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Guidance documents - Project manager
TAG Unit 2.11: Strategic Environmental Assessment for Transport Plans and Programmes
There is one module within this section:
TAG Unit 2.11: Strategic Environmental Assessment for Transport Plans and Programmes
Unit 2.11 (Adobe Acrobat - 347KB)
2. SEA in transport planning
3. Stage A - Setting the context, identifying objectives, problems and opportunities, and establishing the baseline
4. Stage B - Developing alternatives and deciding the scope of SEA
5. Stage C - Assessing and mitigating the effects of the plan
6. Stage D - Consultation on the draft plan and environmental report
7. Stage E - Monitoring the implementation of the plan
8. Further information
10. Document Provenance
1.1.1 This document presents guidance on how to carry out strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for transport plans and programmes in England in accordance with the requirements of European Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment, also known as the SEA Directive. The Directive was transposed in England through The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (Statutory Instrument 2004, no. 1633). It integrates the Directive's requirements with existing transport appraisal processes - the New Approach to Appraisal (NATA).
1.1.2 The objective of the SEA Directive is 'to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans ... with a view to promoting sustainable development' (Article 1). This environmental commitment is broadly consistent with Government policies and is reflected in other transport planning and appraisal guidance.
1.1.3 The SEA Directive applies to plans and programmes, and modifications to them, whose formal preparation began after 21 July 2004. It also applies to plans and programmes whose formal preparation began before that date, if they have not been adopted (or submitted to a legislative procedure leading to adoption) by 21 July 2006. This guidance refers only to 'plans', but this should be taken to include all relevant plans or programmes regardless of their formal titles.
1.1.4 SEA will normally be required for new transport plans including Local Transport Plans and Local (Transport) Implementation Plans. Extensions or amendments to those plans and other new transport plans may, in certain circumstances, require SEA. Figure 1.1 provides guidance on the criteria for the application of the SEA Directive to plans and programmes.
1.1.5 This guidance is not intended as an interpretation of the law. It provides a basis for undertaking SEA, but is no substitute for giving careful thought to developing the approach to the SEA of the particular plan. It should be read in conjunction with the Directive and transposing legislation. The full text of the Directive can be found online at: europa.eu/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l28036.htm. That of the Regulations can be found at: www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2004/20041633.htm.
1.1.6 This guidance should also be read alongside other TAG Units (see Chapter 8). Other sources of guidance on SEA may also be relevant, such as:
- The ODPM's Draft Practical Guide to the SEA Directive (2004a);
- The ODPM's Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks, Consultation Paper (2004b). That document covers SEA/SA for a form of transport plan, the Regional Transport Strategy.
1. This guidance uses the term 'SEA' to mean an environmental assessment which complies with the Directive.
1.2.1 This guidance discusses the SEA process in a step-by-step fashion. Chapter 2 contains background information on the SEA Directive and details of how SEA fits into transport planning and appraisal processes. Chapters 3-7 then describe guidance on five stages that comprise an SEA. Chapters 8-10, provide further information, references and document provenance.
1.2.2 A glossary is provided in Appendix 1. The specific application of the guidance to local transport plans is discussed in Appendix 2 and advice on tiering issues in SEA between plans is outlined in Appendix 3.
1.2.3 Information on specific aspects of SEA is provided in a series of supporting appendices 4-8 covering the environmental baseline, cumulative and indirect effects, uncertainty, quality assurance, and monitoring.
Figure 1.1: Criteria for Application of the SEA Directive to Plans and Programmes (source: ODPM, 2004a)
2.1.1 This chapter explains how SEA should be integrated into the transport planning process generally and the New Approach to Appraisal (NATA) in particular.
2.2.1 Before substantive work is undertaken on the plan, the Responsible Authority must consider whether a SEA is required under the Directive. Figure 1.1 summarises the Directive/Regulations 'screening' requirements. In some cases, the Responsible Authority must consult the Consultation Bodies, make a screening determination and publicise the reasons for this decision.
2.2.2 The SEA Directive defines 'environmental assessment' as a procedure comprising:
- preparing an Environmental Report on the likely significant effects of the draft plan on the environment;
- carrying out consultation on the draft plan and the accompanying Environmental Report;
- taking into account the Environmental Report and the results of consultation in decision-making; and
- providing information when the plan is adopted and showing how the results of the SEA have been taken into account.
Table 2.1 shows the main requirements of the SEA Directive. SEA should be a tool for improving the plan, not a 'snapshot' of the plan once it has been finalised.
2.2.3 The Directive's definition of "environment" includes not only the natural environment and the historic environment, but also some human effects such as health and material assets. It also requires a thorough analysis of a plan's effects including secondary, cumulative and synergistic effects, (see Glossary for an explanation of these terms).
2.2.4 NATA guidance partially addresses many aspects of the SEA Directive. Box 2.1 summarises NATA's requirements. Figure 2.1 shows the principal steps of the NATA process as shown in TAG Unit 2.1, grouped into the five key stages of SEA.
2.2.5 Table 2.2 outlines, in more detail, the main stages of transport appraisal and how the key SEA tasks and outputs at each stage. In the early stages of the NATA process, the requirements of the SEA Directive will focus on the environment as well as on transport (baseline, problems, solutions etc.). Enhancing the NATA to fulfil the requirements of the SEA Directive requires additional work on:
- collecting baseline environmental information and identifying environmental problems;
- predicting the significant environmental effects of the plan;
- identifying mitigation;
- identifying alternatives and their effects;
- consulting the public and authorities with environmental responsibilities;
- reporting how the results of the SEA and consultation responses have been taken into account;
- providing a non-technical summary of the SEA; and
- monitoring the actual environmental effects of the plan during its implementation.
2. i.e. the transport authority responsible for preparing the plan or programme.
