The review of existing and likely future environmental conditions, in conjunction with the review of the institutional context within which the strategic action is being carried out, should help to identify likely problem areas or 'crunch points' that affect the strategic action. These can include:
- environmental components that are near or beyond their carrying capacity - for instance where water demand exceeds provision
- environmental standards that are not being met - for instance where air pollution is already above legal standards
- environmental trends that are going in the wrong direction - for instance soil contamination that is getting worse
- other strategic actions that will constrain or buttress the strategic action being considered - for instance a national airports expansion strategy that will counter measures to reduce air pollution
- existing and possible conflicts between the actors and stakeholders; and
- issues that are of particular concern to the public - for instance perceived lack of safety.
This allows the objectives of the strategic action to be revisited, to ensure that the problems are dealt with. It allows the strategic action to be modified so as to prevent or minimise these problems, or new alternatives to be considered. It also allows preconditions for the strategic actions to be put in place.
Environmental problems should be identified through triangulation: bringing together information from multiple sources, rather than relying on just limited data or points of view. For instance a survey of local residents may show that they are worried about crime, but actual crime figures might be low. Relying on only one of these data sources could produce a skewed list of problems.
Below are two examples of how environmental problems have been described in SEAs. As you read them, you may want to think about which you prefer and why. Then you can view the course author's view on each.
Example 1. Social and environmental problems related to a minerals plan
"Minerals development has the potential to adversely affect the amenity, health and general well-being of residents, and other uses located close to a site, through noise, light, odour, vibration, dust or other nuisance, for example, mud on the road. However, minerals proposals may also impact the wider community, for example through noise, vibration, and the other nuisance of lorries using narrow rural roads.
In addition, minerals proposals may also affect the amenity of users of the countryside, in particular those using public rights of way. This may include direct impacts, for example alterations to the routing of rights of way which cross or adjoin a site, as well as indirect impacts, for example the impact on views and change in character of an area used by visitors to the countryside.
The risk of flooding is an important issue in X and it is particularly vulnerable to the predicted impacts of climate change. These include more coastal and river (fluvial) flooaidn resulting from sea-level rise, increased storminess, increased winter rainfall, and higher and more intensive waves. The aim for minerals development should be to reduce the risks to people, property and the natural environment from flooding."
This is a bad example of how environmental problems can be described.
It does not relate to a specific area, but rather is a general description of the kinds of impacts that a minerals plan could lead to. It is a mini impact prediction, not a description of existing problems.
It provides no evidence (no links to data), nor any indication of how significant the problem is.
Example 2. Social problems related to a land use plan (the same format could be used for environmental and economic problems)
|Social Issues||Description||How can the plan address this?||Data Source||Based on: Bracknell Forest District Council (2005)
|Lack of affordable housing||The provision of housing is a very important issue affecting the Borough. House prices in the area are high (average house price in Bracknell Forest is Â£211,973 compared to the national average of Â£166,206 over the same time period) which makes it difficult for people to afford to buy. The affordability of houses is exacerbated because over 40% of residents earn less than the national Average Gross Weekly Earnings. An update to the recent Housing Needs Survey indicated a current shortage of affordable houses. The majority (73%) of the Borough's 44,000 dwellings are owner-occupied with a very high demand for more housing. There is a growing proportion in single person households causing a drop in average household size. The average number of people per household in 1961 was 3.22 compared with 2.46 today and the number of single person households has increased from 21.5% in 1991 to 27% in 2001.||Ensure that requirements for housing numbers help to provide sufficient homes for all sections of the community.||Land Registry -- April to June 2004.
New Earnings Survey, Office for National Statistics 2001
Census 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001.
|Pockets of deprivation in an otherwise prosperous Borough||There are low levels of deprivation with no parts of the Borough in the 10% most deprived wards in the country, and 30 areas are in the most prosperous 10%. However, there are pockets which are more deprived, for example 5 areas are between 30% and 50% of the most deprived in the country. This imbalance will need to be addressed.||Address issues of social exclusion and accessibility for disadvantaged groups||Indices of Deprivation 2004, ODPM|
|Access to essential facilities||Health -- the health of the borough is generally good, with the number of "people whose health is good" being 75.3%, considerably higher than the national average.
Results in Bracknell Forest schools are above the national average and many good schools provide high quality education. Results continue to improve in primary and secondary schools, with 49% of children gaining 5 or more GCSE's in 2003 going up to 53% in 2004, although more needs to be done to broaden the curriculum provided for older students.
|Access to hospitals must be good to maintain good health, especially focusing on the needs of vulnerable groups such as the elderly. Any increase in population and new housing areas will create a need for new surgeries and health facilities, which must be met.||Bracknell Forest Borough Education Department
This is a good description of environmental/sustainability problems.
It includes:* a clear summary of problems in the first column
* good links to data in the second column
* suggestions for what the plan could do about the problem in the third column, which can inform the development of plan alternatives
* information on how to check and update the analysis in the last column
* evidence of triangulation.