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Environmental Assessment

Environmental Assessment-Overview

Environmental Impact Assessment

EIA Directive (85/337/EEC  (pdf, 74kb) as amended by 97/11/EC and 2003/35/EC) requires that certain developments be assessed for likely environmental effects (commonly known as environmental impact assessment (EIA)) before planning permission can be granted. When submitting a planning application for such a development, the applicant must also submit an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Projects needing environmental impact assessment are listed in Schedule 5 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.

In the case of development which is under the relevant EIA threshold, planning authorities are required under article 103 of the 2001 Regulations to request an EIS where it considers that the proposed development is likely to have significant environmental effects. The decision as to whether a development is likely to have significant effects on the environment must be taken with reference to the criteria set out in Schedule 7 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001. In order to assist planning and other consent authorities in deciding if significant effects on the environment are likely to arise in the case of development below the national mandatory EIA thresholds, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government published a Guidance document in August 2003.

The EIA requirements under planning legislation have been consolidated into Part X of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and Part 10 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) involves assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of plans and programmes prior to their adoption. SEA Directive (2001/42/EC)(pdf, 76kb)  was adopted on 27 June 2001 and took effect in Member States on 21 July 2004. It provides for strategic environmental consideration at an early stage in the decision making process, and is designed to complement the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process which is project based.

The Directive applies across a wide range of sectors viz. agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism and land use planning.  The requirement to carry out SEA of plans/programmes in the sectors mentioned above arises where they "set the framework for future development consent of projects" which are listed in the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC, as amended by Directive 97/11/EC)

SEA is also necessary where plans/programmes are likely to have a significant effect on a site governed by the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

Responsibility for implementation of the Directive within each sector rests primarily with the relevant Government Department.

EPA Research Project on SEA

The Environmental Protection Agency (one of the agencies to be designated as an environmental authority under the SEA Regulations funded a research project, the purpose of which was to develop SEA methodologies for use in Ireland. 

The SEA methodologies reports (synthesis and full) on EPA website (external link). The reports were published in December 2003