Increasing resilience to storm-surge flooding : risks, trust and social networks
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The overall aim of this research was to investigate relationships between risk perception and community resilience to low-probability sea-flood hazards. Importantly, the policy context within which the project was conducted was one of transition. A historical flooddefence paradigm was being replaced by one of flood-risk management; this shift being predicated upon inclusivity and a wish to empower individuals to acknowledge and mitigate their own flood risks. However, existing indices had identified disproportionate levels of social flood vulnerability within communities exposed to extreme sea-flood hazards. Therefore, it was important to investigate how such populations were engaging (or not) with this policy shift. Three case-study sites, Mablethorpe, Cleveleys and Morecambe (UK), were chosen for more detailed research in a mixed-method investigation. Initially, a survey was used to quantify the populations' risk perceptions and flood resilience, by examining levels of hazard awareness and preparedness. Having quantified these phenomena in breadth, focus-groups were used to add interpretative depth to the investigation. Using social capital theory, it was possible to identify elements of the concept within these populations. However, it was found that the informal social networks that are constructed with this capital have little influence in building community resilience to flood hazards. Rather, they operate to maintain existing perceptions of risk and responsibility, with resilience appearing to be more directly related to personal hazard experience. III Introducing climate change as a risk factor revealed important differences in the way future flood hazards are perceived. That sea flooding is regarded as 'natural' and surface-water flooding as being due to human mismanagement, introduces an important twin perspective on risk and how it should be discussed. The role of trust in authority was also identified as fundamental within the social construction of flood risk, with the legacy of floodplain development revealed as a principal factor in explaining the low levels of risk engagement. Recommendations are made in relation to how risk management and communication practice might be improved in light of these findings. It is also recommended that effort should be focused upon making planning policy and decision-making processes more transparent, in order to draw coastal communities into open dialogue. To be effective in promoting resilience, such dialogue must both acknowledge hazard exposure and honestly address the challenges and trade-offs that this exposure adds to already complex considerations surrounding community sustainability.