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Strategic Environmental Assessment

The South West of England is famous as being an area rich in environment and heritage. The tools available to local authorities and other organisations to protect this valued environment have been expanded to include strategic environmental assessment (SEA). The European Community Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment(SEA) came into force on the 27th June 2001. The UK Government have now incorporated the SEA requirements into law.

Strategic Environmental Assessment requires national, regional and local authorities to carry our environmental assessment on certain plans and programmes they promote. The Directive effects the way all elements of the environment (and wider sustainability issues) are considered within plan making in the public (and some elements of the private) sector.

To ensure that the effectiveness of SEA in the South West is maximised, the South West Regional Assembly is working with local authorities and regional partners to consider the implications of the Directive. The Assembly led a project to more clearly define the potential for SEA within the South West, examine the barriers that organisations may face and establish good practice within the region. See below for details of the project steering group, although this is no longer in existence.

Phase 1 of the project was carried out by TRL in conjunction with Collingwood Environmental Planning to examine the baseline data needs of the SEA Directive and the availability of such data in the region. Phase 2 comprised two reports. The first report examined existing SEA practice in the UK, based on a literature search, a questionnaire survey and a workshop. The second report discussed five pilot studies that consider how the SEA Directive could affect different types of plans and programmes; key issues that the case studies raise including integrating SEA with Sustainability Appraisal; and possible next steps. The case studies are all in the South West and represent a range of sectors and ‘strategic-ness’.

See also the text on sustainability appraisals and strategic sustainability assessment.

This research was funded by the English Regions Network through the South West Regional Assembly, with support a number of partners including the Environment Agency, ODPM and various Local Authorities.

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