A number of factors are critical to the implementation of measures identified through Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) processes. This paper addresses the challenge of implementation from a street level perspective and studies the role of planners and their use of discretion in the SEA implementation process: in which way might planners hinder or facilitate the implementation of SEA? Which coping mechanisms and discretions are deliberately or unconsciously developed and used by the planners? The paper reviews the literature on street level bureaucracy (SLB) in order to identify both factors influencing the implementation behaviour of street level bureaucrats and their coping mechanism when confronted with these factors. Based upon the SLB theory, a case study explores the SLB behaviour involved in the implementation of the SEA of the Copenhagen spatial plan. The analysis shows a surprisingly high level of implementation of measures put forward in the SEA report, and underlines the role of planners at the front line of implementation, functioning as ‘innovators’ during the SEA process and the following implementation of measures. The paper documents the importance of examining planners’ role in SEA and their potential as levers for SEA implementation.
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 2015, Vol 28, Issue 4, p. 598-615