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Strategic Environmental Assessment – EPA funded 2nd review

The second review of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) effectiveness in Ireland is currently being carried out by an EPA-funded project entitled: Follow-on Review of Effectiveness of SEA in Ireland’ by Dr Ainhoa González Del Campo (University College Dublin).

The project aims to evaluate the on-going progress made in implementing Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in Ireland since the first review published in 2012, and to identify areas or gaps where further improvements are required. The findings will be used to update the SEA Action Plan as well as to inform the European Commission’s regulatory fitness and performance (REFIT) of the SEA Directive.

The project has progressed significantly since its inception on 31st March 2018. The methodology has been defined, including the selection of plan/programme SEAs covering a range of sectors and planning hierarchies that conform the case studies to be reviewed. Consultation with key stakeholders through an international online survey and targeted interviews has also been initiated.

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

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is used to identify the environmental and social impacts of a proposed project prior to decision-making in order to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, while strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is used at the policy, planning and programming levels.

Requirements of the SEA Directive

The SEA Directive – Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment – requires that an environmental assessment is carried out of certain plans and programmes which are likely to have significant effects on the environment.

An SEA is mandatory for plans/programmes which are:

  • are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste/ water management, telecommunications, tourism, town & country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in the EIA Directive.


  • have been determined to require an assessment under the Habitats Directive.

Broadly speaking, for the plans/programmes not included above, the Member States have to carry out a screening procedure to determine whether the plans/programmes are likely to have significant environmental effects. If there are significant effects, an SEA is needed.

SEA Procedure

  • An environmental report is prepared in which the likely significant effects on the environment and the reasonable alternatives of the proposed plan or programme are identified.
  • The public and the environmental authorities are informed and consulted on the draft plan or programme and the environmental report prepared.
  • The environmental report and the results of the consultations are taken into account before adoption.
  • Once the plan or programme is adopted, the environmental authorities and the public are informed and relevant information is made available to them. In order to identify unforeseen adverse effects at an early stage, significant environmental effects of the plan or programme are to be monitored.

SEA Sectors

Eleven sectors are specified in the SEA Directive. Competent Authorities (plan/programme makers) must subject specific plans and programmes within these sectors to an environmental assessment where they are likely to have significant effects on the environment.

Sector Plan Name
Agriculture Food Wise 2025, National Rural Development Programme
Energy Grid 25 Implementation Plan, Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan
Forestry National Forestry Programme, draft Forestry and Freshwater Pearl Mussel Plan
Fisheries Seafood Development Programme, National Strategic Plan for Aquaculture
Industry Shannon Foynes Port Company Masterplan, Dublin Port Company Masterplan
Telecoms National Broadband Plan
Transport Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy, National Policy Framework for Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport
Tourism Wild Atlantic Way
Town & Country Planning National Planning Framework – Ireland 2040, Regional Spatial Economic Strategies (in preparation)
Waste Management Regional Waste Management Plans
Water Management Draft River Basin Management Plan for Ireland, Water Services Strategic Plan, draft National Water Resources Plan, National CFRAMS Programme, Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan
Other Key Plans National Peatland Strategy, National (Climate) Mitigation Plan, National (Climate) Adaptation Framework, National Landscape Strategy, National Biodiversity Action Plan.

National Legislation

In Ireland, the SEA Directive has been transposed into national legislation through:

  • S.I. No. 435 of 2004 (European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) Regulations 2004, as amended by External linkS.I. No. 200 of 2011(European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) (Amendment) Regulations 2011)
  • S.I. No. 436 of 2004 (Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Regulations 2004, as amended by S.I. No. 201 of 2011 (Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations 2011).

The 2011 amending SEA Regulations reduced the mandatory SEA population threshold for Local Area Plans from 10,000 to 5,000 persons. Local Area Plans covering an area greater than 50 sq km also now require mandatory SEA. Below these thresholds, Local Area Plans are required to be screened for SEA.

Circular PSSP6/2011 issued by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to all planning authorities in 2011 clarifies the requirements for SEA in relation to land-use plans and the statutory bodies to be consulted.

Image Source – Centre for Science and Environment

Verde Environmental Consultants in-house expertise in the main Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) disciplines and strategic partnerships enables us to efficiently project manage the EIA process, including:

  • Initial screening
  • Scoping
  • Alternatives evaluations
  • EIA / EIS preparation
  • Presentation at public enquiry