Choice and constraint in flood hazard mitigation : the environmental attitudes of floodplain residents and engineers
Fordham, Maureen Helen
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This research examines the importance of environmental factors in the choice, promotion and implementation of flood defence schemes in England and Wales. It focuses on the attitudes of National Rivers Authority (NRA) engineers and floodplain residents to low-frequency flood events and investigates the role of NRA engineers in influencing, the choices of floodplain residents. The theoretical focus includes an examination of the appropriateness of the dominant (North American) hazards research paradigm as an explanatory model in the British context and the development of a conceptual model applicable to this socio-political and cultural milieu. The research extends existing, primarily quantitative, research designs to include more qualitative approaches which provide descriptive richness and context beyond that afforded by quantitative data alone. The quantitative and qualitative studies of floodplain residents show environmental factors to be an important influence on their attitudes to proposals for flood hazard mitigation and to existing flood defence schemes. This is conceptualised as a 'risk-environment trade-off. The case studies of floodplain residents further identify an unmet information need concerning both flood risk and flood defence. The qualitative study of NRA engineers highlights the differences in perception and attitude between engineers and residents to flood risk, flood defence, public consultation and environmental factors. It underlines the complexity of the interactions which occur between individual, institutional and societal levels. The research concludes that the dominant paradigm model is inappropriately focused at the individual level and does not take sufficient account of institutional and structural influences. Furthermore, the concentration on choice rather than constraint ignores the social conflict and self-interest of actors in the decision-making environment. The research suggests that a systems approach is inadequate for dealing with the complexities of flood hazard mitigation.