A novel method for feasibility testing urban sustainable development policies

  • Travis O’Doherty University of Limerick, Department of Chemical and Environmental Science, Centre for Environmental Research, Limerick, Ireland
  • Brian G Fitzgerald Limerick City Council, City Hall, Merchants Quay, Limerick, Ireland
  • Richard Moles University of Limerick, Department of Chemical and Environmental Science, Centre for Environmental Research, Limerick, Ireland
  • Bernadette O’Regan University of Limerick, Department of Chemical and Environmental Science, Centre for Environmental Research, Limerick, Ireland
Keywords: feasibility testing; sustainable development; evidence based policy making; integrated assessment modelling


Policy making to promote more sustainable development is a complex task due in part to the large number of both stakeholders and potential policies. Policy feasibility testing provides a guide to the viability and practicality of policy implementation and forms an important part of an evidence based policy making process. An extensive literature review has identified no standardized approach to feasibility testing. This paper addresses this knowledge gap by describing a novel method using Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) for feasibility testing of policies aimed at increasing the sustainability of towns and villages in Ireland. Feasibility results are provided for 40 frequently cited policy interventions tested for 18 settlements in Ireland. Policies were selected in the arenas of transport, food, housing and urban form, energy, waste and water. Policies are feasibility tested through analysis of operational evidence from both quantitative and qualitative data sources. Following testing, policies are ranked in terms of feasibility. This research examines the effectiveness of local and national level policies and the importance of both local community involvement and central government regulation in policy success. The inter-settlement variation in feasibility testing scores prioritises policy selection and aims to reduce cherry-picking of policies to support the viewpoints of the decision maker. Although developed for an Irish urban context the methods described here may have applicability elsewhere.


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