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Accountability in Environmental Assessment Law, Policy and Practice:Changing Paradigms, Changing Purposes in the European Union,1985‐2010

SHEATE, William R (2011) Accountability in Environmental Assessment Law, Policy and Practice:Changing Paradigms, Changing Purposes in the European Union,1985‐2010. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

Twenty five years since the introduction of the European Union (EU) environmental impact assessment
(EIA) Directive in 1985 this thesis reflects on how environmental assessment (EA) legislation in the EU
has evolved, how it has responded to changing policy contexts (paradigms) and whether the experience
of implementing EIA and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) in the EU provides useful insights
into the nature and role of environmental assessment (EA) instruments. Paralleling this development of
EU legislation has been the continuing and slowly maturing debates around EA theory. Surprisingly ‐ in
the context of legal mandates for EA ‐ there is little reference in the EA literature explicitly to the
literature on accountability and the role EA may play in this increasingly important aspect of
governance.
This thesis examines how the legislation has changed over the 25 year period in response to the
changing policy context, and – through drawing on empirical action and policy‐oriented research
reported in the selected papers – seeks to answer the core research question “To what extent have EA
processes, over the course of their evolution in the EU, provided a platform for enhancing accountability
and sustainability?”. The thesis examines EA implementation principally from an environmentalist
perspective and particularly the way in which NGOs and other advocates for the environment in the UK
and EU have used the EA legislation as a lever for increasing democratic, corporate and professional
accountability of proponents and decision‐makers alike.
Accountability is implicit as a theme underlying the selected papers, but it is the collecting together and
synthesis that provides a new lens through which to view EA. The thesis seeks to fill a significant policy
and practice gap between the theoretical discussion in the EA community – the role and purpose of EA –
and the practical and legal discussions around implementation. From this historical analysis it is clear
that EA has had an important role to play – at the legislative level in providing the requirements for
accountability, and at the implementation level as the lever that can be used to hold individuals,
organisations and authorities to account for their actions. The relationship with the shift to
sustainability is shown to be a close one, since sustainable development demands greater public
involvement in decision‐making and greater accountability of executive decisions to the public. The
lessons from the body of work presented here allow the development of a nascent policy‐oriented
theory and research agenda regarding EA’s role in accountability, which provides a framework for a
distinctive new area of EA research and policy analysis. Moreover, an accountability perspective on EA
could help re‐frame EA for policy makers from being purely an informational and procedural instrument
to one which promotes better accountability and sustainability simultaneously.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: L700 Human and Social Geography
Faculty: PhD
Depositing User: Jane CHADWICK
Date Deposited: 08 May 2014 13:31
Last Modified: 08 May 2014 13:31
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/1897

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