Would you do SEA if you didn't have to? : reflections on acceptance or rejection of the SEA process

João, Elsa and McLauchlan, Anna (2014) Would you do SEA if you didn't have to? : reflections on acceptance or rejection of the SEA process. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 32 (2). pp. 87-97.

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Abstract

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is undertaken in more than 60 countries worldwide. Support to the SEA process can range from formal legal requirements to voluntary ‘ad hoc’ approaches. In the cases where SEA is legally required, such as in Europe where the SEA Directive sets a framework for SEA legislation in 28 countries, practitioners may engage with SEA but in a reluctant way. This paper reports on a unique survey of 203 key people responsible for implementing the SEA legislative requirement in Scotland. The majority (53%) of the 187 practitioners who answered the hypothetical question ‘If SEA was not compulsory, would you do it?’ said ‘Yes’. However, results suggest that the responses were much nuanced. Practitioners were asked to explicate their reasoning and, irrespective of whether the answer was ‘yes’ or ‘no’, common themes were evident in accompanying remarks. This paper enables reflection on reasons for acceptance or rejection of the SEA process by discussing: the perception that a similar process to SEA is already being done, the problem with lack of resources, the call for a ‘leaner process’ and the difficulties of undertaking SEA when conditions are already determined at a higher ‘tier’.