3. The Directive refers to "effects" rather than "impacts", since plans can have beneficial effects as well as negative effects. "Impacts" are sometimes incorrectly seen as only been adverse. NATA and SEA have slightly different definitions of "environment". see Section 3.3.
2.1: Main requirements of the SEA Directive
Bold text = already generally carried out as part of good practice transport appraisal.
Preparing an Environmental Report in which the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing the plan are identified, described and assessed. Reasonable alternatives taking into account the objectives and geographical scope of the plan should also be described. The information to be given is set out in (Article 5 and Annex I):
a - An outline of the contents, main objectives of the plan, and the relationship with other relevant plans and programmes;
b - The relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the plan;
c - The environmental characteristics of areas likely to be significantly affected;
d - Any existing environmental problems which are relevant to the plan including, in particular, those relating to any areas of a particular environmental importance, such as areas designated pursuant to Directives 79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC;
e - The environmental protection objectives, established at international, Community or national level, which are relevant to the plan and the way those objectives and any environmental considerations have been taken into account during its preparation;
f - The likely significant effects on the environment, including on issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between the above factors.( These effects should include secondary, cumulative, synergistic,short, medium and long-term permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects);
g - The measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and as fully as possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment of implementing the plan;
h - An outline of the reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with, and a description of how the assessment was undertaken including any difficulties (such as technical deficiencies or lack of know-how) encountered in compiling the required information;
i - A description of measures envisaged concerning monitoring in accordance with Article 10;
j - A non-technical summary of the information provided under the above headings.
The report must include information that may reasonably be required taking into account current knowledge and methods of assessment, the contents and level of detail in the plan, its stage in the decision-making process and the extent to which certain matters are more appropriately assessed at different levels in that process to avoid duplication of the assessment (Article 5.2).
- authorities with environmental responsibilities, when deciding on the scope and level of detail of the information which must be included in the Environmental Report (Article 5.4);
- authorities with environmental responsibilities and the public, to give them an early and effective opportunity within appropriate time frames to express their opinion on the draft plan and the accompanying Environmental Report before the adoption of the plan (Article 6.1, 6.2);
- other EU Member States, where the implementation of the plan is likely to have significant effects on the environment in these countries (Article 7).
Taking the Environmental Report and the results of the consultations into account in decision-making (Article 8).
Providing information on the decision:
When the plan is adopted, the public and any countries consulted under Article 7 must be informed and the following made available to those so informed:
- the plan as adopted;
- a statement summarising how environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan and how the Environmental Report of Article 5, the opinions expressed pursuant to Article 6 and the results of consultations entered into pursuant to Article 7 have been taken into account in accordance with Article 8, and the reasons for choosing the plan as adopted, in the light of the other reasonable alternatives dealt with; and
- the measures decided concerning monitoring (Article 9).
Monitoring the significant environmental effects of the plan's implementation (Article 10).
2.1. The New Approach to Appraisal (NATA)
NATA is an approach for improving the consistency and transparency with which transport decisions are made. It presents the key economic, environmental and social impacts of decisions in a clear, consistent and balanced way using an Appraisal Summary Table and associated worksheets. NATA is the basis for appraising multi-modal studies, Highways Agency road schemes, Local Transport Plans major road and public transport schemes, Strategic Rail Authority schemes, seaports, and the Government's airports strategy.
- agreeing a set of objectives;
- analysing present and future problems of, or relating to, the transport system;
- exploring potential solutions for solving the problems and meeting the objectives;
- appraising options, seeking combinations which perform better as a whole than the sum of the individual components; and
- selecting and phasing the preferred solution;
- undertaking supporting analyses of practicality and public acceptability; affordability and financial sustainability; and distribution and equity.
Appraisal is in relation to the Government's five objectives for transport:
Environment - to protect the built and natural environment
- to reduce noise
- to improve local air quality
- to reduce greenhouse gases
- to protect and enhance the landscape
- to protect and enhance the townscape
- to protect the heritage of historic resources
- to support biodiversity
- to protect the water environment
- to encourage physical fitness
- to improve journey ambience
Safety - to improve safety
- to reduce accidents
- to improve security
Economy - to support sustainable economic activity and get good value for money
- to get good value for money in relation to impacts on public accounts
- to improve transport economic efficiency for business users and transport providers
- to improve transport economic efficiency for consumer users
- to improve reliability
- to provide beneficial wider economic impacts
Accessibility - to improve access to facilities for those without a car and to reduce severance
- to improve access to the transport system
- to increase option values
- to reduce severance
Integration - to ensure that all decisions are taken in the context of the Government's integrated transport policy
- to improve transport interchange
- to integrate transport policy with land-use policy
- to integrate transport policy with other Government policies
Further information on NATA is available in The Appraisal Process (TAG Unit 2.5).
Figure 2.1: NATA and SEA stages
Table 2.2: Stages, decisions and outputs of SEA
|NATA stage (from TAG Unit 2.5)||SEA stage||Purpose of this stage||Similarities / differences between NATA & SEA|
1. Setting objectives and problem definition
2. Understanding the current situation
3. Understanding the future situation
A: Setting the context, identifying objectives and problems and establishing the baseline.
Document how the plan is affected by outside factors; suggest ideas for how any inappropriate constraints can be addressed.
Streamline the subsequent baseline description, prediction and monitoring stages.
Provide a base for effects prediction and monitoring.
Focus on key environmental issues and opportunities; help to identify environmental problems, objectives and alternatives.
This SEA stage adds emphasis to the need to consider environmental issues at this stage of the process. SEA requires more information on the environmental baseline and identification of environmental problems.
4. Consultation, participation, information
5. Options for solutions
B: Deciding the scope of SEA and developing alternatives.
