Step 7 Choose the Best Option

First, a series of options for the allocation or recommendation of land-use types to land units should be set out. Their evaluation in terms of land suitability and environmental, financial, economic, and social analysis should be stated. For each alternative, all other consequences should be listed, including the advantages and disadvantages of every possible combination of land uses. Advantages and disadvantages are not always very easy to list: some effects might be favorable for one and unfavorable for another. It is not really necessary to work out every alternative in great detail; this is a lot of work and does not really make a difference when comparing them. Enough data should be available to make a fair comparison. The alternatives should be in the same level of detail.

All proposed alternatives should meet the goals and objectives set earlier and the terms of reference. If an alternative does not correspond to those, the proposal cannot be an alternative.

One of the alternatives should be a description of what will happen if nothing is done at this point in time. This alternative, usually called the zero, no-action, or steady-state alternative, can be used as a reference. The steady-state alternative is actually a wrong name. It implies that nothing will happen in the future, but it actually describes what will happen if no planning is done now. Therefore, it is also called the autonomous development alternative. Usually, this zero-alternative is not a realistic option but helps the planning team to make clear what is actually gained by carrying out a land-use plan. It points out the relative difference between carrying out and not carrying out a plan.

Next, the options or alternatives and their effects should be presented in a way that is appropriate for review. Make arrangements for public and executive discussions of the viable options and their effects. These are necessary to safeguard the public involvement in the planning process. The people who should be able to take part in these discussions are from the communities affected and the implementing agencies. These people now have the opportunity to find out in detail what the plan is designed to achieve and how it will affect them. Planners should allow adequate time for reviews and comments, and should obtain views about feasibility and acceptability. Sometimes the discussions have as a result a new alternative, being a combination of two existing ones, or a completely new one. This new alternative also should have a fair chance in the comparison and, therefore, it is necessary to go back to step 5 (and sometimes even further if not all data are available to work out the new alternative into the same level of detail as the other alternatives).

With the comments from the public, any necessary changes to the options have to be made. Now the real decision about the options or alternatives can be made. Sometimes it is completely clear which alternative should be chosen. If this is not the case, an objective method of weighing alternatives, such as multicriteria analysis (MCA), can be used (this method is described in more detail in Section 2.1.5).

Finally, the subsequent steps must be authorized. The source of this authorization depends on the level at which the planning is being done, e.g., local or national. At the local level, it might be an executive decision; at national level, it might require a decision at the highest level of government.

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