Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is the process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of Plans and Programmes and prior to their final adoption. The objectives of the SEA process are to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to promote sustainable development by contributing to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of specified Plans and Programmes.

The requirement for SEA derives from the SEA Directive (2001/42/EC). Eleven sectors are specified in the Directive and Competent Authorities (Plan/Programme makers) must subject specific Plans and Programmes for these sectors to an environmental assessment where they are likely to have significant effects on the environment. 

The eleven sectors are as follows: Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Energy, Industry, Transport, Waste management, Water management, Telecommunications, Tourism, Town and Country Planning or Landuse. Go to SEA Sectors to view a list of weblinks related to these sectors.

2012 SEA Effectiveness Review Report

Ten years after the coming into force of the Directive, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has commissioned RPS Consultants to review how effective SEA in Ireland has been to date. SEA effectiveness can be direct: it can lead to changes in a plan that reduce the plan’s negative effects and increase its benefits.

It can also be indirect, for instance by increasing planners’ understanding of the environment and improving public participation in plan-making. Key recommendations are presents for a number of areas including Guidance, Training & Awareness, Data Collection, Provision & Sharing and Governance & Legislation.

Five reports are provided in relation to the SEA Effectiveness Review:

National Legislation

The requirements for SEA in Ireland are set out in the national Regulations, S.I. No. 435 of 2004 (European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) Regulations 2004 and S.I. No. 436 of 2004 (Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Regulations 2004 as amended byS.I. No. 200 of 2011 (European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) (Amendment) Regulations 2011) and S.I. No. 201 of 2011 (Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations 2011)  respectively.

You are also referred to the recent DoECLG Circular (PSSP 6/2011) issued on the 26th July 2011 to each County/City Manager, Director of Services and Town Clerk in relation to ‘Further Transposition of the EU Directive 2001/42/EC on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)’ which should also be referred to and integrated into the Plan/Variation/Amendment.

New Regulations/Circular Summary

The new amending SEA Regulations, referred to above,  provide for a reduction in the mandatory SEA population threshold for Local Area Plans, from 10,000 to 5,000 persons. Local Area Plans covering an area greater than 50sq km, also now require mandatory SEA. You are referred to the new SEA regulations at: S.I. No. 200 of 2011 and S.I. No. 201 of 2011. You are also referred to Circular PSSP6/2011, which clarifies the statutory bodies to be consulted in relation to SEA, which is also provided in the SEA Contacts Page.

The statutory Environmental Authorities which have been designated under these Regulations, as amended are provided below:

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Minister for the Environmental, Community and Local Government
  • Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food, and the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, where it appears to the planning authority that the plan or programme, or modification of the plan or programme, might have significant effects on fisheries or the marine environment
  • where it appears to the competent authority that the plan or programme, or amendment to a plan or programme, might have significant effects in relation to the architectural heritage or to nature conservation, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, and [Below bullet only applicable to land use plans under S.I. No 436 of 2004, as amended by S.I. No. 201 of 2011 ]
  • any adjoining planning authority whose area is continuous to the area of a planning authority which prepared a draft plan, proposed variation or local area plan.

A copy of your decision regarding the determination should be made available for public inspection at your offices, local authority website and should also be notified to any Environmental Authoritiesalready consulted.

Steps involved

The steps involved in SEA are:

  • Screening (determining whether or not SEA is required)
  • Scoping (determining the range of environmental issues to be covered by the SEA)
  • The preparation of an Environmental Report
  • The carrying out of consultations
  • The integration of environmental considerations into the Plan or Programme
  • The publication of information on the decision (SEA Statement)

Help us to help you

When you are requesting advice or feedback from us, you can help us to make a timely response by providing certain information with your notices as follows:

Screening 

We need a brief outline of the Plan/Programme (or modification), some relevant background information and the geographical location nationally and locally. GIS-based maps would be helpful (see below for more on GIS). This can be by way of a Screening Statement.

Your Screening Statement should include your SEA screening determination which must take into account the relevant criteria set out in Annex II of the SEA Directive or either Schedule 1 of S.I No. 435 of 2004 or Schedule 2A of S.I No. 436 of 2004 ( as amended by S.I. No. 200 or S.I. No. 201 of 2011), as appropriate. 

Scoping

We need you to provide us with your evaluation of the scope and level of detail of the information to be contained in the Environmental Report. The information required is set out in Annex I of the SEA Directive or set out in Schedule 2/2B of the SEA Regulations. This can be by way of a Scoping Report. A web link for any Plan or Programme being prepared, reviewed or modified should also be provided.

Please submit two paper copies of Screening Statements and Scoping Reports.  Electronic submissions of Scoping Material will also be accepted.

Environmental Report

Please submit 2 paper copies of the Draft Plan and the Environmental Report.  (Electronic submissions are not accepted for SEA and draft Plans )

Please also submit one CD with one copy of the Draft Plan and of the Environmental Report as pdf documents. Each separate document should be complete. Please do not submit documents fragmented into separate sections or parts.

Amendments

Any proposed Amendments to the draft Plan, should be subjected to both SEA and Appropriate Assessment (AA) screening. Any texual changes should present the original text in its entirety and the new proposed text.  GIS data, as appropriate and relevant should present the amount of landtake, change of land-use, rezoning etc to be covered by the proposed Amendments. Please submit 1 copy of the proposed Amendments including relevant maps where relevant.

SEA Statement

You are reminded to submit your SEA Statement (Information on Decision) when the Plan or Programme has been formally adopted.

Please use sea@epa.ie when contacting the SEA Team or when making a submission.

See SEA Contacts for the details of Environmental Authorities in Ireland and in other jurisdictions.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

You should consider the use of GIS, where possible, at the various key stages in the SEA process. GIS is very useful to display key information related to the location of your Plan/Programme and to the location and proximity of nearby environmental resources and receptors. GIS can also help to determine the cumulative vulnerability of these nearby resources and receptors. The infomation that GIS provides will depend on the availability of relevant spatial data. We recommend that GIS be used in conjunction with other environmental information gathering and assessment methodologies.

An SEA GIS Manual is available for use of GIS in the SEA process.

The EPA has developed its own online GIS/environmental map viewer known as ENVision. ENVision enables you to access environmental information in a spatial context.

Go to ENVision, the EPA's environmental map viewer, by clicking on 'EPA Maps' on the home page of the EPA website.

Learn more

 LoCall 1890 33 55 99