Help ensure that:
Plan alternatives should also aim to deal with environmental problems, or at least not make them worse.
6. Appraisal framework
7. Appraisal tools and procedures
9. Options testing and appraisal
10. Distillation and comparison of options
C. Assessing the effects of the plan.
Defensible consideration of all likely significant environmental effects.
Propose mitigation measures where appropriate.
Propose a monitoring programme.
See Table 3.2: NATA and SEA Directive topics are similar but not exactly the same.
Requirements regarding environmental mitigation are strengthened under SEA.
12. Outputs from the study
13. Funding sources
D. Consultation on the draft plan and the Environmental Report.
Identify the opinions and concerns of the public and environmental authorities on environmental issues.
Show how information and opinions on environmental issues have been considered.
The requirement to show how the environment has been taken into account in decision-making is more specific in the SEA Directive than in NATA.
The Directive requires consultation on a draft plan.
14. Implementation programme
15. Monitoring and evaluation
E. Monitor the significant effects of implementing the plan on the environment.
Achieve implementation of the plan in accordance with the outcomes of the SEA. Ensure that adverse effects of implementing the plan can be identified and corrective action taken.
Provide information for future SEAs.
NATA does not currently address monitoring.
2.3.1 The Directive does not prescribe who should carry out the SEA, but the Responsible Authority will ultimately be accountable for complying with the SEA Regulations. SEA is likely to be most effective if undertaken by people who together can:
- fully integrate the SEA process within the application of NATA;
- consider and respond to local circumstances as well as regional and national issues;
- apply expertise and experience in SEA (e.g. impact identification, prediction and mitigation);
- take a balanced view;
- draw on good practice elsewhere; assess the full range of environmental issues.
2.3.2 It is important to involve both people who are producing the plan and others, either within the authority or from outside, who can contribute a more detached and independent view to the exercise.
2.3.3 Consultation with Consultation Bodies is required during at least three stages: "screening" to determine whether an SEA is required (Stage A), "scoping" of the SEA study (Stage B), and consultation on the draft plan and Environmental Report (Stage D). The Consultation Bodies are the statutory environmental bodies, i.e. the Countryside Agency, English Heritage, English Nature and the Environment Agency. Further guidance on the role of the consultation bodies in SEA is available at Consultation Bodies' Services and Standards for Responsible Authorities (Countryside Agency et al, 2004).
2.3.4 The public must be consulted on the draft plan and Environmental Report. It may also be useful to involve the public more proactively in the SEA alongside the plan consultations. The Environmental Report should summarise who took part in carrying out the SEA. Consultation will be more effective if it covers all aspects of the plan rather than being restricted to those elements associated with the SEA Directive.
What the Directive says:
The Environmental Report should provide information on:
'the plan's 'relationship with other relevant plans and programmes' and 'the environmental protection objectives, established at international, [European] Community or national level, which are relevant to the plan ... and the way those objectives and any environmental considerations have been taken into account during its preparation'. (Annex I (a), (e));
'relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the plan or programme' and 'the environmental characteristics of the areas likely to be significantly affected' (Annex I (b), (c));
'any existing environmental problems which are relevant to the plan or programme including, in particular, those relating to any areas of a particular environmental importance, such as areas designated pursuant to Directives 79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC'. (Annex I (d)).
3.1.1 At this stage, the transport plan-making authority, in consultation with environmental authorities, compiles background information needed for a SEA. Such material is needed at the outset, when broad transport plan alternatives are being developed. Much of this information will be common to an authority, rather than specific to a particular transport plan. Use of such data to support SEAs of a wide range of plans or strategies should be kept in mind when information is collected. Contact with colleagues within plan-making authorities covering the same geographic area is therefore critical to making the best use of information already held and reducing the risk of duplicating effort.
3.1.2 Preparing the Environmental Report is made easier if information is built up throughout the SEA: documentation of the SEA process should therefore begin at this stage and continue throughout the process.
3.2.1 The SEA Directive does not specifically require the use of objectives or indicators in SEA, but they are a recognised way in which environmental effects can be described, analysed and compared. Each SEA objective should be a statement of what is intended, specifying a desired environmental outcome over a specified duration.
3.2.2 Objectives need to be chosen for use in the SEA and these should include relevant NATA objectives/sub-objectives as well as locally derived environmental objectives. Table 3.1 shows the links between NATA's standard objectives/sub-objectives and the SEA topics listed in the Directive.
3.2.3 As outlined in TAG Unit 2.2, NATA involves selecting local objectives to supplement the five overall objectives for transport and their sub-objectives. The number of local objectives should be kept to a minimum required to inform decisions. Local objectives should not restate national objectives, but should aim to provide a local focus. For example, the NATA's local air quality objective might be complemented by a local objective related to improving air quality in a specified Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).
3.2.4 The formulation of objectives for the SEA should take account of:
- environmental protection objectives from legislation e.g. the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC), Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC);
- environmental objectives from other relevant plans and programmes;
- Regional Sustainable Development Frameworks; and
- the results of baseline data collection (see Section 3.4) and consultation with the statutory environmental bodies and other stakeholders as appropriate.
3.2.5 The performance of the plan against the SEA objectives is measured by using indicators (ODPM, 2004a). Indicators can be revised as baseline data is collected and environmental problems are identified. It is also possible that the same indicators can be used in monitoring the implementation of the plan. However, state of the environment indicators are not always applicable to SEA as they may not inform the decisions of most relevance to the plan.
