In certain circumstances, a Neighbourhood Plan may require a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) under EU regulations. Examples of where SEA may be required for Neighbourhood Plans, include:
- Where a neighbourhood plan allocates sites for development
- Where the neighbourhood area contains sensitive natural or heritage assets that may be affected by the proposals in the plan
- Where the neighbourhood plan is likely to have significant environmental effects that have not already been considered and dealt with through a sustainability appraisal of the Local Plan
Draft neighbourhood plan proposals should be assessed to determine whether the plan is likely to have significant environmental effects and this process is commonly referred to as a “screening” assessment. The requirements are set out in regulation 9 of the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.
A Neighbourhood Planning authority should request a screening assessment as soon as sufficient information on its potential environmental effects are known. Rother District Council has provided a form – Neighbourhood Plan SEA Screening Request Form – that should usefully accompany applications for a screening opinion. Rother District Council (as the responsible authority) will undertake the screening assessment, consulting with the statutory environmental bodies (Natural England, Environment Agency, Historic England). Please note that this is an interactive PDF form that can be filled in and mailed to us electronically, rather than being printed out, filled in by hand and returned to us by post.
If likely significant environmental effects are identified, an SEA must be prepared. One of the basic conditions that will be tested by an independent examiner is whether the making of the neighbourhood plan is compatible with European Union obligations (including under the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive).
In the event of a SEA being required, Rother District Council (as the responsible authority) will also advise, on a case by case basis, which ‘objectives’ it considers appropriate to ‘screen in’ based on the circumstances of the Neighbourhood Plan and it’s area in question. These objectives will be selected from the list of 16 contained within the Rother DC DASA Scoping Report.
Where it is determined that a SEA must be carried out, work on this should start at the earliest opportunity. This is so that the processes for gathering evidence for the environmental report and for producing the draft neighbourhood plan can be integrated, and to allow the assessment process to inform the choices being made in the plan.