CoDES (Consortium For Decision Support) Scoping Study (2004-2005)

Funding body: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) "Towards a Sustainable Urban Environment" Programme (2004-2005), grant GR/S82336/01

Decisions about Urban Planning issues are complex problems involving multiple large organisations with differing objectives, large sums of money and conflicting priorities (economic re-generation, environmental protection, management of scarce resources, etc). Furthermore the decision making process is not purely about optimising an analytical problem. Human issues play a major part in defining what is acceptable.

The CoDES team has successfully investigated approaches to support the fully integrated, cross-sectoral planning needed for a genuinely sustainable urban environment. The SUE Programme has brought together a number of research consortia that are focused on sustainability issues in a particular sector of the urban environment, i.e. construction, water, waste, land, transport, etc. For example, integrated urban water management might permit the development of more sustainable systems by integrating the traditionally separate functions of providing water supply, collecting, treating, and disposing of wastewater, and handling urban wet-weather flow . However, mono-sectoral strategies or actions really cannot be sustainable in their own right. They need to be integrated with one another in a holistic or ‘joined up’ manner, thereby fulfilling the need for “environmental policy integration”, which is a fundamental requirement of EU and UK environmental policy. Therefore, there are a number of difficult questions that need to be addressed with respect to decision support prior to the development and implementation of a truly integrated sustainable policy. These include:

  • How to identify critical decisions within specific sectors or which straddle sectors;
  • What are the characteristics of the decision support tools needed to reconcile mono-sectoral decisions/policies in a way that supports sustainable development?
  • What are the barriers which both commonly hinder the use of such tools and identify best practice methods and tools?
  • How to provide a decision support framework when the complexity of the decisions needed to improve the sustainability of urban environment as well as the complexity of the decision-making process itself, suggests the need for a multitude of tools for a multitude of stakeholders?

The overall aims of the CoDES scoping study were to:

  1. examine existing research on decision processes, including key drivers and barriers;
  2. identify gaps in that research through continuing interaction with urban decision-makers, and
  3. to formulate a core research programme for the main project.

The research carried out is directly aligned with the four objectives of the scoping study, which can be summarised as to:

  1. Analyse mapping of the most critical decisions within specific sectors or which straddle sectors;
  2. Analyse the decision support tools needed to reconcile mono-sectoral decisions/policies in a way that supports sustainable development;
  3. Develop better understanding of the barriers which both commonly hinder the use of such tools and identify best practice methods and tools; and
  4. Develop an advanced decision support toolbox that will integrate sustainability issues from the water sector and possibly from several other sectors of the urban environment (plus project with WaND).

The work on the first three objectives has been done mainly through literature reviews and focused case studies and key advances are described in the following sections.

Key Advances and Supporting Methodology

  • Decision Mapping
  • Decision Support Tools
  • Barriers and Drivers
  • DST Toolbox (with WaND consortium)

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