Sustainability-focused impact assessment: English experiences
This article considers whether strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of local-level spatial plans in England is leading to a high level of protection of the environment. It is based on an analysis of the sustainability appraisals (SA/SEA) of 45 core strategies, interviews with 14
planners, and 14 questionnaire responses. The findings suggest that the plans will have beneficial social and economic effects, but between mildly positive and mildly negative environmental effects. SA/SEAs act as an environmental counterweight to the plans' more social and economic focus,
but have only limited effectiveness. They do not identify what type of development would be environmentally sustainable, nor what would be an acceptable trade-off between environmental costs and social/economic benefits; nor do they lead to environmentally sustainable plans. Significant changes
in the SA/SEA and planmaking processes would be needed to deal with these problems.