In this section you learn what is required in the early, baseline stages of SEA. This includes:
- describing the policy context: what other policies, plans, projects and actions affect the strategic action, and are affected by it?
- describing the environmental baseline: what is the current state of the environment, and what is it likely to be in the future without the proposed strategic action?
- identifying environmental problems: what problems exist that the strategic action should not make worse, or should ideally make better?
- establishing an approach/framework for carrying out the subsequent SEA stages: predicting and mitigating the impact of alternatives to, and components of, the proposed strategic action; and subsequent monitoring of of these impacts
- early consultation on the scope and level of detail of the SEA.
Much of this work can be carried out before there is any kind of strategic action to assess, and can inform the earliest stages of plan-making. Much of this work can also be carried out once for an area, and (if kept up to date and at the right level of detail) used for all the strategic actions in that area.
The interactive illustration below provides some signposting showing how the context-setting section relates to the strategic decision-making process for SEA.
When this SEA stage is documented in an SEA report, it can be structured in different ways:
This section begins with a quick discussion of policy context, environmental baseline and environmental problems. It then discusses in more depth some issues about evidence that affect the whole context-setting process; and then discusses SEA frameworks and early consultation in light of these issues.