Sustainability appraisal and strategic environmental assessment

Sustainable development is commonly referred to as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Brundtland Commission, 1987).

A Sustainability Appraisal (SA) identifies and evaluates impacts on social, environmental and economic objectives and suggests amendments to avoid or mitigate identified negative impacts if possible. 

To ensure the new local plan maximises its contribution to sustainable development the findings of the appraisal and assessment are taken into consideration throughout its preparation and a full SA report is published for consultation and submitted for examination alongside the plan.

Sustainability appraisals and the law

The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (commonly referred to as the ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment Regulations’) implements the requirements of the European Directive 2001/42/EC (the ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive’). The regulations require the identification of potentially significant environmental effects arising as a result of a land use plan or programme, which set a framework for future development. This is an iterative process wherein the effects arising from a plan or programme are evaluated and communicated through consultation.

Sustainability Appraisals incorporate the requirements of the SEA regulations to ensure that potential environmental effects are given full consideration alongside social and economic issues as stipulated by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (paragraph 165). Section 19 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires a local planning authority to carry out a Sustainability Appraisal of each of the proposals in a local plan during its preparation, including its objectives, policies and allocations. More generally, section 39 of the Act requires that the authority preparing a local plan must do so "with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development".

Strategic Environmental Assessment may also be required where a Sustainability Appraisal is not needed. This may apply where planning documents such as neighbourhood plans or supplementary planning documents set a framework for development such as the allocation of sites for development purposes.

We have produced a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) incorporating the requirements of Strategic Environmental Assessment for each stage of the new local plan.

Background to our sustainability appraisal

We carried out an SA scoping report with detailed annexes of information to help understand the sustainable development needs for York. This helped to identify baseline statistics and key issues for York. As part of this process, we defined a framework of 15 objectives against which the plan’s vision and objectives, policies and allocations could be assessed. This framework is set out in within the scoping report as well as subsequent SA reports as the principle assessment methodology.

Sustainability appraisal was carried out for the former Local Development Framework. For more information on the documents produced, please contact us.

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