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ENVS6028 Environmental Impact Assessment

Module Overview

This module examines the process of assessing the potential impacts of major developments on the environment- known worldwide as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This is seen globally as major tool to help deliver sustainable development. The module has two major themes. In the first part of the module emphasis is placed on the philosophy of EIA, and the legal and planning framework in which EIA is used. The second, more practical part, focuses on selected major impacts/issues which need to be considered as part of environmental assessment and the approaches to baseline surveys used by various disciplines to assess and monitor environmental change. Students should gain an intellectual feel for approaches to environmental management and decision-making- plus practically orientated exposure to the approaches used in assessing impacts. Students will concentrate on EIA procedures in the UK and the European Union, and on the way in which the process integrates different disciplines and different interest groups. At the completion of the course students should be able to judge whether or not a particular project would require an EIA; how such an assessment be produced, what steps would be needed to undertake a baseline survey, how impacts might be mitigated and monitored. They should also be able to discuss critically the strengths and weaknesses of the system and the methods available. Case studies and examples of practice from around the world- both terrestrial and coast/marine- are also included in the module, with targeted support from guest speakers working as EIA professionals. Practice in researching and writing a detailed report as part of a proposed EIA will be provided through the major coursework exercise, examining a fictional (but not unlikely) local scenario.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been progressively introduced over recent decades as a tool to help deliver sustainable development. Across the world, major developments are usually subject to systematic assessment of the impacts they may have on the environment before permission is given for them to proceed. Impacts which are judged to be significant should be mitigated; alternatives should be considered, and the public involved in the decision making process. The process can also extend beyond projects to policy, plan or programme level, through Strategic EIA (or "SEA"). The nature of EIA means that it is inevitably a multidisciplinary (and often interdisciplinary) procedure which draws upon the skills of both specialists and generalists; and can help science to inform decisions made by society. This module aims to train students in EIA, so they have general understanding of the process and sufficient knowledge to be involved professionally. Many Southampton graduates are now involved in EIA in their careers- as consultants, in government and planning authorities, in government agencies, with NGOs or working for developers or industry. Indeed, some of the guest speakers supporting the module are past students at Southampton General Aims • to provide participants with sufficient background for them to be able to consider current EIA practice in the UK in both its national and international context. • to understand the EIA process via lectures, private study and scenario-based coursework. • to deliver an outline of the range of disciplines which are involved in the EIA process, with focus on selected areas.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The need for both a multi-disciplinary and an interdisciplinary approach in advancing knowledge and understanding of Earth systems, drawing, as appropriate, from the natural and the social sciences
  • The processes which shape the natural world at different temporal and spatial scales and their influence on and by human activities
  • The terminology, nomenclature and classification systems used in environmental science
  • Methods of acquiring, interpreting and analysing environmental science information with a critical understanding of the appropriate contexts for their use
  • Issues concerning the availability and sustainability of resources, for example, the different value sets relating to the Earth's resources as commodities and/or heritage
  • The contribution of environmental science to debate on environmental issues and how knowledge of these forms the basis for informed concern about the Earth and its people
  • The contribution of environmental science to the development of knowledge of the world we live in
  • The applicability of environmental science to the world of work
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles
  • Analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research
  • Applying knowledge and understanding to complex and multidimensional problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
  • Recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (e.g. textual, numerical, verbal, graphical)
  • Developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work
  • Communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical forms
  • Appreciating issues of sample selection, accuracy, precision and uncertainty during collection, recording and analysis of data in the field and laboratory
  • Using the internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information
  • Identifying individual and collective goals and responsibilities and performing in a manner appropriate to these roles
  • Recognising and respecting the views and opinions of other team members
  • Evaluating performance as an individual and a team member
  • Developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (e.g. working independently, time management and organisation skills)
  • Identifying and working towards targets for personal, academic and career development
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Planning, conducting, and reporting on environmental investigations, including the use of secondary data
  • Undertaking field and laboratory investigations in a responsible and safe manner, paying due attention to risk assessment, rights of access, relevant health and safety regulations, and sensitivity to the impact of investigations on the environment and stakeholders
  • Referencing work in an appropriate manner


The module comprises a course of lectures, seminars and workshops that provide an understanding of EIA by examination of theory, law, policy and practice. A broad range of topics is covered, including: • Conceptual frameworks for EIA. • Definitions and history. • General methods within current legal and policy frameworks. • Baseline survey approaches. • Assessing significance. • Mitigation, monitoring and management of environmental impacts. • Approaches to alternatives within EIA. • Approaches to EIA presentation and report writing. Focus on specific aspects, e.g. ecology, cultural heritage landscape and visual, climate change, health and well-being • Consultation & communication. • Quality issues and emerging developments. • Strategic EIA. • Field visit to a coastal coursework development scenario location. • Support for revision and feedback. Case studies and guest speakers are used throughout the module to support the taught material. Guest speaker presentations deliver examples of current practice and employability support.

Special Features

Field/site visit. For students with specials needs, an individual assessment with be made and appropriate arrangements made to ensure they are enabled to benefit from the exercise or an equivalent experience.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The unit will be delivered by lecture and workshop sessions, plus one site visit. The sessions will be delivered by the module co-ordinator, specialist contributors from Engineering and the Environment, and by external speakers with experience in consultancy and planning. Learning activities include: • Attendance at lectures and seminars. • Self-directed learning - supplementary and complementary to lecture materials. • Private study – research for and preparation of module assignments. • Site visit, including interactive briefings from lecturing staff. • Targeted support sessions for coursework.

Completion of assessment task25
Preparation for scheduled sessions12
Follow-up work24
External visits4
Wider reading or practice27
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Glasson, J, Therivel, R and Chadwick, A (2012). Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment. 

Morris, P & Therivel, R (2009). Methods of Environmental Impact Assessment. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 40%
Report 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination 40%
Report 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Travel Costs for placements

You will need to provide and wear your own suitable clothing when attending field courses, e.g. waterproofs, walking boots. You can purchase these from any source and costs will vary depending on your preference. You will be expected to purchase your own lunch and any additional refreshments. (clothing)

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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