Paving the way for green qualities -Role of Environmental Assessment

Abstract: Implementing urban development projects in planning practice while simultaneously providing sufficient green spaces has proven to be challenging. As a result, there is a growing need for practical approaches and tools for the integration of urban green qualities in the on-going densification of cities. Environmental assessment, as a proactive decision aiding tool, can hold an important role in integrating green qualities in urban development plans and projects. However, in recent years environmental assessment has only added moderate value to planning issues regarding green space. Therefore, this thesis was designed to contribute to the knowledge and understanding on the role environmental assessment can have in the integration of green qualities in future urban development plans and projects in efforts to aid practitioners. This aim was achieved through examination of existing urban green space planning practice in the Stockholm region (Paper I) and the practice of environmental assessment in a selection of European countries in relation to the following factors identified to be important for practice: timing, quality control, alternatives, monitoring and public participation (Paper II). The findings from both studies were then analysed to identify possibilities of green space planning within the framework of these factors. A qualitative research was employed for this study including: semi-structured interviews with municipal planners in the Stockholm region and environmental assessment experts for the European Commission, literature review, document analysis and case study analysis. The case studies analyzed in Paper I were located in municipalities of Haninge and Huddinge, suburban areas located to the south of Stockholm. In Paper II, the experts interviewed were environmental assessment experts from the European Commission from: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Slovenia. Through analysis of the results from both studies, the potential role of environmental assessment in integrating green qualities in urban development plans and projects are explored and discussed in relation to the factors. The potential of environmental assessment to enhance public participation and dialogues amongst actors, or bring forth green space issues within alternatives are a few of the roles discussed. Furthermore, a selection of pathways is suggested for the integration of green qualities in future urban development through the application of environmental assessment. For example, the implementation of developer dialogues in the environmental assessment process and the development of knowledge exchange platforms for sharing experiences in relation to green space planning and environmental assessment.