Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a systematic process for identifying, reporting, proposing mitigation measures and monitoring environmental effects of plans, programmes and strategies. It aims to ensure that environmental issues are taken into account at every stage in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and review of plans, programmes and strategies of a public nature.
EU legislation requiring the environmental assessment of plans and programmes came into force in 2001 through Directive 2001/42/EC. In Scotland, the requirements of the Directive are taken forward by the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. The Act requires that environmental assessment is undertaken on all plans, programmes and strategies of a public nature which are likely to have significant environmental effects.
Under this Act, we have a statutory duty both as a Consultation Authority and as a Responsible Authority.
SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland are designated statutory SEA Consultation Authorities which means that at key stages we must provide advice to those undertaking SEA. This process is administered by the Scottish Government SEA Gateway.
SEPA provides advice and guidance in relation to the SEA topics of air, soil, water, climatic factors, material assets and human health. Additional SEA topic guidance is available from the other Consultation Authorities and the Scottish Government, including climatic factors guidance which provides additional background information on climate change.
The Scottish Government SEA Guidance provides comprehensive guidance on SEA in Scotland. The Local Development Plan Site Assessment and SEA checklist provides a means of integrating these two requirements of the development planning process.
The Scottish Strategic Environmental Assessment Review
The review looked at the efficiency and effectiveness of the SEA process and practice in Scotland; it reported in 2011. SEPA led the review in association with Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Government. The review was informed by a wide group of partners and stakeholders. The report set out recommendations for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of SEA in Scotland.