Strategic Environmental Assessment- A Review of its Effectiveness in Ireland

Date released: Dec 14 2012

A review of Strategic Environmental Assessment in Ireland has found: 

  • Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is providing a vital tool for environmental protection in Ireland. 
  • SEA has ensured that environmental considerations are being taken into account in national, regional and local policy development across a broad range of sectors.
  • There are challenges and barriers to effective, consistent implementation across all sectors, similar to those experienced in other EU Member States. 

An Action Plan has been drawn up by the five SEA statutory environmental authorities to address the priority challenges identified in the Review.

A Review of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) process in Ireland, commissioned by the EPA, has found that it has proven to be a vital tool for environmental protection. SEA is the process by which environmental considerations are integrated into Plans and Programmes across a broad range of sectors including energy, fisheries, industry, telecommunications, water and land use.  The five statutory environmental authorities that are designated for SEA in Ireland have today announced the publication of the Review of SEA Effectiveness in Ireland and an SEA Action Plan 2012-2016.

The five designated statutory environmental authorities for SEA in Ireland are the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency.
A Review of SEA Effectiveness in Ireland was commissioned by the EPA in 2011.  It considered how SEA has been implemented in Ireland since its introduction in 2004.

Tadhg O’Mahony, Senior Inspector, EPA said,
“It is clear from the Review that SEA is fulfilling its role and is providing a vital tool for environmental protection in Ireland. Overall, SEA provides an opportunity to influence decision-making early in the planning process. More than 300 SEA’s have commenced in the land use, water, energy and fisheries sectors.  While considerable progress has been demonstrated in applying SEA, the Review also highlights a number of challenges, similar to those experienced in other EU Member States, which are acting as barriers to effective implementation across all sectors.”

An SEA Action Plan for the years 2012-2016 has been jointly formulated by the five statutory environmental authorities responsible for overseeing the implementation of SEA in Ireland to prioritise the implementation of the recommendations and actions put forward in the Review. These range from strengthening governance arrangements through to providing new guidance, training, awareness raising and data management.

The SEA Action Plan and SEA Review Report are available on the EPA website and on each of the websites of the five SEA statutory environmental authorities.


Note to Editors:

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is the process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of Plans and Programmes and prior to their final adoption.  The overall objective of the SEA Directive is to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development.

Eleven sectors are specified in the SEA Directive and competent authorities (Plan/Programme makers) must subject specific Plans and Programmes for these sectors to an environmental assessment where they are likely to have significant effects on the environment. The sectors which are covered by the SEA Directive and Regulations include agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, waste management, water management telecommunications, tourism, town and country planning or land use. Environmental issues which are required to be assessed in the SEA process include biodiversity, flora, fauna, population, human health, soil, water, air, climatic factors, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape. In addition the interrelationships between these factors are also required to be assessed.  

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive came into force in 2001 and was transposed into Irish law in 2004. 

To date in excess of 300 SEA’s have commenced in Ireland. The majority of SEAs are related to land use plans, some 80% followed by Water ~7%, energy~ 6% and fisheries -4%. SEA has been applied at national, regional, river basin district, county and local level.