Strategic Environmental Assessment – A Review of its Effectiveness in Ireland

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 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 inIrelandsince its introduction in 2004.

Tadhg O’Mahony, Senior Inspector, EPA. says: “It is clear from the Review that SEA is fulfilling its role and is providing a vital tool for environmental protection inIreland. 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.

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 inIreland. 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.

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