3.2.6 Where appropriate, local objectives may be linked to measurable targets (e.g. the objective "to improve air quality in AQMA Y" could be monitored against the target "to reduce air pollution by X% in AQMA Y by date Z").
|NATA Objective||NATA sub-objective||SEA topic (SEA Directive, Annex If)|
|Environment||Noise||Human health, population, inter-relationships|
|Local air quality||Air, human health, population|
|Greenhouse gases||Climatic factors|
|Heritage||Cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage|
|Biodiversity||Biodiversity, fauna, flora, soil|
|Physical fitness||Human health, population|
|Safety||Accidents||Human health, population|
|Access to the transport system|
|Economy||Public Accounts||Material assets|
|Business Users & Providers|
1. Population is interpreted broadly, referring to effects on people and quality of life. Many NATA indicators incorporate population.
2. The NATA local air quality indicator does not cover regional air quality, though guidance is given on its assessment. Where regional air quality is likely to be an issue, a local objective may be formulated.
3. Biodiversity also covers geological interests.
4. Soil is not explicitly covered by NATA sub-objectives, but is an underlying factor affecting landscape, heritage, biodiversity and the water environment. Where effects on soil are likely to be important, a local objective should be formulated.
5. Material assets are not explicitly covered by NATA sub-objectives, but are reflected in the money costs incurred when they are consumed. Where effects on material assets such as infrastructure, property and sterilisation of mineral or other resources are expected to be of particular importance, a local objective should be formulated.
3.3.1 Baseline data provide the basis for forecasting and monitoring of environmental effects, and helps in the identification of environmental problems. Whilst SEA is unlikely to require extensive new data (e.g. through surveys), it will involve some secondary data collection and analysis. Consultation Bodies i.e. the Environment Agency, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and English Heritage, may be able to provide advice on appropriate data sources.
3.3.2 For each SEA objective (e.g. from Table 3.1), data should be collected to answer the following questions:
- How good or bad is the current situation? Is it getting better or worse? how is the environment likely to change in accordance with or differently from historical trends (e.g. due to human pressure or climate change)?
- How far is the current situation from thresholds, objectives or targets?
- Are particularly sensitive or important elements of the environment affected: people, resources, species, habitats?
- Are the problems of a large or small scale, reversible or irreversible, permanent or temporary, direct or indirect?
- How difficult would it be to offset or remedy any damage?
- Have there been significant cumulative or synergistic effects over time? Are there expected to be such effects in the future?
3.3.3 Appendix 4 suggests sources of baseline data and indicators. In theory, collection of baseline data could go on indefinitely. As such, a limit for data collection should be set reflecting the data needed to inform the SEA, and arrangements made to fill any data gaps for future plans or reviews through the monitoring process (Stage D). It may be appropriate to gather only enough data early on to identify strategic constraints and opportunities, and gather more detailed information subsequently e.g. during Stage C. To get the best value from the information, it should be kept updated for future plans; it should not be merely a snapshot of the situation at a particular time.
3.3.4 The SEA Directive requires a discussion of the likely evolution of the environment without the plan. For instance, air quality in an area may get better or worse in the absence of the plan. The "assessment years" (e.g. 5, 10 or 15 years) used in transport planning could be used as a basis in the first instance. However, for some environmental topics (e.g. climate change) much longer term trends may need to be considered. For others it may be appropriate to consider the future baseline associated with different assessment years as a form of sensitivity testing to reduce uncertainty. Section 4.4 of this document discusses how to consider the situation "without the plan".
3.4.1 The identification of environmental problems and opportunities of relevance to the transport plan is an important part of the definition of key transport problems for the plan (DETR, 2000). It also allows the plan to avoid or help solve these problems.
3.4.2 Evidence-led expert judgment will be the primary mechanism for identifying current and foreseeable future problems and opportunities. This can be based on:
- transport and land-use planners' and statutory environmental bodies' evidence of environmental problems in the area;
- input from other stakeholders;
- conflicts and opportunities identified by a preliminary review of other plans, programmes and environmental objectives (see also Section 4.3 of this guidance referring to activities conducted within Stage B);
- conflicts between the current or future baseline conditions and existing objectives, targets or obligations; and
- approaches to delivering the Government's five transport objectives.
What the Directive says:
"an Environmental Report shall be prepared in which the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing the plan or programme, and reasonable alternatives taking into account the objectives and the geographical scope of the plan or programme, are identified, described and evaluated " (Article 5.1).
One of the issues that must be covered in the Environmental Report is "an outline of the reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with" (Annex Ih).4.1 Introduction
4.1.1 At this stage, the alternatives and types of effect to assess, and the level of detail of the analysis are established. While the activities at Stage A can be carried out before work begins on the plan, those at Stage B are integral to the plan-making process and cannot be done effectively in isolation from it.
4.2.1 The process of planning and agreeing the remaining SEA activities is called scoping. Scoping involves agreeing on:
- the programme of SEA activities within the overall NATA and plan-making process;
- key issues to be covered in the Environmental Report;
- the study boundaries in space and time;
- the level of detail that the Environmental Report should go into;
- a broad outline of the assessment approach to be adopted for each issue;
- strategic alternatives that should be discussed further in the Environmental Report;
- the role of avoidance, mitigation, enhancement and compensation measures;
- the existence of risk and uncertainty; and
- whom to involve, in what capacity, during the rest of the process.
Scoping is a way of focussing effort on the key issues in SEA, and ensuring that the SEA fulfils the requirements of all relevant stakeholders. Scoping will be more effective if it explicitly recognises the issues covered by NATA and the plan making process. It should ensure that the key issues for SEA are fully integrated within that wider context.
4.2.2 Scoping is carried out by the plan-making authority in consultation with Consultation Bodies: the SEA Directive requires that the Consultation Bodies are consulted on "the scale and level of detail of the information which must be included in the Environmental Report" (Article 5.4). Although the Directive does not require full consultation with the public until the Environmental Report is issued (see Stage D), early involvement in the scoping process may help to provide data or identify problems. As an input to the scoping process, the plan-making authority may find it useful to produce an outline of the headings to be used in the Environmental Report and overall plan appraisal report.
