An Ex Ante Evaluation of this Operational Programme was conducted by Fitzpatrick Associates in parallel with the drafting and finalisation of the OP between July 2006 and February 2007. The overall aim of the evaluation was to improve the quality, effectiveness and consistency of the Structural Funds assistance and the implementation of the OP. The Ex Ante Evaluation addressed the following:
Appraisal of socio-economic analysis and relevance of the draft programme
Evaluation of the rationale of the draft programme and its consistency
Appraisal of coherence of the strategy with regional and national priorities
Evaluation of expected results and impacts
Appraisal of proposed implementation and monitoring systems.
The overall assessment of the draft OP is positive, in terms of its logical flow, compliance with general requirements and EU/national objectives, drawing lessons from previous programmes and evaluations, consistency and relevance of the strategy to regional needs, appropriateness of the geographic concentration, compliance with equality and environmental requirements and the existence of a strong rationale for the proposed interventions. The ex ante evaluation also supports the broad financial allocations by priority in the OP.
Several issues highlighted in earlier drafts of the ex ante report relating to the OP structure, complementarities, significance of particular sections, regional policy and territorial dimension, use of region-specific information, inclusion of innovative interventions, mechanisms to ensure coherence with other financial initiatives, definition and quantification of context and OP-level indicators have been taken on board.
The ex ante evaluation expects the OP to have quantitative impacts locally, qualitative impacts globally, with community added value in terms of economic and social cohesion, EU policy added value, financial added value, added value of the Structural Funds method and added value from exchange of experience and networking. The ex ante evaluation makes 12 recommendations to be taken on board during the implementation of the OP. These are set out below:
that a final indicator system to comply with the requirements be developed;
that there be very close monitoring of applications and approvals in the first twelve months of operation, to ensure draw-down;
that the role for more innovative and pilot-type interventions be retained and enhanced;
that detailed implementation plans be drawn up by the Managing Authority in conjunction with the Implementing Bodies as soon as possible;
that there be clearer procedures to ensure avoidance of overlap and duplication with both other EU co-financed schemes and with mainstream NDP expenditure;
that implements with regard to horizontal principles be clarified;
that appropriate project selection procedures and criteria be agreed with each implementing agency;
that the nature of individual interventions’ (measures) within the Priorities not be “frozen” permanently for the full period of the programme, but that there be a degree of flexibility in this regard;
that the scope for linkages between interventions be drawn to the attention of implementing bodies;
that information and publicity extend to newer types of potential applicants;
ensure that all interventions within Priorities conform to the criteria for an effective measure;
ask implementing bodies to monitor participation and beneficiaries from a gender and wider equality perspective, and to explore measure-specific actions to address equality issues where appropriate and feasible and in accordance with national policy.
In the course of the Ex Ante Evaluation process, the Evlauator set out a recommended framework for the specification of input, output and context indicators and this has been applied by the Managing Authority. The Managing Authority accepts the recommendations made (Note 47).
The following is a non-technical summary report which describes the results of the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the draft BMW Regional OP 2007-13, conducted by ERM on behalf of the Managing Authority. A list of the organisations to whom a draft copy of the Environmental Report was provided is given in section 1.4 of this OP.
Directive 2001/41/EC which provides for the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (“SEA Directive”) came into force in Ireland on 21st July 2004. The Directive applies to plans and programmes for which the first formal preparatory action is taken on or after 21st July 2004.
The main objective of the SEA Directive is to “provide for a high level of protection for the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development.” The authority responsible for preparing the plan or programme is usually responsible for undertaking the SEA. Regarding the BMW OP, the relevant Irish Regulation is European Communities (Environmental Assessment of Certain Plans and Programmes) Regulations (S.I. 435 of 2004).
This is the first part of the SEA process where the need for SEA preparation of an Environmental Report is determined. The requirement for the preparation for such a Report is based on the potential for significant effects on the environment. If the screening result is positive, then the following requirements must be completed:
The preparation of an Environmental Report, where the likely significant environmental effects are identified and evaluated;
Consultation with the public, environmental authorities, and any EU Member State affected, on the environmental report and draft plan or programme;
Consideration of the findings in the Environmental Report and the outcome of the consultations in deciding whether to adopt or modify the draft plan or programme; and
Publicising the decision on adoption of the plan or programme and how the SEA influenced the outcome.
However, if the screening result is negative, then there is no need to prepare an Environmental Report and the SEA process is concluded with the publication of a notice confirming the negative result of the screening process.
