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Training package on EU Environmental Assessment Law – Focus on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directives

Module 2: Focus on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The process of an EIA: Steps of the EIA procedure - Development consent

Article 1(2) of the EIA Directive:
Where an environmental impact assessment is required, the developer shall prepare and submit an environmental impact assessment report. The information to be provided by the developer shall include at least:

  1. ‘development consent’ means the decision of the competent authority or authorities which entitles the developer to proceed with the project

Development consent is defined by the EIA Directive as the final green light by the competent authority or authorities to the project. At the same time, especially when it comes to complex projects involving several permits or other administrative acts, the question arises as to what the specific action from the competent authority that shall be considered as development consent is. This question was subject to a number of cases at the ECJ.

The ECJ noted that Article 1(2) of the EIA Directive defines only a single type of consent, namely the decision of the competent authority or authorities which entitles the developer to proceed with the project. (More information: C-332/04, Commission v Spain, paragraph 53)

Furthermore, the ECJ has dealt with the issue of consent procedures comprising several stages in a number of judgments and found that in such a case the assessment must, in principle, be carried out as soon as it is possible to identify and assess all the effects which the project may have on the environment. (More information: C-201/02, Wells, paragraph 52) Following up on its settled case-law, the ECJ has concluded that an authorisation within the meaning of the EIA Directive may be formed by the combination of several distinct decisions when the national procedure which allows the developer to be authorised to start works to complete his project includes several consecutive steps. From that, the ECJ ruled that in such a situation the date on which the application for a permit for a project was formally lodged must be fixed as the day on which the developer submitted an application seeking to initiate the first stage of the procedure (i.e. the cut-off date for the request for development consent). (More information: C-416/10, Križan, paragraph 103)


Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)