|dc.description.abstract||Throughout the past decades, planning practices have become increasingly communicative as a reaction to increased complexity of planning issues and the actors involved. This is also the case in large-scale infrastructure projects, which is the reason why such projects in the Netherlands have an environment manager who manages the processes that are required to integrate a project into its social and physical environment. Another development in spatial planning academia and practice is the use of planning support systems, which provide technical support to planners and their tasks. These PSS have increasingly been researched, developed and applied in planning academia and practice, resulting into more and more insight in their usefulness for the planning field. Some findings concern the dependence of usefulness on the context in which it is applied, a mismatch between PSS supply and demand, and the need for more research on the use of PSS in different practical settings. The aforementioned developments regarding participation and technical support in planning are becoming more prominent. Since 2020, digitalisation in society has been in a rapid surge because of the corona pandemic, which required society to switch from physical gatherings to online alternatives. Moreover, at the time of this research, the Netherlands awaits the entry of the new Environment & Planning Act, which will make participation an obligated element in projects.
Based on the aforementioned developments in society and spatial planning, this research is aimed at gaining knowledge on how planning support systems can be useful for the environment management tasks in large-scale infrastructure projects in the Netherlands, and what the current state of this usefulness is in this context. This research is carried out by conducting a comparative case study on three different tools that were used by environment managers in large-scale infrastructure projects in the Netherlands. Comparing these cases enabled generalisation of similarities, while contrasting results provided insight in variations based on specific conditions or the type of tool being used.
Environment management in large-scale infrastructure projects in the Netherlands is about the coordination of multiple types of processes and project-actors, which concerns handling different types of information in different ways. Therefore, this research suggests that the usefulness of planning support systems for environment management in large-scale infrastructure projects in the Netherlands is determined by the extent to which these consist of the required functionalities to support the different ways of handling data between and within the different actor groups that are relevant to the tasks of the environment manager.
Besides determining how planning support systems can be useful for environment management in large-scale infrastructure projects in the Netherlands, this research has also gained insight in the current state regarding the usefulness of PSS in this context. The studied tools were specifically useful in reaching a large and diverse group of external stakeholders, and in organising data in an accessible and traceable way throughout the project’s existence. The tools were either oriented to internal or external processes, and were developed for a rather specific purpose in a project.
Finally, this research has determined five more specific main issues that currently affect the usefulness of planning support systems in this research context: limited functionalities in the tools; a lack of flexibility to adjust a tool; insufficient usability for the users within a project organisation; the underuse of functionalities that can provide guidance through the tool; and a lack of experience and trust in tools by project members.||