The requirements for Stage E1, set out in par. 3.6.1, for clarity in formulating the option, consideration of mitigation measures and achieving greater certainty where effects are uncertain, are welcome. The proposals on “what to decide”, and “what to report” in the accompanying table for Stage E should require a fuller list of options – particularly social and economic options that reflect its relationship with other relevant plans – particularly community strategies. Furthermore, insofar as Development Plans become the land-use executive instrument of a community strategy the objectives and options of the community strategy itself need to be assessed.

The procedure for assessing options set out in Figures 11 to 15 builds on the conventional matrix methodology used for structure plans and regional strategies. Reliable Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Fees All these stages are important, and the authors of the guide are to be congratulated on the attempt. However, it does not make for easy reading, and results in a far from clear “audit trail” to show how the preferred options are determined and justified.

Already a typical sustainability appraisal provides so many pages of coloured bar charts that do not give a clear message. It is probable that many sustainability appraisals have little effect on those considering the Plan. Research on sustainability appraisals of regional strategies suggests that the main benefits of appraisals may be the clarification of key issues for debate at the Public Examination.

This may mean that the considerable number of measurements needed to fill out the matrices usually included in a Sustainability Appraisal are not needed. A more focussed qualitative debate on key issues, rather than data, is likely to be more democratic, because this level of debate allows a fuller spread of public participation. However, the information required by the European Directive for the strategic level assessment of impacts is considerable, but will provide important information of sustainability impacts to add to any objective-based appraisal. Nevertheless the sheer volume of information stipulated by the Directive should as far as possible be regarded as a checklist of information which should be considered, not a mandatory list.

At an early stage a scoping exercise should be carried out to assess what are likely to be the key data needed for adequate consideration of the issues. Only data likely to be important should be collected for the assessment. This will depend on the issues identified as key to allow options to be evaluated. Of course this will depend on the results of the data collection, and a premature decision to exclude some of the baseline data may lead to issues being “lost”.