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Catapult aims to produce environmental impact assessment platform


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Connected Places Catapult (CPC) has identified the priorities for a central digital system for environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

It said it is finalising work on three core prototypes that it aims to unveil next month, along with a roadmap for the financing and delivery of an operational EIA platform.

CPC, one of the Catapult centres funded through national innovation agency Innovate UK, has received backing for a project to identify the benefits of a digital EIA.

Currently the assessments – which cover the environmental and social effects of proposals for land, property and infrastructure developments before decisions are made – are extensive, paper based exercises with a range of stakeholders. CPC said the data is often reproduced, not shared or recycled and neither standardised nor machine readable, and it is not used for monitoring once a development is completed.

Wholesale transformation

“Overall the EIA system needs a wholesale digital transformation, founded on better data, data sharing and more collaborative tools,” CPC said.

It has identified a number of priorities, including the need for a process that automatically collects and provides access to data in a standardised, machine readable format, and which allows multiple stakeholders to write, collate, model and assess impacts simultaneously.

There is also a need for streamlining, where previous stages inform and build subsequent ones, and to make the process open to new technologies and visualisations. In addition, the whole assessment needs to be reviewed by post-development monitoring.

CPC suggested a good way to begin would be an EIA National Datastore to underpin all of the solutions and form the core of a digital EIA. It could involve a centralised or distributed approach that makes all of the raw data available in a standardised format.

The organisation is planning to unveil its prototypes at a launch event on 24 March, and said it will encourage a conversation around changes needed in the current system.

Image by Tim Green, CC BY 2.0

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