Strategisk miljöbedömning för hållbar samhällsplanering. Slutrapport från forskningsprogrammet SPEAK

Research output: Book/ReportReport


The general aim of the research programme SPEAK (Sustainable Planning and
Environmental Assessment Knowledge, was to generate
knowledge on, and to strengthen the role of strategic environmental assessment
(SEA) in planning as a measure to attain the environmental quality objectives and
to promote sustainable development. The SPEAK programme had a
transdisciplinary point of departure with close interaction between practice and
academy. Within the SPEAK program both quantitative and qualitative methods
were applied. The theoretical framework built on the international debate on SEA

In the first part of the SPEAK programme a database was developed, which
provided an extensive mapping of SEA practice for the period 2004-2014. The
mapping showed that the share of municipal comprehensive plans with an SEA has
increased from 30-45 percent in the beginning of the period to about 90 percent in
the end of the period. For municipal waste plans and energy plans, the
improvement is less significant. Statistical analyses suggest that the municipal
resources and inter-municipal cooperation have a positive impact on the probability
of conducting an SEA. However, the mapping also shows that only half of the SEA
documents specify the aim of the municipal plan and merely one in four include
more than one plan alternative.

In the second part, two in-depth analyses were conducted, one focusing on
municipal planning and one focusing on county transport planning. The former
analysis points out that the development of alternatives is hampered by the lack of
a specific aim of the municipal plan. The Swedish Planning and Building Act does
not require an aim or aims of each comprehensive municipal plan to be specified.
Yet, the absence of an aim is likely to create difficulties in defining alternatives.
Consequently, the low application of more than one plan alternative potentially
follows from the lack of an aim. Moreover, interviews with municipal planners
indicate that the awareness of SEA requirements is low, implying shortcomings of
knowledge and learning effectiveness. The second in-depth study shows that SEAs
for county transport plans have often limited impact on the development of the
transport plans. Since every new plan includes a substantial number of projects that
were identified in previous plans, it is difficult to start SEA from neutral ground.
Moreover, interviews indicate low awareness of SEA both among transport
planners and among officials from the national government responsible for
financing. These observations imply additional shortcomings in knowledge and
learning effectiveness.

In the third part, the application of SEA in planning in a selection of countries was
studied. Representatives from various EU countries were interviewed on the
strengths and weaknesses in their SEA practice related to timing, quality assurance,
alternatives, public participation and monitoring. Public participation was generally
considered as a strength, while monitoring and the development of reasonable
alternatives were described as weaknesses. Countries apply various measures to
overcome weaknesses, for example, annual meetings to exchange knowledge and
experiences and establishment of a review body. In the fourth part, a future vision
of SEA practice in Swedish planning was developed. On basis of this vision
proposals for adjustments of current practice were identified. The proposals include
policy recommendations and legal adjustments to enhance SEA effectiveness.
Finally, SPEAK provides suggestions for further research and development.


  • Berit Balfors
  • Hans Antonson
  • Charlotta Faith-Ell
  • Göran Finnveden
  • Ulrika Gunnarsson-Östling
  • Christina Hörnberg
  • Karolina Isaksson
  • Kristina Lundberg
  • Sirje Pädam
  • Tore Söderqvist
  • Antoienette Wärnbäck
External organisations
  • Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute
  • KTH Royal Institute of Technology
  • K2–The Swedish Knowledge Centre for Public Transport
  • WSP Sverige AB
  • Environmental Law and Development Centre Sweden AB
  • Ecoloop AB
  • Anthesis Enveco AB
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography
Original languageSwedish
Place of PublicationStockholm
Number of pages92
ISBN (Print)978-91-620-6810-3
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb
Publication categoryResearch