4.2.3 As more data are collected, the scope of the SEA should be refined. In particular, the study boundaries may need to be revised and the inventory of relevant key environmental resources may need to be extended. For example, this may arise when cumulative effects are identified (see Appendix 5).
4.3.1 A plan will be affected by, and will affect, a wide range of other relevant plans and programmes, and environmental objectives both within and outside an authority's jurisdiction. It is important to determine whether the plan gives rise to conflicts with such plans/programmes. Approaches to deal with any such conflicts should also be identified. TAG Units 3.7.1 and 3.7.2 provide further information on how to integrate the plan with objectives associated with other relevant policies, plans and programmes. Table 4.1 shows how it is possible to document this analysis.
Table 4.1: Documenting links with other relevant plans and programmes or environmental protection objectives
|Other plan / programme||Objectives or requirements of the other plan or programme||How objectives and requirements might be taken on board|
|Planning Policy Guidance 13||Reduce the need to travel||Adopt within the plan's objectives|
|Regional Spatial Strategy||Improve air quality in the region||Transport measures X, Y and Z are needed to reduce air pollutant emissions|
|Local Development Framework||Reduce traffic intrusion in specified parts of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty||Consider improving bus services and traffic management measures|
4.3.2 Inconsistencies are bound to arise at times between the other plans, programmes or environmental objectives. These can be identified and documented using a compatibility matrix, as shown in Table 4.2. Where they clearly differ they can be considered as alternatives in Stage C. In deciding how to resolve any conflicts, the relative timing of the plans, programmes or objectives concerned should be considered, as well as the degree to which they accord with current policy or legal requirements and the objective of the SEA Directive. For each plan further research may be needed to test whether objectives really are incompatible or whether win-win solutions can be found.
4.3.3 The transport plan may not be able to accommodate all of the requirements of the other plans, programmes or environmental objectives; or it may not wish to take on board the requirements (e.g. because they are not sustainable). The reasons for these choices should be explained; Table 4.2 shows an example of how to record this. Where tensions between objectives cannot be resolved, the compatibility assessment should clarify these so that appropriate trade-offs can be identified.
Table 4.2: Documenting (in)compatibility between different plans, programmes and objectives
4.4.1 Identifying and (in Stage C) comparing appropriate strategic alternatives is also a key aspect of SEA and NATA. Examining alternatives should help to ensure that the plan's likely significant environmental effects are addressed during the preparation of the plan. It also assists in explaining to decision-makers and consultees why these strategies and measures, and no other, are being put forward.
4.4.2 Alternatives can be different ways of:
- achieving the objectives of the plan;
- achieving the aspirations of the local community;
- dealing with environmental problems (see Section 3.4);
- dealing with transport problems (as identified through TAG Unit 2.2).
4.4.3 One situation which needs to be considered in all SEAs is the likely expected evolution of the environmental baseline without the plan (see Chapter 3 of this document). For a transport plan, this "without the plan" scenario should be developed in line with certain principles such that it:
- Is based on current Government policies;
- Should assume that other adopted plans and programmes will deliver as planned - establishing what this means for the plan being developed is a significant task, drawing on the review of other plans and programmes discussed in Section 4.3;
- Should assume the continued implementation of strategies and measures planned in earlier adopted versions of the plan, unless they were planned to be time limited (thus, for example, a measure planned to be implemented for five years should not be assumed to be implemented beyond the planned five year period);
- Should not assume any new strategies or measures even if these appear to be essential in the light of current Government policies or of other plans and programmes (thus, for example, enhanced public transport provision to complement a planned new hospital should not be included in the 'without plan' scenario) - these should be included in the alternatives to be considered.
4.4.4 It is important to note that the development of the "without the plan" scenario based on the above principles could lead to significant variations from a more simplistic analysis of national or local trends. Work to develop the "without the plan" scenario will also provide useful context for identifying potential cumulative effects (see Section 5.2 and Appendix 5 of this document for more guidance on cumulative effects).
4.4.5 As well as the "without the plan" situation, transport plan alternatives can be considered at several levels:
- Broad strategic approaches/alternatives for the plan, e.g. increasing choice, restricting transport demand through physical measures, restricting it through fiscal measures;
- More detailed statements of policy direction and transport management approaches for more local areas; and
- Alternative measures, broad locations and combinations of measures within a plan: TAG Unit 2.3 lists a wide range of measures that can be considered in various combinations.
Figure 4.1 shows a possible hierarchical approach to identify alternatives. Fine-tuning of individual measures (e.g. designs for transport infrastructure measures) is done in project-level environmental impact assessments. Suitable alternatives may be beyond the Responsible Authority's immediate powers. However, an Authority may be able to take action (form partnerships with other organisations, for example) which would allow certain alternatives to be developed and implemented. Where the necessary actions have been explored and can be shown to be deliverable (partner organisations have demonstrated willingness to form a partnership, for example), these alternatives may be considered within the plan.
4.4.6 Alternatives will often focus on specific measures, but should:
- include strategic level alternative strategies and measures, including demand management and fiscal measures.
- be realistic: a deliberate selection of alternatives that have much more adverse effects than the proposed plan is not appropriate (European Commission, 2003).
- help to achieve Government's transport objectives.
Figure 4.1: The sustainable "hierarchy" of alternatives (based on ODPM, 2004a)
|need or demand: is it necessary?
Can the need or demand for accessibility be met without new development / infrastructure at all? Can the need to travel be obviated?
|mode or process: how should it be done?
