Summary: This report is an update of the previous stand-alone guidance document on SEA Statements and monitoring, prepared as part of the EPA-funded project Second Review of SEA Effectiveness in Ireland (González et al., 2020). It is specific to the Irish context but has wider international applicability. The monitoring recommendations include guidance on indicators to facilitate a more consistent and coherent approach at this SEA stage. The updates relate to clarifying some SEA monitoring requirements and to acknowledge the published revised national SEA Guidelines and the Development Plan Guidelines for Planning authorities, both published by the DHLGH in 2022.
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This report is based on the EPA-funded project Second Review of Strategic Environmental Assessment Effectiveness in Ireland (González et al., 2020). The original report was included, as an appendix, in the report findings of this project and has been extracted and now updated into a stand along guidance document. It is specific to the Irish context but has wider international applicability. The monitoring recommendations include guidance on indicators to facilitate a more consistent and coherent approach at this SEA stage.
SEA Statements have the potential to play a central role in summarising the effectiveness of the SEA process. They can capture how environmental considerations have shaped the plan/programme (e.g. through policy wordings, revisited zonings and other measures) and how the process has contributed to making the plan or programme more sustainable. This is best accomplished by presenting the proposed mitigation measures and relevant related recommendations and indicating how they have been considered and/or incorporated into the plan/programme.
Much of the information that must be included in a SEA Statement should ideally already be included in the Environmental Report (e.g. the alternatives considered). Indeed, the SEA Statement should “tell the story” of the SEA process from start to finish.
SEA Statements, along with monitoring, are probably the weakest area of SEA practice both nationally and Europe wide. The second review of effectiveness of SEA in Ireland project found shortcomings across all aspects of SEA Statement requirements, including:
This guidance provides suggested step-by-step recommendations for practitioners to help improve the SEA Statement preparation process.
In Ireland, national legislation puts the onus for SEA monitoring on the plan-making authorities, requiring that they monitor the significant environmental effects of their plans/programmes. However, national legislation does not assign any third-party authority oversight or enforcement functions in relation to SEA monitoring.
Monitoring can help to evaluate whether SEA is fulfilling its core objective of providing for a high level of protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development. It requires committed investment and effort, but it can lead to significant benefits including: