Summary: The key findings and recommendations from the 'Effectiveness Review of SEA in Ireland' are presented in this report. Recommendations are included to address issues relating to guidance, training & awareness, data collection, provision & sharing and governance and legislation.
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This Review has considered how SEA has been implemented in Ireland since its introduction in 2004. It is clear from the Review that SEA is fulfilling its role and is providing a vital tool for environmental protection in Ireland. SEA ensures that environmental considerations are taken into account in policy development and implementation, and is raising the profile of environmental issues in decision-making at plan level among those sectors applying SEA. It is also clear that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has built a framework of support to improve SEA effectiveness and implementation, and this framework is appreciated by plan makers and practitioners alike. Furthermore, the Review indicates that the implementing legislation in Ireland is broadly appropriate and no significant difficulties have arisen with interpretation to date that would warrant substantial changes.
However, while considerable progress has been demonstrated in applying SEA in Ireland over the past eight years, a number of challenges have been identified which are acting as barriers to ensuring effective implementation across the board. These challenges are similar to those experienced in other EU Member States.
Recommendations and actions have been developed as part of this Review which range from changes to governance through to provision of new guidance in key areas, training and awareness raising and data management. These recommendations are detailed in Chapter 9 of the Report. Successful implementation of the recommendations/actions will improve SEA effectiveness through better integration, more effective governance and more focused assessments.
How SEA progresses into the future will very much depend on the political support given to the process. SEA must be seen to be a serious piece of legislation with as much influence as Appropriate Assessment. For that, the designated Statutory Authorities (including those newly appointed under the 2011 amended Regulations) must be given the resources to deal specifically with the statutory consultation required under the legislation. Without adequate resourcing those statutory authorities charged with steering SEA forward and with implementing the recommendations that have emerged from this Review will not be in a position to offer genuine support and mentoring. The outcome will be plan-makers that see SEA as a luxury they cannot afford to deal with in any real or meaningful way.
As a direct response to the recommendations of the SEA Review a National SEA Technical Forum comprising the five statutory authorities has now been established. The forum has met in February, April and July 2012 to set about implementing the key priority recommendations of this Review. The key recommendations will be implemented through an SEA Action Plan which has been formulated and agreed by the 5 statutory environmental authorities*. The SEA Action Plan is published alongside this SEA Review and can be accessed on www.epa.ie.
Overall, SEA provides an opportunity to really influence decision-making early in the planning process. Achieving this can happen if plan-makers, SEA practitioners, the statutory authorities and other interested stakeholders come together and act on the recommendations and actions in this Review to work towards best practice in SEA in Ireland