Dos and Don'ts in SEA
Commence the SEA as early as possible.
Make SEA an integrated part of the plan preparation process. Integrated approaches are more likely to result in a smoother assessment and a better, more informed, plan.
Aim to identify the important environmental issues early. This will help to focus your SEA process and facilitate early engagement with Consultation Authorities, stakeholders and the public.
Develop early and meaningful stakeholder engagement on the plan and the SEA. This may not be a statutory requirement at certain stages but can help to focus the assessment on the significant environmental topics.
Make the key findings of the SEA clear so those preparing a plan and those being consulted, can see what the significant environmental effects are likely to be and if and how these effects can be addressed.
Use your scoping process to clearly focus the assessment on the significant environmental effects. This will save time, focus resources on the things that matter most and can result in less complex reports.
Take the opportunity to have continuous dialogue with the Consultation Authorities. This can help to identify the key issues and resolve questions at an early stage.
Consider mitigation throughout the SEA. Clearly identify in the Environmental Report those measures that are required, to address adverse effects.
Use the results of the SEA to highlight reasonable alternatives. Experience indicates reasonable alternatives are one area where plans can be vulnerable to legal challenge, if it has not been properly considered.
Align the baseline data collection with the scoping process. Focusing the baseline information on the key issues of importance for the SEA can help to make the assessment more proportionate.
Take time to explain to plan-makers or decision takers the role and desired outcomes of the SEA process. Building capacity and understanding among this group can help the SEA to contribute to policy making.
Where possible use spatial data when describing the baseline or when identifying environmental effects. This can reduce the length of reports and make them easier to understand.
Try to include some of the key findings and outcomes from the SEA within the plan. This helps to integrate the processes and helps to raise awareness of the issues.
Leave the SEA until the last minute: it is likely to take longer and be less influential.
Do the SEA as a separate exercise with limited contact with those preparing the plan. This approach could leave the plan open to challenge through the courts.
Automatically cover all environmental topics in the assessment for fear of legal challenge. This can lead to lengthy reporting, that can take more time and resources, and lead to key issues being missed. Scoping is one of the main opportunities to improve the assessment process by focusing on the key significant environmental topics.
Limit engagement with the Consultation Authorities, stakeholders or the public, to statutory requirements. Informal contact, either through meetings or workshops, can provide real benefits and identify key areas of interest prior to the main consultation.
Use the SEA to defend a plan or attempt to sell its benefits. The Environmental Report has to be objective, outlining factual environmental information.
Try to cover every possible effect.
Leave all discussions with the Consultation Authorities to the formal consultation stages. This is likely to result in lengthier responses. Informal dialogue can improve mutual understanding of the plan and its effects.
Think of mitigation as something you add at the end of the process just to please the Consultation Authorities and environmental groups.
Construct unrealistic or unfeasible alternatives just for the sake of comparison in the SEA. As important to avoid setting out unrealistic alternatives, with hugely inflated adverse environmental effects, in order to make the preferred option look good.
Include unnecessary background information in the environmental baseline. This can confuse the reporting, making proportionality harder to achieve successfully.
Assume everyone knows about SEA and how to consider it in plan making and decision making. Selling the values of SEA to those who have to use its findings, is as important as the assessment itself.
Make the environmental report so long or detailed that its findings are inaccessible. This will put people off reading the report and engaging, and could also undermine any future assessments.
Obscure the implications of the assessment findings with unnecessary or superfluous descriptive information in the Environmental Report.