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Knowledge and Policy: Appraisal, Policy Learning and Sustainability: Towards a New Agenda

Knowledge and Policy: Appraisal, Policy Learning and Sustainability: Towards a New Agenda

This study explored different conceptions of the role of appraisal (the ex ante assessment of the environmental or sustainability impacts of projects, plans, programmes and policies), with particular emphasis on ways in which such practices may help to modify the beliefs, values and behaviour of individuals and organisations over time. These questions are of considerable importance at a time when rapid development of policy and practice (including implementation of the European Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive from July 2004) coincides with a range of important new theoretical insights into the nature of appraisal and its role in the political process.

Central themes included:

  1. the changing treatment of subjectivity in appraisal;
  2. the quest for legitimacy;
  3. the extent to which appraisal provides opportunities for learning; and
  4. the relation of appraisal to different interpretations of sustainable development.

A key objective was to draw together a substantial body of research (including our own) in the fields of environmental planning and appraisal; this synthesis, together with rigorous analysis of emergent issues, led to identification of priorities for future research linking appraisal, policy learning and sustainability.

The study was intended to be agenda setting and thematic, but within this broad perspective, it focused on appraisal in the transport sector, where developments have been rapid and significant.

Outputs include a new theoretical framework and an agenda for future research in this important field and several papers are already published or in press.

The project should also contribute to appraisal practice that is better informed by recent developments in social science. It was assessed as outstanding after peer review of the end-of-award report.

Key paper

  • Owens, S., Rayner, T. and Bina, O. (2004) 'New agendas for appraisal: reflections on theory, practice and research', Environment and Planning A 36, 11, 1943-1959.