The integration of the social environment into the development planning process : a case study of petrol filling stations (PFS)
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The aim of this dissertation is to examine the integration of social issues into the Development Planning Process through environmental assessment procedures. A Case Study of Petrol Filling Stations (PFS) was examined in order to assess the level of integration of the social environment into the development planning process. It is often the case that developments, especially large developments, are conceptualized at a scale that marginalises the needs of local communities. The indirect cost and benefits of these developments on the community is not adequately researched prior to the implementation of these developments. Local concerns from the social environment are often marginalized in the decision making process. The literature in the study indicates that public involvement is often seen as anti-development, reflecting self-interest and being typical of the NIMBY (Not in my backyard) Syndrome. This dissertation comprises two main parts. The first part provides the theory and methodology employed by the researcher to gather data to explore the topic. International and national literature is analysed in relation to the Development Planning Process, Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and its evolution, Public Participation, The NIMBY Syndrome, Social Impact Assessments (SIA) and relevant case studies are explored. The second part of this research analyses in detail the case study in relation to the development planning process and the EIA process. The intention of the analysis of the case studies was to establish at exactly what point the social environment is included in the development planning process and EIA process. The intention was to further establish if the process and its practice is adequate in ensuring the assessment and inclusion of the social environment into the decision making process. The second part of this research also analyses the interviews that were undertaken in order to assess how practitioners consider and include the social environment into the decision making process. The research confirms that in this particular instance the social environment was not adequately included early enough in the decision making process. Often social concerns are considered by developers to be a mechanism to delay development and are viewed as a “stumbling block” to development. However, the recognition of social issues and good public participation have been recognized as an important factor in ensuring quick decision-making and successful implementation of projects. Social screening is critical at the outset, prior to a development application being lodged with the relevant approval authority. Developers have recognized the importance of SIA and thorough public involvement in projects. Social screening can be used as a tool outside of, or prior to, the formal Development Planning and EIA application processes.