UK spatial planning guidance now recognises the importance of engaging stakeholders in appraisal processes at an early stage in the plan-making process. Regional planning authorities are required to consult with a wide range of stakeholders on the development of planning policy and the sustainability appraisal of that policy. However, there is no clear indication as to how they might go about this process, other than to confront the various stakeholders with a sustainability appraisal report. Participation in sustainability appraisal therefore still relies on reaction to a technical appraisal of an existing plan – and in this situation stakeholders might lack the incentive to participate. More thoughtful ways need to be devised to involve people in the sustainability debate so that spatial policy more accurately reflects their knowledge and aspirations. The focus of this paper is to investigate ways in which sustainability appraisal of spatial plans can be made more accessible and transparent within the context of wider governance mechanisms. Of particular interest is the public examination of a regional spatial strategy. A number of questions arise as to how engagement with stakeholders can be achieved and their knowledge elicited in a proactive manner.