The success of SEA in the Dutch planning practice. How formal assessments can contribute to collaborative governance
In this article we answer the question how Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) may assist collaborative planning. We argue that successful collaborative planning generates specific demands on the production of policy-relevant knowledge, which SEA may help to meet. Important criteria for usable knowledge in governance processes are its interactive production, its flexible character to cope with the dynamics of collaborative processes, its openness to stakeholder involvement, and its focus on close interplay between policy and knowledge developers. The SEA procedure may fit well into collaborative planning processes, depending on how policy makers apply and use this procedure. From two rather controversial Dutch planning cases we learn that SEA, applied wisely, plays an important role in realizing meaningful stakeholder involvement, joint fact-finding and interaction between lay people and experts, agreement about the policy problem, the alternative solutions and their effects, and knowledge which is feasible to facilitate decision-making in a context of highly polarized positions and value-laden conflicts. We can conclude that SEA seems to be perhaps not formally intended to facilitate collaborative governance processes, but that it can do so when the users translate its principles in accordance to the general principles of successful collaborative governance and joint fact finding.
- Spatial planning
- Collaborative governance
- Joint fact-finding
- Strategic Environmental Assessment