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New advice on Strategic Environmental Assessment published

15 January 2018

The RTPI has published new practice advice to help planners undertake Strategic Environmental Assessment / Sustainability Appraisal (SEA/SA) more effectively and efficiently. 


SEA/SA are vital tools to improve both local and neighbourhood plans, making them more sustainable and responsive to their environmental effects. 

But they can be a daunting process given their complexity and need for robustness when challenged at inquiry and in the courts. The uncertainty around the UK’s environmental legislation following Brexit also raises concerns over how to approach them. 

Sarah Lewis, RTPI Policy Officer, said: “The overall aim of the note is to increase the quality of analysis in these assessments by helping those undertaking them find a sharper focus in the various tasks and better ways of analysing and presenting information. 

“It is important that developers, lawyers and the wider public have faith in SEA/SA and take them seriously, and not see them as tick-box exercises. This new advice note will show that, when done properly, SEA/SA are integral to delivering a good plan and a good development, and therefore worth investing planners’ time and expertise to get right.” 

This note is based on existing European and UK Government guidance and applies to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It works through the key components and processes of SEA/SA, highlighting good practice and case studies.

Four tips for success:

  • Identify a plan’s significant impacts and ways of minimising its negative effects to make the plan more sustainable and more responsive to its environmental effects;
  • Use SEA/SA to document the ‘story’ of the plan – why the plan is the way it is and not something else;
  • Focus on the alternatives and mitigation stages as this is where SEA/SA can best influence the plan;
  • Focus on key issues and effects, scope out insignificant effects, and don’t include unnecessary information.

The advice was commissioned by RTPI South East.

Read the new practice note here.

The RTPI South East is running a seminar offering practical advice on assessing the impact of policies using strategic environmental assessments in Reading on 11 May 2018. Book here.