems fair that the public,
who may be affected by various proposals, have a right to join in the discussion; thus, public
participation is very useful for the EIA process.
Despite the recognition of the virtues of public participation in EIAs, it is clear that public
participation may bear little, or even no, influence upon the decision to grant planning
permission; this can primarily be pin-pointed to the decision-maker, being the State, who is
afforded absolute discretion in their decision. The consultations with the public who
Student at the University of Dundee (3rd Year LLB English Law). The author would like to thank George Dick
for his suggestions and comments.
1 Jane Holder, Environmental Assessment: The Regulation of Decision Making (OUP, 2004), 194.

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