A screening report was prepared by the BMW Regional Assembly and, following consultation with the designated environmental authorities, it was decided to prepare an Environmental Report.
An SEA Scoping Report was prepared in December 2006 to consider what the potential environmental effects of the OP would be and to identify the significant effects. A matrix-based approach was used and a scoping meeting was held with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
An Environmental Report was prepared in January 2007 (Note 48) which outlines the significant effects on the environment which may arise as a result of the BMW OP. The information provided in the Environmental Report meets the requirements of Schedule 2 of S.I. 435 of 2004. In summary, these significant effects are:
The Rural Water Source Protection and the Village sewage interventions may result in significant, positive effects on local and regional biodiversity resources. These interventions seek are likely to result in improvements to groundwater and surface water quality, with resulting benefits for aquatic ecology. The probability of this positive effect is high in the selected locations.
Minor adverse effects are predicted regarding the Key Linking Routes intervention. This intervention will result in the construction of a small number of bypasses, minor inner relief roads, road widening and improvements, junction improvements, signage improvements and bridge improvements. Such developments are likely to have minor significant and adverse effects on local biodiversity.
The broadband intervention will support the delivery of broadband access in the region. This will result in positive effects of minor significance to the Region's population. The basis for these positive effects is that broadband can increase educational, social, economic and technological opportunities for the local population.
Urban regeneration proposals under this intervention include physical improvements to the Region's growth centres which will make them more attractive and more dynamic. The BMW region's population will benefit from the urban improvements through improvements to the urban townscape and the secondary/'spin-off' benefits which arise from urban regeneration projects.
Improvements to the region's road network, via the Key Linking Routes intervention, will result in minor and positive effects to the Region's population through greater accessibility and connectivity within the BMW region, reduced congestion and journey times, road safety and secondary/'spin-off' benefits which may arise as a result of improvements to the transport network.
Improvements to the region's public transport network through the public transport intervention under the OP will result in minor and positive effects to the region's population through enhanced and safer services greater public transport options within the region, which also benefits those members of the community who do not have access to private-car based transport.
Both the Rural Water and Village Sewage scheme interventions will reduce the potential for aquatic pollution incidents to arise, thereby increasing the region's drinking water compliance rate and also protecting human health (i.e. reducing the risk of illness via contaminated water). This positive effect is of minor significance.
The Rural Water Source Protection and the Village Sewage interventions may result in significant, positive effects on the region's groundwater and surface water resources. There are strong inter-relationships with the positive effects under water and those under biodiversity, flora & fauna.
The promotion of sources of renewable energy through the Renewable Energy intervention will result in positive and minor positive effects (i.e. reductions) in the volume of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced in the BMW Region.
The Key Linking Routes intervention is likely to increase GHG emissions as a result of greater car journeys which will arise as a result of improvements to the region's transport network. This is an adverse effect of minor significance. While air quality in the region is good, the potential increase in traffic emissions may increase the risk of exceedances for particulate matter (PM10). However, the Public Transport intervention may off-set some of the increases in GHG production via the change in modal choice from cars to public transport.
The stock of public assets (transport infrastructure, telecommunication networks, environmental infrastructure e.g., energy and water services, public buildings and spaces) will have minor positive effects under the Broadband provision, Urban regeneration, Rural Water Source Protection, Village Sewage, Renewable Energy and Public Transport interventions.
Effects of an unknown nature may arise due to the Broadband provision and Key Linking route interventions. The nature of these effects is classed as unknown as the project-level detail is not known at this stage in the OP implementation.
Urban regeneration proposals under this intervention include improvements to the region's growth centres which will make them more attractive and more dynamic. This intervention will improve the townscape in the areas which are subject to urban regeneration efforts. This is a positive effect of minor significance.
Mitigation measures have been proposed to address adverse effects identified for biodiversity (under the Key linking routes intervention).
Further measures are proposed to enhance the positive effects predicted for biodiversity, flora & fauna; water and landscape.
It is a requirement of the Irish regulations that a monitoring programme be proposed to monitor the predicted effects that will arise as a result of the BMW OP. It is recommended that this programme reports back as part of the Annual Implementation Report. Monitoring requirements were proposed for population, human health and biodiversity, flora & fauna and water. The Managing Authority has agreed to take on board the recommendations arising from the SEA process with regard to the on-gong monitoring of OP impacts on the environment.
Note 47 The Ex Ante Evaluation Report is available on the Regional Assemblys website www.bmwassembly.ie
Note 48 A list of the organisations to whom a draft copy of the Environmental Report was provided is given in secion 1.4 of this OP