Planners' views on cumulative effects: A focus-group study concerning transport infrastructure planning in Sweden

Publisher's full text
Lennart Folkeson
Hans Antonson
Jan Olof Helldin

Cumulative effects (CE) still receive little attention in the Swedish processes for road and railway infrastructure planning. This article seeks to analyse how CE are treated by professionals engaged in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment of roads and railways. The aims were (i) to analyse views of CE held by professionals with long planning practice, (ii) to analyse how planners experience the handling of CE in their daily planning practice, and (iii) to identify means to strengthen the assessment of CE in the Swedish road and railway planning process. The study was performed as an international literature review and two focus groups among planners. Discussions revealed little knowledge and use of the term CE, partly due to lack of incentives and guidance. Little mention was made of research. Participants said EIA work was much directed towards the environmental compartments/aspects listed in the Environmental Code. Environmental impacts designated as significant demanded much work. The discussions revealed a need of more collaboration between various actors in EIA and of novel methods of public participation. Spatial and temporal scales were chosen with little concern of CE. The European Landscape Convention was hoped to enhance CE treatment in EIA. Improvement suggestions include (i) use of the term CE in regulatory instruments, (ii) development of the interplay between CEA practice and CE science, (iii) co-ordination of management of baseline, monitoring and follow-up data, (iv) assessment of CE in relation to project-specific environmental objectives, developed in a bottom-up process, (v) inclusion of CE, within and across environmental aspects, in determining the significance of environmental impacts, (vi) advice on CE treatment in EIA guidelines, (vii) requirement of CE assessment in EIA procurement, (viii) strengthened generalist competence in environmental assessment, and (ix) enhancing skills in stepwise analyses and indirect environmental effects. Research needs include adaptation of the Swedish EIA procedure to international state of the art, knowledge support of quantification in CE assessment, and development of innovative means of public consultation in transport infrastructure planning.

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