SEA - Legislation and Procedures in the Community
(ISBN 92-828-3592-8 (Volume 1),
ISBN 92-828-3593-6 (Volume 2)) can be ordered through
This study has been undertaken by the EIA Centre of the University
of Manchester with the following two objectives:
- To prepare a brief overview of the current status of SEA
legislation and procedures in the Member States.
- To prepare three case studies, in different Member States,
showing how SEA principles could be transposed into existing
decision-making procedures at the strategic level.
The report is divided into two parts corresponding to the two
objectives and the contents of each are summarised below.
SEA Legislation and Procedures in the Member States
The methodology followed in undertaking this review is described
in Chapter 2. It involved preparing a standardised questionnaire
for completion by the Member State representatives on the Committee
of National EIA Experts in the 15 current Member States, plus
Norway. All national experts responded but, in certain respects,
the information they were able to supply was not fully comprehensive
nor sufficiently detailed for certain purposes of analysis.
These limitations, in otherwise very useful data, need to be
taken into consideration in the interpretation and use of the
The available information was assembled and analysed, on a
comparative country basis, and the findings are summarised in
three sections of Chapter 3, supplemented by a series of tables
in the annex to the chapter. The overall conclusions and the
review are presented in Chapter 4, supplemented by the tables
in its annex.
The key points emerging from the review of Member State experience
include the following:
- Formal decision-making processes for policies, plans and
programmes (PPPs) exist, within the European Union, in each
of the sectors specified in the study. However, within individual
Member States the sectoral coverage is not comprehensive and
the provisions which do exist vary considerably between them.
Given this heterogeneity, any SEA instrument, which is to
be applied at the level of the European Union, will need to
be highly adaptable if it is to be integrated within existing
- Some elements of environmental assessment are to be found
within PPP appraisal in all of the countries surveyed. Its
extent is growing but there are considerable gaps and these
vary both between countries and between different sectors
within the same country (provision is greatest in the land
use planning-sector and least in the industry and tourism
sectors). The instruments used to implement these assessment
procedures are also very diverse - laws and other statutory
instruments, cabinet and ministerial decisions, circulars
and advice notes - and are applied at different administrative
levels - national, regional and local.
- The extent to which basic SEA requirements (as indicated
in Table 1) are met is variable. The environmental assessment
provisions relating to some PPPs in some Member States appear
to meet most basic requirements but there are many other PPPs,
across the EU, where this does not seem to be the case. The
key deficiencies which have been identified include: weaknesses
in the documentation of the environmental assessment; the
absence of essential contents in the assessment report; deficiencies
in the provisions relating to consultation and opportunities
for public comment; and failures in integrating the environmental
assessment process within decision-making procedures for the
The overall conclusion is that these deficiencies are not unsurmountable
but specific measures are necessary to remedy the situation;
and certain of these measures should be initiated by the Commission.
These are examined in the final section of this summary.
Three Case Studies
The three case studies which have been prepared relate to a
land use plan (in the United Kingdom), a forestry plan (in Spain)
and a transport plan (in Germany). Each was prepared by a different
local consultant, according to a standard checklist of questions
(described in Chapter 5), and they are presented in Chapters
7 - 9 respectively.
The findings derived from the three case studies are analysed,
on a comparative basis, in Chapter 6. The format of this analysis
is similar to that used in the first part of the study but it
is applied at a greater level of detail. The principal findings
include the following:
- The planning context of the three plans, and the nature
of the three plans themselves, are very different in a number
of important respects. This mirrors the heterogeneity in planning
systems which was highlighted in the more general over-view
in Part A. At the same time, each of them contains provisions
for taking environmental considerations into account in the
planning process - in this sense all three are potentially
suitable `hosts' for meeting an SEA requirement.
- However, in all three cases, compliance with basic SEA requirements,
as described in Table 1, was incomplete - even though, in
a number of respects, their environmental assessments were
probably of above average quality. The nature and extent to
which this was so varied considerably between the cases but
included examples of incomplete or ambiguous requirements
relating to assessment reporting, methodological deficiencies,
deficiencies in provisions relating to consultation and public
comment, and weaknesses in integrating assessment findings
into the decision-making process.
Nevertheless, none of the deficiencies was considered to be
insuperable, although it was recognised that some of the obstacles
to good quality SEA practice would require careful handling.
Suggestions For Follow-Up Work
The case for follow-up work to this study for the Commission
is based, first of all, on the view that some form of strategic-level
environmental assessment of policies, plans and programmes is
a potentially important instrument for integrating environmental
considerations into decision-making procedures within the principal
sectors of the economy. The second element of the justification
is that, given it is a strategic-level policy instrument, the
EU has a specific contribution to make in addressing some of
the deficiencies in SEA provisions and practice which have been
identified in this study. The types of initiatives by the Commission
which could be helpful in this context, and which follow most
directly from the findings in the two parts of the study, are
- Support for the preparation of additional case studies which,
in conjunction with the three studies already prepared, could
be of practical assistance to those undertaking SEA studies
and those engaged in preparing SEA guidance materials and
providing SEA training courses. Section 6.6 provides further
details on the types of case studies that might be undertaken
and how they might be prepared.
- Make fuller use, as part of the supporting measures for
the Commission's SEA initiative, of experience gained in meeting
environmental information requirements for Structural Fund
applications. This could be particularly helpful in the case
of Member States with Objective 1 regions, where SEA developments
may be lagging behind those elsewhere in the Union.
- Continuation (in co-operation with Member States) of the
Commission's existing programme of research, information dissemination
and training relating to SEA. Within this, it should give
particular emphasis to raising general awareness and increasing
the relatively low level of understanding of strategic-level
environmental assessment which exists at the moment.