Who undertakes SEA and how

The public body that is preparing the plan or programme has to undertake the assessment.

This might be:

  • A county council
  • A district council
  • A government department

It may carry out the assessment in-house or bring in consultants to help.

Whoever is doing the assessment must consult those bodies that have specific environmental responsibilities at key times.

In England these are:

  • Natural England
  • English Heritage
  • the Environment Agency

Make sure you let them know of your concerns if you know a damaging plan or programme is being prepared in your area.

You also have an important role to play in the process in ensuring that the assessment helps protect the countryside!

You can influence the assessment

The governing body really only needs to consult the public on the SEA report once it has been written, but you can try to influence the process earlier on.

For example, if you know an assessment is going to be produced for a plan in your area, ask to be consulted on what issues it should cover at the earlier scoping stage.

It should help those undertaking the assessment to know sooner rather than later what concerns you.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

There are nine main steps in the SEA process.

Steps may need to be repeated as new information becomes available. As the severe effects on the character of the countryside from a new transport plan become apparent, for example, it may be necessary to consider new alternative options.

  1. Decide if the plan or programme needs SEA (known as screening)
    Identify the existing state of the environment and trends (known as collecting baseline information)
  2. Work out the issues, environmental impacts, and depth of investigation which the SEA should go into (known as scoping)
  3. Develop the range of alternative options to be considered
  4. Undertake the necessary research, site surveys, landscape assessments to predict possible environmental impacts
  5. Evaluate the significance of the environmental impacts (positive and negative) and identify measures to avoid or reduce the damage
  6. Prepare a document explaining the outcome of these investigations (an SEA report) which should include or be accompanied by a non-technical summary
  7. Consult environmental authorities and the public on the SEA report
  8. The decision-maker considers the SEA report and the outcome of the consultation in coming to their decision and informs people of how this was done
  9. Once the decision is taken, monitoring occurs to check the predictions are accurate, measures to avoid damage are successful, and no unforeseen adverse effects occur