Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Stage

2. North Somerset Local Plan 2036 Sustainability Appraisal: Scoping Report

7. Next Stages and Methodology

7. Next Stages and Methodology for the SA

What happens next?

7.1 This Scoping Report is the first stage of the SA process (Stage A). The stages that follow are:

  • Developing and refining options (Stage B)
  • Prepare the sustainability appraisal report (Stage C)
  • Consulting on the Plan and the SA Report (Stage D)
  • Monitoring the implementation of the Plan (Stage E)

Developing and refining options (Stage B)

7.2 Under the SEA Directive, the council is required to assess the plans effects in comparison with "reasonable alternatives taking into account the objectives and the geographical scope of the plan or programme". The council will develop various policy options capable of meeting the objectives of the Local Plan. Each reasonable policy option will be tested against the SA Framework to determine its performance in sustainability terms.

7.3 The SA will be carried out on the basis of assessing the difference made by having, as opposed to not having, the policies in their proposed form, bearing in mind how the baseline would be likely to evolve in the absence of the plan. This can be assessed against the various SA objectives and any opportunities to improve the options to meet those objectives can be identified. This process will identify whether the effects are positive, negative or uncertain.

Appraising the effects of the plan (Stage C)

7.4 The next stage of the SA process is to assess each option, in order to determine whether it is likely to have a significant effect on the environment and sustainable development. The purpose of this stage is to predict and evaluate the effects of policies so that, where adverse effects are predicted, consideration will be given to what mitigation measures may be required. This stage will lead to the production of the main SA Report.

7.5 Each option will be assessed and, where necessary, recommendations made for refining these included in the process. At this stage, if there are limitations in the data that is available, it is expected that the predictions regarding the impacts of policy options may be broad-based and qualitative rather than detailed and quantitative. Where possible, the potential effects will be quantified, but, where this is not possible, a subjective judgment will need to be made.

7.6 Completion of this process will make it possible to decide if any of the options are likely to have any adverse impacts. Where adverse impacts are predicted, information will be presented on the measures proposed to prevent, reduce or offset these adverse effects. Where an adverse effect cannot be mitigated, the council will consider deleting or modifying the policy. Even if a policy does not have any adverse impacts, the council will where possible seek to enhance its positive and beneficial effects.

7.7 Where policies are proposed for alteration in light of the SA process, these will be highlighted in the main SA report. The SA process will also provide a commentary on any sustainability issues that arise during the refinement of the option. Conclusions on the overall sustainability effects of the policy will also be provided as part of the main SA report.

7.8 Table 14 below sets out SEA regulation requirements for how significant effects on the environment should be determined. These criteria used throughout Stages B and C of the SA process but will also be applied to the determination of significant effects on economic and social circumstances, as well as the environment, so that the likely significant effects on broader sustainability may be determined.

Table 14: SEA Regulations criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment (Schedule 1 of the SEA Regulations 2004)

1. The characteristics of plans and programmes, having regard, in particular, to - 

(a) the degree to which the plan or programme sets a framework for projects and other activities, either with regard to the location, nature, size and operating conditions or by allocating resources;

(b) the degree to which the plan or programme influences other plans and programmes including those in a hierarchy;

(c) the relevance of the plan or programme for the integration of environmental considerations in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development;

(d) environmental problems relevant to the plan or programme; and

(e) the relevance of the plan or programme for the implementation of Community legislation on the environment (for example, plans and programmes linked to waste management or water protection).

2. Characteristics of the effects and of the area likely to be affected, having regard, in particular, to - 

(a) the probability, duration, frequency and reversibility of the effects;

(b) the cumulative nature of the effects;

(c) the transboundary nature of the effects;

(d) the risks to human health or the environment (for example, due to accidents);

(e) the magnitude and spatial extent of the effects (geographical area and size of the population likely to be affected);

(f) the value and vulnerability of the area likely to be affected due to - 

(i) special natural characteristics or cultural heritage; (ii) exceeded environmental quality standards or limit values; or (iii) intensive land-use; and

(g) the effects on areas or landscapes which have a recognised national, Community or international protection status.


Consulting on the plan and sustainability appraisal (Stage D)

7.9 A SA Draft Main Report will be available for consultation at the same time as public participation on the Consultation draft version of the North Somerset Local Plan. If changes are made in light of the public participation stage, the SA Main Report may need to be amended as necessary to reflect any changes, if the changes result in likely significant effects.

7.10 The revised SA Main Report will be submitted to the Secretary of State alongside the submission of the North Somerset Local Plan, which will be subject to independent examination by a Planning Inspector. The independent examination will consider whether the SA process has been incorporated into the production of the submitted Plan and whether the requirements of the SEA Directive have been met.

Monitoring the implementation of the plan (Stage E)

7.11 It is a requirement of the SEA Directive that the significant environmental effects of the implementation of Plans must be monitored to identify any unforeseen adverse effects and to enable appropriate remedial action to be taken. SA monitoring will allow the Council to answer the following questions:

  • Were the assessment's predictions of sustainability effects accurate?
  • Is the plan contributing to the achievement of desired SA objectives and targets?
  • Are mitigation measures performing as well as expected?
  • Are there any adverse effects? Are these within acceptable limits, or is remedial action desirable?

7.12 SA monitoring will be undertaken annually following adoption in line with the requirement to produce an Annual Monitoring Report. Further information on monitoring will be set out in the SA Main Report.

Question 5. Is the proposed methodology for the next stages of the Sustainability Appraisal correct?