Strategic Environmental Assessment: guidance

Scottish Government guidance on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).


Baseline: This outlines the environmental characteristics of a receiving environment and provides the starting point for an assessment.

Consultation Authorities: Public bodies, who because of their environmental responsibilities, are designated within the 2005 Act. The Consultation Authorities are; Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) and The Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA).

EIA: Environmental Impact Assessment, undertaken at the project level.

Environmental Assessment: A method or procedure for predicting the environment effects of a plan, programme or strategy.

Environmental Topic : Although referred to as environmental issues within Schedule 3 of the 2005 Act, practitioners use a variety of terms to describe the different features of the environment that may be relevant in a SEA. Alternative terms include 'environmental receptor' and 'environmental indicator'.

Environmental Report: The publication used to set out relevant information emerging from the assessment. This includes background environmental information and context, a description of the plan being assessed, the significant environmental effects identified in the assessment. The Environmental Report is a key tool for early and effective engagement, and is not simply a compendium of all of the work undertaken in the earlier stages.

European Site: Includes Special Protection Areas ( SPA), Special Areas of Conservation ( SAC) and candidate Special Areas of Conservation.

Frontloading: Voluntary exploration of issues early in the process to facilitate early action.

Habitats Regulations Appraisal: The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994, as amended, require that certain plans which are likely to have a significant effect on a European Site must be subject to an "Appropriate Assessment" by the plan-making authority. The process for determining whether an appropriate assessment is required, together with the appropriate assessment itself - where necessary - is known as 'Habitats Regulations Appraisal'.

Hierarchies of plans: Relates to the tiering of plans from the highest level (for example a strategy) to the lower level (for example a plan or policy).

Indicator: Normally associated with monitoring, is used to measure achievement of a plan's main objectives or can be deployed to gauge environmental effects over time.

Mitigation: the measures taken to prevent, reduce or offset, as fully as possible, adverse effects on the environment. This does not extend to compensation measures, or enhancement, but these are also important.

No or minimal environmental effects: Relevant to pre-screening, this is when a Responsible Authority believes the environmental effects from a plan is likely to be minimal or less.

Objective: An intended goal, specifying the desired direction and outcome

Plan: Within this guidance can mean a plan, policy, programme or strategy.

Plan area: Area covered by the plan, for example some plans may cover the whole of Scotland, where others may be more focussed onto a specific location, such as a region or town centre.

Post-adoption statement: The summary produced by the Responsible Authority to outline how the assessment and consultation process have been taken into account in the adopted plan.

Pre-screening: Where the likely environmental effects of a plan, which falls into the description of Section 5(4) of the 2005 Act, are considered to be no or minimum, it can be self-exempted. See Section 7 of the 2005 Act.

Public plan: The 2005 Act applies to plans which relate to matters of a public character. Public plans are produced by a wide group of organisations, including the private sector e.g. utility companies. The term 'plan' within this guidance also covers policy, programme and strategy.

Reasonable alternatives: The alternative approaches considered while developing the plan, which can be considered realistic. The potential scope for reasonable alternatives is heavily dependent on the plan and the options that are likely to be open to a Responsible Authority, in terms of delivering the main objectives or goals of the plan.

Receiving environment: This relates to the scope or area of the plan and the environment that is likely to be affected by the implementation of a plan.

Responsible Authority: Any person, body or office holder exercising functions of a public character. Where more than one authority is responsible for a plan they should reach an agreement as to who is responsible for the SEA. Where an agreement cannot be reached, the Scottish Ministers can make the determination.

Scoped out: This is when a plan is unlikely to affect certain environmental topics, as outlined in the 2005 Act. For example, if a waste plan was likely to have no significant effect on soil, this would not have to be considered within the assessment.

Scoping report: Produced by a Responsible Authority, it should set out, as a minimum, the proposed level of detail to be included within an Environmental Report, along with the estimate consultation periods.

Screening report: Produced by a Responsible Authority, it sets out the likely significant effects on the environment of a plan, and includes an opinion on whether or not a SEA is required.

SEA Directive: European Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment.

Set the framework for future development consent: The plan contains criteria or conditions, which guide the way in which the consenting authority can determine an application for development consent.

Significant environmental effects: Schedule 2 of the 2005 Act sets out specific criteria for determining the likely significance of environment effects of a plan. The need for an assessment can be triggered by either be positive or negative effects, providing they are significant.

The public: is defined in SEA Directive guidance as following the Aarhus Convention definition and 'any natural or legal person should have free access to environmental information at their request…' It also goes onto state an association, organisation or group of natural or legal persons is also covered by the term.


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