Laura Sharman 20 October 2008

New report paves the way for sustainability appraisal improvements

A new report published by the Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN) has identified a number of key issues currently facing the practice of Sustainability Appraisal (SA) within the spatial planning process.

The report, researched and written by Land Use Consultants (LUC) and The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), has recommended that policy appraisal approaches need to be developed which play a more influential role within the spatial planning process. Although the report uncovered evidence of areas where SA recommendations are making a real difference to development plan policies, evidence was also found which suggests that recommendations are often ignored.

Jenny Crawford, Head of Research at the RTPI said:  “A key challenge must be to ensure that appraisal adds value to the plan-making process.”

Other key areas for improvement which were identified include a need to make the Sustainability Appraisal process more practitioner-friendly as well as a need for joint-working practices between spatial planning practitioners, other policy-makers and members of the research community. 

Katy Lock of LUC who managed the project said: “The potential of SA to make plans more sustainable needs to be realised – it is time they were treated more seriously.”

Helping to address the issues highlighted by the report, the Department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) has commissioned further research into the efficient and effective use of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and SA in spatial planning.

CLG Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain, said: “Sustainability Appraisal is integral to good plan-making, and is a fast developing area. SDRN's report provides a valuable contribution in this regard.  We have commissioned further research which aims to address some of the recommendations set out in the SDRN report, by helping to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of sustainability appraisal and strategic environmental assessment practice in spatial planning in England."

A full copy of the report is available from the SDRN website,

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