The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations (the Regulations) were introduced into the UK in July 2004. The Regulations implement European Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (the so-called SEA Directive) in the UK. The directive was viewed as an important step in European environmental law as, although major projects likely to have an impact on the environment must be assessed under the Environmental Impact Directive, this assessment takes place at a stage when plans are actually being developed and in due course adopted. Its purpose is to ensure that the environmental consequences are identified early and to help produce decisions that are better informed. It complements and does not replace environmental assessment of individual projects. Although the term is not used in the directive, it has become known as the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive. Separate regulations are being introduced by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, a joint draft Practical Guide (the Guide) has been issued with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) having overall responsibility for implementing the SEA Directive throughout the UK.
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