Are there technologies or methods that can meet the need with less environmental / sustainability damage than 'obvious' or traditional methods?
|location: where should it go?|
|timing and detailed Implementation:
When, and in what sequence, should developments be carried out? What details matter and what requirements should be made about them?
4. The SEA Directive refers to 'alternatives', while the term 'option' is also used in the UK transport planning context. Here, the terms are taken to be synonymous and the term 'alternatives' is used in preference to 'options'.
What the Directive says:
In the Environmental Report, 'the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing the plan ... and reasonable alternatives ... are [to be] identified, described and evaluated' (Article 5.1). The Environmental Report should include information that may 'reasonably be required taking into account current knowledge and methods of assessment, the contents and level of detail in the plan [and] its stage in the decision making process' (Article 5.2).
Information to be provided in the Environmental Report includes:
- 'the likely significant effects on the environment, including on issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between the above factors. These effects should include secondary, cumulative, synergistic, short, medium and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects' (Annex I (f) and Footnote);
- 'an outline of the reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with' (Annex I (h));
- 'the measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and as fully as possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment of implementing the plan...' (Annex I (g))
5.1.1 The effects of the evolving plan should be predicted and assessed during the plan-making process. This could take place at several stages, as discussed at 4.3.2: when developing and comparing strategic alternatives and/or proposing groups of specific measures in an action plan. The final iteration should be at the level of the deliverable plan strategies and specific measures.
5.2.1 Predicting the effects of the plan should involve examining each strategy/measure in turn, and:
- Identifying the changes to conditions in the "without the plan" scenario which are predicted to arise from the strategy/measure. These can be compared both with each other and with the "without the plan" scenario in the relevant assessment years (see 3.4.3).
- Describing these changes in terms of their magnitude, the time period over which they will occur, whether they are permanent or temporary, positive or negative, probable or improbable, frequent or rare, and whether there are cumulative and/or synergistic effects.
This provides the basis for the later evaluation of impact significance (see Section 5.3).
5.2.2 Predictions do not have to be expressed in quantitative terms, though it is often possible to give quantitative but imprecise answers. Appendix 6 discusses how to deal with uncertainty in prediction and evaluation. Testing the accuracy of predictions is particularly useful where a plan's effects are uncertain, close to a threshold, or cumulative. Where qualitative predictions are made, they should not be 'guessed': they should be supported by evidence, such as references to any research, discussions or consultation. Assumptions, for instance about underlying trends or details of implementation should be stated. The Environmental Report should document any limitations in the information underlying the prediction: see Appendix 6.
5.2.3 Where a plan includes individual measures/schemes, these may have been subject to individual appraisal and accompanying project level environmental impact assessment, depending on their timing and scale (see Appendix 2). For example, project appraisals are mandatory for major schemes in LTPs (see TAG Units 1.4 and 3.9). However, this will not always be the case - some measures and schemes may not have advanced that far. Where such information is available the predictions should make use of it. However, the availability of such information should not dominate the plan-level predictions - SEA should focus on the plan as a whole, not on individual measures.
5.2.4 The SEA Directive requires an assessment of secondary, cumulative and synergistic effects. These are particularly important in transport planning: one transport measure often relies on other related measures to be effective, many impacts of transport are cumulative (e.g. greenhouse gas emissions), and transport measures can have indirect impacts (e.g. traffic generation by new roads). If an environmental feature is subject to significant cumulative effects associated with different environmental sub-objectives it may be necessary to revisit the plan to identify ways of reducing these effects. Appendix 5 discusses how the cumulative effects of the transport plan in conjunction with other plans can be addressed.
5.2.5 It is also important to assess the distribution of effects: who wins and loses under each strategy. The environmental effects upon communities may be presented in terms of effects upon different groups which may be categorised by where they live (rural or urban locations, for example), or by other attributes to do with age, car ownership and so on. This work should be carried out through using, and extending where necessary, the NATA distribution and equity supporting analysis (see TAG Unit 2.5, Section 1.5).
5.3.1 Assessment involves judging whether or not a predicted effect is likely to be significant. The SEA Directive suggests criteria for determining the significance of an effect: see Box 5.1.
5.3.2 Carrying out the assessment involves answering, for each strategy or measure, the following questions:
- Is it clear exactly what is proposed?
- Is the strategy likely to have a significant adverse effect in relation to each objective?
- If so, can the effect be avoided or its severity reduced?
- If the effect cannot be avoided, e.g. by conditions or changes to the way it is implemented, can the alternative be changed or eliminated?
- If its effect is uncertain, or depends on how the plan is implemented, how can this uncertainty be reduced?
- Will any social group be disproportionately disadvantaged/ affected by the alternative (see guidance in TAG Unit 3.8 regarding the NATA distribution and equity supporting analysis)?
5.3.3 A systematic approach to assessment and documenting effects is essential and Table 5.1 provides a template for a worksheet. A copy of the worksheet should be completed for each SEA objective/topic and may be published in the Environmental Report as an appendix. For NATA sub-objectives, the published worksheets (see TAG Unit 3.3) should also be considered, though they may not be suitable for use at the plan or programme level of assessment nor do they address the full requirements of SEA.
5.3.4 A summary matrix can be used to identify the interrelationships between effects associated with different SEA objectives/topics. Where a NATA Appraisal Summary Table is being produced, it should draw on information from the SEA (see Table 5.1). The aim of assessment is not to complete a table, but to ensure that the plan is as environmentally sound as possible.
Box 5.1: Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects (based on the SEA Directive, Annex II)
1. The characteristics of the plan, including:
- the degree to which it sets a framework for projects and other activities, either with regard to the location, nature, size and operating conditions or by allocating resources;
- the degree to which it influences other plans and programmes including those in a hierarchy (e.g. Local Development Frameworks, Community Strategies, Air Quality Management Areas);
- its relevance for the integration of environmental considerations in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development;
- relevant environmental problems;
- its relevance for the implementation of Community legislation on the environment (e.g. air quality standards).
