|Abstract: ||Despite the attention garnered by sustainability in the last three decades and the advances in its tools and techniques, we are no closer to attaining sustainability now than we were at the start. This elusiveness has been attributed to the lack of a clearly defined global method for evaluating sustainability and poor integration into sector, national and international policies and decision-making, amongst others. A clear limitation observed in most concepts/methods is their inability to integrate effectively ecological, economic and social sustainability during assessment. Rather, there is a tendency to assess them separately and integrate them after the assessment. This process often leaves loopholes in sustainability assessment as there are trade-offs created that often favour economic sustainability but more rarely favour environmental, or even social, sustainability. In order to address this limitation, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) in 2005 recognized that the complex interactions between these ecological, economic and social processes have to be understood and established a universal valuation concept known as ecosystem services which can be used in sustainability assessment and Spatial Planning. Ecosystem services are the benefits or services created by the ecosystem which are essential for the daily functioning of humans and economies.
This research explores how best to achieve integration of the Ecosystem Approach within environmental/sustainability assessment. It adopts a mixed method approach that combines the use of existing qualitative techniques, Network Analysis and stakeholder engagement, and quantitative techniques, Geographical Information Systems, within a regeneration case study at local level (Dartford in North Kent, United Kingdom). The thesis makes recommendations for better integration of an Ecosystem Approach in Spatial Planning and decision making and the ways in which assessment tools and techniques can be best combined.|