SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Directive

The prior assessment of Plans and Projects is regarded as a key step in the move towards sustainable development within the European Union.  The Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 confirmed sustainable development as an objective of the EU and required that environmental protection be integrated into all EU policies.  The SEA Directive, adopted in June 2001, integrates environmental concerns into plans and programmes developed by the public sector.

  • Environmental assessment at project level (e.g. a motorway) is termed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
  • The assessment of policies, legislation, plans and programmes is commonly called Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

An SEA has a similar goal and approach to EIA but with a different focus of attention and a less quantitative methodology.  The expression ‘SEA’ is not used in EU legal documentation but is commonly used to refer to the 2001 Directive on Environmental Assessment of certain Plans and Programmes.

The key requirements of the SEA Directive may be summarised as follows:

  • The screening of Plans, at drafting stage, to determine if SEA is required
  • The scooping and preparation of an Environmental Report
  • Public consultation on the Draft Plan and the Environmental Report
  • The modification of the Plan, where appropriate, on the basis of the inputs from the consultation stage
  • The adopted Plan must incorporate conditions for monitoring of the significant environmental effects.