MSc Environmental Impact Assessment & Management

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Strategic and Sustainable Decision Making

Course unit fact file
Unit code PLAN64072
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit develops knowledge and skills relating to a range of appraisal and assessment tools that are used to inform decisions in planning.  It aims to explore a more holistic approach in decision-making, drawing on current thinking and practice, to ultimately use more environmentally sustainable approaches to planning and development.  The experiences of a range of countries will be explored.

The unit uses lectures, workshops, directed study, and a field trip to develop familiarity with the various methods of appraisal and assessment.  Students will be required to undertake preparatory reading and prepare in advance of the teaching sessions to maximise understanding, contribution and progression through the course content.


1.           Consider the implications of delivering environmental sustainability through wider planning  processes, focussing on the holistic assessment of projects and plans.

2.           Explore a range of procedural tools and approaches suitable for holistic assessment.

3.           Appreciate the many interpretations of assessment tools.

4.           Explore and evaluate integration practice in the use of a range of tools.

Teaching and learning methods

Introductory lectures, including from key external speakers/practitioners.

Workshops - discussion and application of knowledge and skills in small groups followed by plenary discussion – synchronous and asynchronous.

Lessons from practice – synchronous and asynchronous.

Self-directed reading – synchronous and asynchronous.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand and critically evaluate the importance of sustainable and strategic planning as an environmental policy goal
  • Discuss current trends in incorporating environmental concerns in decision-making
  • Outline the complex relationships between various environmental planning processes

Intellectual skills

  • Debate and establish reasoned arguments for the selection and use of appropriate tool(s) in practice.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the effectiveness and performance requirements of a range of assessment tools.

Practical skills

  • Formulate the application of relevant tools and methods in case study real-world situations.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Problem solving individually and in groups.
  • Analysis and synthesis of multiple sources of information and research outputs.
  • Prepare oral and written presentations
  • Effective written communication of complex concepts to a specific audience.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Report 75%
Oral assessment/presentation 25%

Feedback methods

Feedback on work submitted via Turnitin is provided within 15 working days

Recommended reading

Sala, S; Ciuffo, B.; Nijkamp, P. (2015) A systemic framework for sustainability assessment, 

Ecological economics 11: 119-314  DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.09.015

Kidd, S.A. and Fischer, T. () Towards Sustainability: Is Integrated Appraisal a Step in the Right Direction? Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 25-233-249

Scrase, J.Ivan. and Sheate, W.R. (2002) Integration and integrated approaches to assessment: what do they mean for the environment?  Journal of environmental policy & planning 4: 275-294  DOI: 10.1002/jepp.117

Morrison-Saunders, A., Pope, J., Gunn, J.A.E., Bond, A., Retief, F. (2014) Strengthening impact assessment: a call for integration and focus  Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 1-2-8  DOI: 10.1080/14615517.2013.872841

Marsden, S. (2008) Strategic environmental assessment in international and European law: a practitioner's guide Earthscan, London.

Runhaar, H. and Driessen, P. (2007), What makes strategic environmental assessment successful environmental assessment? The role of context in the contribution of SEA to decision-making, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 25(1): 2-14.

Sadler, B. and Dusik, J (2016) European and international experiences of strategic environmental assessment: recent progress and future prospects Routledge, London.

Therivel, R. (2004) Strategic Environmental Assessment in Action Earthscan, London.

Verheem, R. and Tonk, J, (2000) SEA: one concept, multiple forms, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 18: 177-182.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Carys Jones Unit coordinator

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