Evaluation of coastal risk decision making in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
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Coastal hazards and their associated risks are not new to coastal managers, engineers and planners. As an island nation the coast of the United Kingdom (UK) has been an attractive area for settlement for centuries. Consequently, a substantial proportion of urban development in the UK is at risk of flooding or coastal erosion. Traditional responses to coastal hazards across Europe have been based upon reactive, parochial hard engineering structural solutions in order to protect assets at risk. These practices have been predominantly sectoral due to fragmented institutional arrangements, with limited integration between the sectors of shoreline management and the land-use planning system. Additionally, historic coastal risk decision making has shown little understanding of the complexities of coastal systems. Whilst within contemporary coastal risk decision making, there is limited transparency as to the role of natural coastal change. Levels of uncertainty exacerbate the complex task of managing coastal risk, in particular in relation to the natural coastal change evidence base. Using a multiple-case study approach, decision making practices in relation to coastal risk in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were evaluated. Concomitantly, the role of the natural coastal change evidence base within these decision making processes was scrutinised. Research investigations were facilitated via the development of two distinct and innovative methodological approaches that framed and guided two semi-structured interview schedules and a number of documentary reviews. This deductive process included a case study selection hypothesis and a Research Strategy Model (with Empirical Indicators). Case study results established the complexities associated with coastal risk decision making, including historic, contemporary and likely future decision making practices. In particular, the range of decision makers involved and the hierarchical and framed nature of decision making were identified. Importantly, traceable coastal risk decision making relationships that exist temporally, spatially and sectorally were ascertained. Forcing factors or 'context issues' that influence these decision making practices were highlighted. It was further determined that the role of natural coastal change science, as part of the coastal risk decision making evidence is constrained. This was found to be due to a number of issues, including the perpetuation of the science-practice disconnect, aggravated by natural coastal change scientific uncertainty. Through analysis of empirical findings and consideration of the underlying case study hypothesis and previous construction of decision making, a conceptualisation of coastal risk decision making was developed. This seeks to convey hypothetical stages of coastal risk decision making pathways and convey the wider complex decision context, including intricate pathway connections. A revised suite of supporting Empirical Indicators allows for a structured and comprehensive assessment of decision making, and importantly, a mechanism by which to explore the role of science within coastal risk decision making.