2. Characteristics of the effects and of the area likely to be affected, having regard, in particular, to
- the probability, duration, frequency and reversibility of the effects;
- the cumulative nature of the effects (see Appendix 5);
- the transboundary nature of the effects;
- the risks to human health or the environment (e.g. due to accidents);
- the magnitude and spatial extent of the effects (geographical area and size of the population likely to be affected; see Section 5.2);
- the value and vulnerability of the area likely to be affected due to:
- special natural characteristics or cultural heritage (e.g. does it affect designated areas or other sensitive areas such as wildlife corridors);
- exceeded environmental quality standards or limit values (e.g. how close the baseline - current and likely future - is to exceeding any relevant standards);
- intensive land-use (e.g. does the plan facilitate new areas of development);
- the effects on areas or landscapes which have a recognised national, Community or international protection status.
Table 5.1: SEA worksheet for documenting effects and mitigation
|SEA objective:||e.g. improve local air quality||Worksheet completed by and date:|
|Plan strategic alternative or sub-component||Description of the value and vulnerability of the area likely to be affected||Description of the magnitude of the effect (see note *)||Level of certainty (high/ medium/ low) and associated comments||Description of mitigation and its implementation||Description of how the judgement was reached|
|e.g. "alternative A1"||Note: for some objectives, this could require a more in depth analysis - see the treatment of landscape, townscape, heritage, biodiversity and the water environment in TAG Unit 3.3|
|Qualitative summary for the AST||Quantitative measure and units (where appropriate to the objective) for the AST||Assessment of significance (based on NATA scoring criteria or other significance criteria)|
* Include relevant notes on timing and duration of the effects (short/ medium/ long term and temporary/ permanent) and potential cumulative effects (see Appendix 5).
5.4.1 Where a strategy is likely to have significant adverse environmental effects, measures should be considered to prevent, reduce or offset these effects. Proactive avoidance of adverse effects and enhancement of beneficial effects should also be considered. Mitigation is one of the key outputs of the SEA and should be considered concurrently with the assessment of alternatives.
5.4.2 Mitigation can take a wide range of forms including:
- changes to the alternatives, such as adding, deleting or refining measures;
- completely new alternatives;
- technical measures required for the implementation stage, e.g. buffer zones, application of design principles;
- requirements for project environmental impact assessments for certain projects (see Appendix 3); and
- proposals for changing other plans and programmes.
5.4.3 Where mitigation measures have not been considered as part of the assessment of the strategy - for instance where their likelihood of implementation is uncertain or their effectiveness unclear - the "with mitigation" strategy should be assessed as an alternative to the "without mitigation" strategy.
5.4.4 The costs of mitigation and any associated monitoring of the mitigation measures should be included in the strategy costs.
5.5.1 Many alternatives can be rapidly eliminated from consideration on technical, financial, social or environmental grounds. However, alternatives that are considerably more environment-friendly should not be eliminated from consideration at an early stage of the plan making process purely on cost grounds. Similarly, measures that, of themselves, do not fully deliver the plan objectives should not automatically be disregarded: good strategies are often built up out of many small, coherent "fixes".
5.5.2 More detailed analysis should be carried out for key alternatives. In order to achieve the objectives of the Directive (see paragraph 1.1.2 of this document), it is essential that the comparison of key alternatives is carried out using the NATA Appraisal Summary Table and other appraisal strands - see TAG Unit 3.8. Comparison of alternatives based only on the SEA objectives would not achieve the objective of fully integrating environmental considerations into the preparation of the plan along with other considerations.
5.5.3 Alternatives that are selected for testing as part of the overall NATA and plan making process should also be assessed for their cumulative impacts (see Appendix 5).
5.5.4 The SEA and NATA appraisal do not make the decision about what alternative(s) to proceed with: they inform that decision. Nevertheless, as shown in Figure 4.1, better alternatives are those that have more positive and fewer negative environmental effects (particularly fewer long-term and/or irreversible negative effects). There should also be less uncertainty associated with their implementation.
5.5.5 Reasons for eliminating alternatives should be documented. Authorities should also document reasons for not considering seemingly attractive or practicable alternatives. Justifications for these choices should be robust, as they may have to be defended in court.
5. "Forecasting" is often used as an alternative term at the strategic level.
6. Strategies should be developed so as to avoid the need for mitigation and provide environmental enhancement. The appraisal and SEA should also consider such opportunities. Where effects can easily, cheaply and certainly be mitigated, then those mitigation measures should be included in the strategy and assessed at this stage. The costs of such measures should also be included in the plan budgets. Otherwise they should be considered separately (see Section 5.5).
7. The relative lack of detail associated with strategic-level planning will generate uncertainties as to the magnitude of the environmental impact, mitigation required, and ability to deliver the mitigation enhancement measure. This is discussed at Appendix 6. Where this affects the selection of the preferred alternative, additional studies may be needed.
8. All of these measures together are called "mitigation measures" in this guidance.
What the Directive says:
'The authorities [with relevant environmental responsibilities] and the public...shall be given an early and effective opportunity within appropriate time frames to express their opinion on the draft plan... and the accompanying Environmental Report before the adoption of the plan' (Article 6(2)).
'The Environmental Report, ... the opinions expressed [by consultees] and the results of any transboundary consultations ... shall be taken into account during the preparation of the plan... and before its adoption...' (Article 8).
'When a plan ... is adopted, the [environmental] authorities [and] the public ... are informed and the following items [shall be] made available to those so informed: (a) the plan ... as adopted, (b) a statement summarising how environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan ... and (c) the measures decided concerning monitoring' (Article 9(1)).
