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Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) provides for a high level of protection of the environment and promotes sustainable development by ensuring that relevant environmental considerations are integrated into government and public authority plans and programmes (PPs). SEA is an iterative process which predicts, analyses and assesses the likely significant effects of PPs on the environment; evaluates reasonable alternatives; seeks the views of stakeholders and the public on these effects; and influences the plan preparation process in order to address environmental issues at an early stage. 

The legal basis for SEA is as follows:
•    Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (SEA Directive). Additional information is available from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/sea-legalcontext.htm .
•    Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2010 (Legal Notice 497 of 2010), accessible from www.sea.gov.mt . These new regulations streamline the SEA process in Malta and replace the Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2005 (Legal Notice 418 of 2005).

The Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations, 2010 and Directive 2001/42/EC require that any PP which is likely to have a significant effect on the environment should be subjected to an SEA.

SEA is an upstream process which complements other assessment processes at project level (e.g. Environmental Impact Assessment ). SEA does not apply to individual projects.

MEPA’s Role in SEA

MEPA is not the competent authority for SEA. The competent authority for SEA in Malta is the SEA Focal Point within the Office of the Prime Minister. Guidance and advice on the implementation of SEA should be sought from the SEA Focal Point. Further information is available on www.sea.gov.mt

In accordance with the provisions of Legal Notice 497 of 2010, MEPA is identified as one of the Designated Authorities and a Responsible Authority.

Designated Authorities

The legal set-up for SEA establishes statutory consultees (legally referred to as “designated authorities”) which should be consulted throughout the SEA process. As a statutory consultee, MEPA advises plan proponents on relevant environmental issues at the screening and scoping stages of the SEA process and comments on the SEA environmental report and draft PPs.

Responsible Authorities

Plan proponents in the public sector (legally referred to as “responsible authorities”) are responsible for carrying out an SEA of their PPs. Following a change in the local SEA regulations in 2010, it is now the responsibility of government and public entities to determine whether an SEA is required for their own PPs in accordance with the provisions of Legal Notice 497 of 2010. Therefore, in its separate function as regulatory plan maker (in this instance PPs regulating environmental protection and land-use planning), MEPA is required to carry out an SEA of its own PPs in line with the same legal parameters that apply to other plan proponents.