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The assessment and management of social impacts in urban transport infrastructure projects

Exploring relationships between urban governance, project management and impact assessment practices in different geographical contexts
PhD ceremony:L.K. (Lara) Mottee
When:December 08, 2020
Supervisors:prof. dr. F.M.D. (Frank) Vanclay, prof. dr. E.J.M.M. (Jos) Arts, prof. dr. R. Howitt
Co-supervisor:dr. F. Miller
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Spatial Sciences
The assessment and management of social impacts in urban transport
infrastructure projects

Practices in the assessment and management of social impacts play an important role in the development of urban transport infrastructure megaprojects. Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is an internationally recognised process used to predict, assess and manage impacts aimed at securing an equitable distribution of social benefits and costs. However, practitioners applying SIA face significant challenges in balancing strategic policy objectives and specific project aims. The pilot study for this research suggested practitioners have limited influence on long-term social outcomes as their involvement is constrained by political decision-making and planning approval processes. Using a qualitative analysis of three rail infrastructure megaprojects from two urban geographical contexts, Sydney (Australia) and Amsterdam (The Netherlands), this research investigated what constrains and influences the assessment and management of social impacts. It considered relationships between urban geographical context and practices in Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and management. Research methods included document analysis, field observations, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with practitioners, professionals and academics. The thesis argues that over-emphasis of technical (financial and engineering) aspects during urban and transport planning risks decision-makers undervaluing social impacts in projects. The implementation of good practice SIA, follow-up, and the management of impacts is constrained by a tension between governance priorities at multiple spatial scales. It suggests that adaptive management and governance to respond to social change over time is essential. The thesis concludes that practice must be supported by effective integration with project management, urban governance and planning to improve social outcomes from transport infrastructure megaprojects.