SEA can be applied to a wide range of strategic actions. The interactive animation below shows strategic actions for which SEAs have been, and could be, carried out. It does not aim to be comprehensive. The strategic actions it covers include all scales (international, national, regional, local), sectors and resources, both spatial and non-spatial plans and policies, and on issues as diverse as legislative change and selection between alternative forms of power generation.
Below are extracts from 1. a national energy policy and 2. a local authority programme of redevelopment for part of a city, to give you a feel for the kind of strategic action that one can assess using SEA. Several points of similarity and difference emerge from looking at these examples. See if you can identify these and you can check your answers by clicking on the link below:
Adapted from: Australian Government (2004) Securing Australia's Energy Future
National energy policy objectives:
- encouraging efficient provision of reliable, competitively priced energy services to Australians, underpinning wealth and job creation and improved quality of life, taking into account the needs of regional, rural and remote areas
- encouraging responsible exploration of Australia's energy resources, technology and expertise, their efficient use by industries and households, and their exploitation in export markets
- mitigating local and global environmental impacts, notably greenhouse impacts, of energy production, transformation, supply and use.
- recognise the importance of competitive and sustainable energy markets in achieving these objectives
- continuously improve Australia's national energy markets, in particular between and among jurisdictions and - recognising growing convergence bewen energy markets - between energy sources, and supply and demand side opportunities
- enhance the security and reliability of energy supply, encompassing resource availability, conversion, transportation and distribution, and recognising the impact of government policy and the regulatory environment on private sector investment and operation
- stimulate sustained energy efficiency improvements to technologies, systems and management proficiency across production, conversion, transmission, distribution and use
- encourage the efficient economic development and increased application of less carbon-intensive (including renewable) energy sources and technologies, including exploring opportunities for appropriate inter-fuel substitution...
Adapted from: Oxford City Council (2006) West End Area Action Plan
- To create an area of activity and vitality by encouraging a mix of uses
- To create residential neighbourhoods with balanced communities
- To provide affordable housing to meet some of Oxford's needs
- To enhance the world-famous skyline and views of Oxford with high-quality architecture...
- Create a new public open space to facilitate bus turning and standing as part of the redevelopment of the West Gate Shopping Centre
- Enhance the attractiveness of the green open space adjacent to the stream
- Create a linear park along Castle Mill Stream, including a pedestrian and cycle route through the West End
- Provide a balance of smaller homes (1-2 bedroom flats) and larger family homes (3/4/5 bedroom houses): 65% flats and 35% houses
- Encourage the development of an additional 4-/5-star hotel in the West End.
Both strategic actions draw a balance between economic, social and environmental objectives, and equity is important for both ('rural and remote areas', 'affordable housing').
Components of the strategic action that fulfil the same function can have different names in practice. For instance, Oxford's "opportunities" are the objectives of its strategic action; Australia's "agreed principles" and Oxford's "policies" are the sub-components of the strategic action.
Both strategic actions have several 'layers': a broad statement of intent, more detailed proposals for implementation and (not shown here) still more detailed explanation of how these proposals would look and act in practice. This raises the question: which level(s) should be assessed in SEA?
The national-level policy is much less spatially specific than the local-level programme. The SEA techniques needed for one might be very different from those for the other.
It is possible, in both cases, to imagine alternatives to the strategic action: for instance a greater emphasis on self-sufficiency of supply or a clear statement about nuclear power for the Australian energy policy; not having a new bus-turning area at the West Gate Shopping Centre, or a different ratio of housing types for Oxford's West End. This suggests that SEA could be carried out several times for a given strategic action: for its broad objectives, its alternatives, and a draft version of the complete strategic action.
Given the wide range of strategic actions to which SEA could apply, and the vast diversity of approaches and contexts affecting the formulation of strategic actions, the following two points are clear:
- no single SEA methodology can apply uniformly to all strategic actions; and
- SEA needs to be a flexible, adaptable approach.
SEA must be seen as an overarching concept rather than a single technique, housing within it a family of tools, with different members of this family being appropriate for different types, and different stages, of strategic action planning, development and review (Goodland and Tillman, 1996; and Partidario, 2000).