Strategic Environmental Assessments

What is a Strategic Environmental Assessment?

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a process to ensure that significant environmental effects arising from policies, plans and programmes are identified, assessed and mitigated. SEA differs from Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) in that EIA’s are undertaken for significant individual development projects (Planning Applications), while SEA's are more comprehensive and undertaken at the earliest stage of decision-making i.e. in the plan preparation process. SEA’s are required by the public bodies responsible for the preparation of the strategic plans to which the SEA relates, such as local authorities preparing development plans, waste management plans or planning large infrastructural transportation, water or sewerage schemes.

Why do I need a Strategic Environmental Assessment?

Essentially SEA is required for the following:
  • All Regional Planning Guidelines 
  • City and County Development Plans 
  • Variations of Development Plans and Local Area Plans that are likely to give rise to significant Environmental Impacts)
  • Development Plans and Local area Plans for areas with a population of 10,000 people or more 
  • Planning Schemes in respect of Strategic Development Zones.
The Strategic Environmental Assessment process is designed to inform the plan preparation program and as such is an iterative process that must be carried out in conjunction/tandem with the relevant Plan preparation.

What is involved in the Strategic Environmental Assessment Process?

The steps involved in the environmental assessment are:
  • Screening (assessing whether or not an SEA is required)
  • Scoping of the Environmental Report (in consultation with environmental authorities) 
  • The preparation of the Environmental report and integration of environmental considerations into plan/programme 
  • Public display of the Environmental Report
  • Consideration of submissions 
  • Identification of significant environmental effects of any material amendments proposed to the plan/program
  • Making specified information available
  • Monitoring of significant environmental effects
McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan has wide range of Planning, Environmental and Ecological expertise and is therefore ideally suited to carrying out the SEA in conjunction with the Plan preparation process.

What is Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Screening?

“Screening” is the name of the methodology for deciding whether a Plan requires SEA. Screening must be carried out in relation to any plan that does not mandatorily require an SEA under the Planning and Development Legislation. If a plan would be likely to have significant environmental effects then SEA must be undertaken. SEA is mandatory for the plans previously set out above. Screening is required in the case of Development Plans and Local Area Plans for areas with a population less than 10,000 people and variations of development plans.

The Planning and Development Regulations require a case by case screening of individual plans based on set criteria to determine “whether a plan would be likely to have significant effects on the environment”. Consultation with relevant environmental authorities is also required in this regard. In the event of the screening process determining that SEA is not required a statement of likely environmental effects of implementing the plan is not required. A copy of the screening decision must also be made available to the public and notification must also be sent to any environmental authority that was consulted.

How much will Strategic Assessment Cost?

Each SEA process will be dependent on the scale and extent of the plan proposed and the outcome of the Screening process if required. McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan can provide a detailed and competitive fee proposal once the overall nature of the proposal and extent of required inputs is agreed with the client.

To view all documents and legislation relevant to Strategic Environmental Assesments click here .
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