The potential role of environmental impact assessment in forward land use planning in the U.K.
During the 1970s, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) developed into an important tool for integrating environmental information into decision making for project developments. Its use at the policy and plan level has not proceeded with such rapidity although its desirability at these higher levels of decision-making has been widely acknowledged. In the UK, EIA has been used in project assessment but little consideration has been given to its application to forward planning for land use. This research examines the hypothesis that environmental consequences (biophysical and socio economic) are not explored adequately in UK land use policy and plan-making and that EIA can be integrated into the existing system to ameliorate this deficiency. The essential substantive and procedural components of EIA are identified and practical developments at the policy and plan level in the US, Canada and the Netherlands are examined to enable comparison with UK achievements in integrating environmental information in land use policy-making. Statutory requirements for UK structure and local plans already necessitate the collection of a wide range of environmental data and the plan-making procedure does not prevent the identification of impacts. However, traditional formal planning evaluation methods use ad hoc inputs of- environmental information and do not take an exploratory approach to impact identification. A range of EIA methods is available dealing with impact identification, that would appear to be complementary to traditional plan evaluation methods. In practice formal evaluation methods have not been extensively used in UK structure and local plan-making so case studies of plans developed using informal evaluation are examined. A checklist based on the Battelle Environmental Evaluation System is used to compare the environmental content of four plans. In two of these plans the planners have no experience of EIA (normative examples), while in the other two cases, planners involved in their preparation have knowledge of the use of EIA in local projects. An attempt is made to use an EIA method in one of the cases. In procedural terms the case studies reveal that prediction of policy impacts are not usually undertaken at a discrete stage of plan preparation. Instead, policies are formulated as the optimum answer to problems, given constraints, which renders the production of alternatives redundant. Comparison of policy output from the two types of cases reveals similarities in landscape and built environment conservation policies but heightened awareness to risk, hazard and pollution aspects in the EIA influenced plans. Two models of the integration of EIA into multi-dimensional land use plan-making are presented. However, EIA would appear to have a more appropriate role in policy/plan review which is of increasing importance in the evolving UK planning system.