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Strategic Environmental Assessment

What is SEA?

SEA stands for strategic environmental assessment and may be defined as a process which is intended to provide a high level of protection to the environment when plans or programmes are being prepared. A SEA also provides for a consultative mechanism that, together with the assessment undertaken, feeds into the design of plans and programmes in order to factor into them environmental considerations.

The applicability of SEAs usually extends to plans and programmes which are prepared by a national, regional or local authority or which are prepared by an authority for adoption through a legislative procedure by Parliament or Government and which are required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions.

Notwithstanding, an SEA is not applicable to any plan or programme but to those which are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism, town and country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in Annexes I and II to Directive 85/337/EEC ( as then amended in Directive 2014/52/EU); or which in view of the likely effect on sites, have been determined to require an assessment pursuant to Article 6 or 7 of Directive 92/43/EEC.

The legislation provides conditions for the consideration of SEA to other plans and programmes. The SEA Regulations apply to plans and programmes of which the first formal preparatory act was subsequent to 21st July 2004. 

By conducting a SEA, the environmental transparency of plans and programmes is enhanced and it is envisaged that this would contribute towards the goal of sustainable development. The main deliverable of a SEA is the Environmental Report wherein the likely significant effects that the plan or programme and its alternatives could have on the environment are identified and evaluated. The Environment Report is submitted for public consultation, with a subsequent revised report being expected. This revised report should reflect such consultations and show how these were integrated.

A SEA also takes into account the possible transboundary effects on other Member States as a result of the proponent’s plan impacting other Member States.