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Social impact research in planning : towards a process Rapanos, Bill Peter

Abstract

This study was concerned with the problem of anticipating the social impacts of large planned development projects and the problem of evolving methods to minimize the negative consequences to those affected. In recent years many people have expressed concern about questions relating to the environmental effects of unregulated economic growth. Concern has also been expressed that the social results of development planning may be important in terms of the changes that growth produces in the communities or localities in which the projects are undertaken. In a situation where economic and urban growth has opened many of the last frontiers, there may be a reduced capability of the social and ecological environments to absorb the mistakes of narrowly conceived projects. This demands that planning be equipped to deal with possible problems which may arise. A literature survey was utilized to explore a number of approaches to assessing social impacts. Examples ware taken from studies on urban design, economic development planning, transportation, northern development, relocation and urban renewal, water resources, economics, and environmental impact. The findings elucidated a broad range of concerns that should be included in an interdisciplinary analysis of the impacts of any proposed project. An analysis of three specific cases was undertaken; the first being a highway location study, the second an environmental Impact study and the third the process of New Towns development in Britain, The review of the literature provided a basis for a model outline for a social impact study of the proposed Tilbury Island Industrial Estate on the community of Delta. A comparison was made between the goals of the agency sponsoring the project and the attitudes of various groups in the community. The degree to which the two sets of values conflicted was considered to be an important indicator of the magnitude of the disruption which the project might be expected to produce. The model proposed the following list of social impacts for inclusion in an analysis: employment, sense of community, population, transportation, interaction, taxation, service facilities, land values, housing, relocation, loss of future options, pollution, historical sites, nuisance, and recreation. In addition, the consequences of not pursuing the project were raised. It was noted that social systems do not exhibit easily discernible cause and effect relationships. This discovery indicated that prior studies utilizing technical approaches such as check lists of possible consequences are insufficient in themselves to meet the needs of the planning process. participation by those affected and flexibility in the planning and development stages were seen as necessities. The fact that social impacts do not occur instantaneously but are dispersed over time reduces the utility of a prior analysis in a dynamic situation. For this reason a flexible planning process incorporating a broad range of considerations was required. Information alone about the possible social impacts of a project is seen as being secondary to the need to develop a planning capability for dealing with negative social consequences as they occur.

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