Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Strategic Environmental Assessment

The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive (2001/42/EC) requires that the environmental consequences of certain plans, programmes and strategies are identified and assessed during their preparation and after their adoption. The SEA Directive applies to statutory plans for which preparation started after 21 July 2004, and when the plan is likely to have significant environmental effects. In Scotland the SEA Directive is implemented by the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.

Developed in parallel with the plan, SEA enables the prediction and assessment of significant environmental effects which could result from implementation of the plan. In this way it contributes to the selection of the draft plan from the initial range of alternatives. Where elements of the plan remain likely to lead to adverse environmental impact, SEA provides a means of designing measures which will be implemented to prevent, reduce or offset these impacts.

The process of the SEA can be broadly divided into the following 7 stages:




Preparing a Pre-Screening Report if you consider that implementation of your Plan is likely to have no or minimal environmental effects; or

Preparing a Screening Report to determine whether the Plan is likely to have significant environmental effects. If SEA is required, a Screening Determination to that effect must be placed in the local press and on the relevant website, advertising that SEA will be undertaken.


Preparing a Scoping Report which sets the context and objectives, establishes the baseline and identifies the scope of the SEA.


Developing and refining the Plan from a range of alternatives and assessing its likely environmental effects.


Preparing the Environmental Report.


Consulting on the draft Plan and the Environmental Report.


Taking account of the consultation responses and any subsequent changes to the Plan in a Post Adoption Statement and Final Environmental Report.


Monitoring the significant effects of implementing the Plan on the environment.

SEA promotes the collection of baseline data, e.g. on carbon emissions, where it provides a mechanism to help ensure progressive reductions in carbon emissions are achieved through plan implementation.

In terms of biodiversity, SEA can:

  • Help ensure biodiversity objectives are built into plans, programmes and strategies, for example, opportunities for habitat enhancement that contribute to Local Biodiversity Action Plan targets can be investigated
  • Identify and evaluate alternatives to proposals that may be better for biodiversity - and
  • Present recommendations to avoid and reduce identified impacts and safeguard biodiversity.

Effective public consultation is also an essential component of SEA. The public, including environmental non-governmental organisations such as the RSPB, must be presented with the opportunity to have their say on the draft plan and SEA Environmental Report. SEA provides an opportunity for the public to help influence plan making. By involving people early in the SEA process, practitioners can benefit from people’s knowledge of their locality, the environmental problems that affect them, and their ideas about how these problems can be solved.