6.1.1 The information from Stages A-C is now collated into a formal Environmental Report that is made available for consultation along with the draft transport plan. The consultation responses must be taken into account and the decision-making process must be documented.
6.2.1 The Environmental Report is the key written document produced for the SEA and must be clearly identifiable as the output from the SEA. It should normally be integrated with NATA reporting activities to form a "plan appraisal report incorporating the Environmental Report". In any case care must be taken to ensure that the Environmental Report is explicitly linked to and consistent with the information in the other parts of the NATA appraisal. For example, completed effects and mitigation worksheets (i.e. Table 5.1) can be directly linked to the NATA Appraisal Summary Tables. Table 6.1 shows a possible structure for the Environmental Report.
6.2.2 Appendix 7 provides further guidance on quality assurance as well as a checklist that can be used to test the quality of the SEA process and Environmental Report.
6.3.1 The Environmental Report must be made available to the public and environmental authorities along with the draft transport plan and the plan appraisal report. Environmental authorities and the public must be given an early and effective opportunity within appropriate time frames to express their opinion on the draft plan and the accompanying Environmental Report before adoption of the plan.
6.3.2 To meet the requirements of the Directive a "draft plan" publication stage should be introduced.
6.3.3 Where plans go through several successive consultation exercises, the implications for the Environmental Report should be kept under review. If alterations to the plan are likely to change the effects which have been predicted and evaluated, such information should be made available.
Table 6.1: Possible structure for the Environmental Report
|Structure of report||Information to include|
|Summary and outcomes||
|Plan issues, strategies and alternatives||
6.4.1 Following receipt of comments from the public, Consultation Bodies, and other countries where these have been consulted, the Directive requires such comments to be 'taken into account' during the preparation of the evolving plan.
6.4.2 To satisfy the Directive, authorities should state how they have taken the findings of the SEA into account. This SEA Statement should be made available to stakeholders. It will cover:
- Any changes to or deletions from the plan in response to the information in the Environmental Report.
- Ways in which responses to consultation have been taken into account. The summary should be sufficiently detailed to show how the plan was changed to take account of issues raised, or why no changes were made.
- Reasons for choosing the plan as adopted, and why other reasonable alternatives were rejected.
- Monitoring measures. The Environmental Report will already have documented proposed measures concerning monitoring; these can now be confirmed or modified in the light of consultation responses.
6.4.3 Responsible Authorities should ensure that the public and other consultees are informed and given access to the plan once it has been adopted.
9. See Article 7 of the SEA Directive which describes "Transboundary Consultations".
What the Directive says:
Member States shall monitor the significant environmental effects of the implementation of plans... in order, inter alia, to identify at an early stage unforeseen adverse effects, and to be able to undertake appropriate remedial action' (Article 10.1).
The Environmental Report should provide information on 'a description of the measures envisaged concerning monitoring' (Annex I (i)).
7.1.1 Monitoring allows significant environmental effects of the plan's implementation to be identified and dealt with early on. It allows the actual effects of the plan to be tested against those predicted in the SEA, and can provide baseline information for future plans. It also allows information to be assembled in advance of project EIAs thereby helping to make more informed decisions at that stage. Further guidance on monitoring is provided in Appendix 8.
7.2.1 The SEA Directive explicitly requires monitoring of the significant environmental effects of the plan. This goes beyond the current requirements of the NATA. The Directive's provisions on monitoring apply during the plan's implementation. But monitoring should already be considered during the choice of objectives and indicators (Stage A) and during the preparation of the plan.
7.2.2 Information used in monitoring will often be provided by outside bodies, including those which provide baseline data. Plan-making authorities should take care to ensure that monitoring information is appropriate to their needs and is up to date and reliable. Proposals for and outputs from monitoring should state the sources of the information.
7.3.1 Authorities should consider how they would react if monitoring reveals adverse effects. Details of any contingency arrangements could be included in the mitigation measures set out in the Environmental Report.
The following documents provide information that follows on directly from the key topics covered in this TAG Unit.
|For information on:||See:||Link:|
|An overview of NATA||Introduction to appraisal||TAG Unit 1.1|
|NATA appraisal in more detail||Appraisal||TAG Unit 3.2|
|Examining objectives and problems||Objectives and problems||TAG Unit 2.2|
|Environmental appraisal in NATA||The environment objective||TAG Unit 3.3|
|Major scheme appraisal in LTPs||Major Schemes in Local Transport Plans||TAG Unit 1.4|
Countryside Council for Wales et al. (2004) SEA and Climate Change: Guidance for Practitioners.
DETR (2000) Guidance on Full Local Transport Plans. London.
English Nature et al. (2004) SEA and Biodiversity: Guidance for Practitioners.
European Commission (2003) Implementation of Directive 2001/42 on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment, Brussels.
Hyder Consultants (1999) Study on the Assessment of Indirect and Cumulative Impacts as well as impact Interactions. Report for EC DG XI.
ODPM (2004a) A Draft Practical Guide to the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. ODPM, London.
ODPM (2004b) Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of Regional Spatial Strategies and Local Development Frameworks, Consultation Paper. ODPM, London.
South West Regional Assembly (2002) Analysis of Baseline Data Requirements for the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. TRL Limited and CEP for SWRA.
Therivel, R. (2004) Strategic Environmental Assessment in Action, Earthscan.
This Transport Analysis Guidance (TAG) Unit is a new document based on research by the Centre for Sustainability at TRL Limited and Levett-Therivel consultants. Technical queries and comments on this TAG Unit should be referred to:
Transport Appraisal and Strategic Modelling (TASM) Division
Department for Transport
Zone 2/25 Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 4DR
Tel 020 7944 6176
Fax 020 7944 2198
Updated: April 2009