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Strategic Environmental Assessment, Sustainability Appraisal and Habitat Regulations Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessments, Sustainability Appraisals and Habitats Regulations Assessments are legally required assessments that must be undertaken for certain plans and projects, such as the County Durham Plan, to help provide for a high level of protection for the environment and to encourage sustainable development.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Sustainability Appraisal (SA)

The overall aim of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Sustainability Appraisal (SA) is to help protect the environment and to promote sustainable development through the integration of social, economic and environmental considerations into the preparation of plans, programmes and policies, which are likely to have significant effects on the environment.

The SA process can be undertaken to satisfy the requirements of the SEA directive through a single assessment process. It should:

  • Take a long-term view of how the area covered by the plan is expected to develop, taking account the social, environmental and economic effects.
  • Provide a mechanism for ensuring that sustainability objectives are translated into sustainable planning policies for a local plan.
  • Reflect global, national, regional and local concerns.
  • Provide an audit trail of how the plan has been revised to take into account the findings of the SA.
  • Form an integral part of all stages of plan preparation.
  • Assess all options and identify the best option the plan should take to tackle the issues it aims to address.
  • Inform us and the public of the likely impact of the plan on the environment.
  • Recommend measures and changes to the plan to avoid or minimise negative effects and enhance positive effects.

Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)

Habitat Regulation Assessment (HRA) is a statutory process under the Europa: Habitats EU Directive and is used to determine whether plans or projects are likely to have a significant effect on European protected Wildlife sites through an initial risk assessment, known as screening, and a more detailed assessment, known as Appropriate Assessment.

European wildlife sites, also known as Natura 2000 sites are protected because they are of exceptional importance in respect of rare, endangered or vulnerable natural habitats and species within the European Community. There are nine European wildlife sites within County Durham's boundary including:

  • Northumbria Coast SPA
  • Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast SPA
  • Durham Coast SAC
  • Castle Eden Dene SAC
  • Thrislington SAC
  • North Pennine Moors SAC
  • North Pennine Moors SPA
  • North Pennine Dales Meadows SAC
  • Moor House Upper Teesdale SAC

The law states that we are only able to agree to, and implement, plans and projects after having ascertained that they will not adversely affect European wildlife sites. We work very closely with Natural England to ensure assessments and resulting recommendations are appropriate.

What assessments have we done?

Council plans that have been subject to SEA, SA and HRA include the Local Transport Plan 3 and the County Durham Plan. In addition we also screen Neighbourhood Development Plans to determine whether SEA or HRA is required.




LTP3 assessments

  • SEA Scoping Report (2010)
  • SEA Final Report & supporting Non-Technical Summary
  • SEA Statement (2011)
  • HRA Screening Report (2010)


Assessment of the County Durham Plan

  • ​County Durham Plan Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report (2016)
  • Interim Sustainability Appraisal of the County Durham Plan Issues and Options (2016)
  • Sustainability Appraisal of the Preferred Options 2018
  • Sustainability Appraisal of the County Durham Plan Pre-Submission Draft 2019
  • Interim Habitats Regulations Assessment of the County Durham Plan Issues and Options (2016)
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment of the County Durham Plan Preferred Options 2018
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment of the County Durham Plan Pre-Submission Draft 2019

External service

We are skilled in carrying out these assessments and familiar with many of the issues within the North East region and beyond.  If your organisation requires Strategic Environmental Assessment/ Sustainability Appraisal or Habitats Regulations Assessment please feel free to contact us for an informal discussion.

Contact us
Sustainability Appraisals
Our address is:
  • Room 66-72, 5th Floor
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UQ
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