Strategic environment assessment (SEA)

Where a neighbourhood plan would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, a systematic appraisal of the Plan, known as a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), is likely to be required.

Examples of where a SEA could be required include:

  • where a neighbourhood plan proposes to allocate land for development;
  • where a neighbourhood plan proposal could affect a designated heritage or biodiversity asset;
  • where a neighbourhood plan could have environmental effects that were not previously considered, or over and above those considered through the sustainability appraisal of the Local Plan.

The SEA process is prescribed by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.

Parish councils or (acting on their behalf) neighbourhood planning groups should assess whether their draft proposals are likely to have significant environmental effects through a process known as 'screening'.

For this purpose, East Hampshire District Council has created a pro forma which can be filled out and sent to the 'consultation bodies': Environment Agency, Historic England and Natural England.

A courtesy copy of the completed form should also be e-mailed to Planning Policy (localplan@easthants.gov.uk).

Please note that as a technical process, SEA can be daunting to parish councils and neighbourhood planning groups. We therefore strongly recommend that you use a qualified planning consultant to assist in completing the form.

If any likely significant environmental effects are identified, taking account of consultation responses to the screening assessment, then an SEA must be prepared.

Work should start on the SEA at the earliest opportunity, so that the assessment can inform choices on the content of the neighbourhood plan.

Planning Policy officers can help to identify relevant objectives for the SEA process. The Sustainability Appraisal Framework for the East Hampshire District Local Plan is likely to contain relevant objectives.

The scope of the SEA should be determined through consultation with the 'consultation bodies'.

Planning Policy should also be consulted, as it is the responsibility of East Hampshire District Council (as planning authority) to ensure that all the regulations appropriate a neighbourhood plan have been met, for it to progress to the end of the neighbourhood plan-making process.

Further guidance appropriate to the SEA of neighbourhood plans is provided by the government’s planning practice guidance website.