Improving participation of the public in coastal flood management : a case study from the Suffolk coast, UK
PublisherUniversity of East Anglia
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This research has been inspired by problems and delays that began with a change in policy proposed by the Environment Agency in 2003. The change was from a strategy of ‘hold the line’ of a sea defence to one of ‘managed realignment’ on a part of the coast of Suffolk, UK (Smith 2003). Many reactions to the proposed change were not favourable, protests and bad press ensued and the problem of acceptance was exacerbated by limited public knowledge, understanding or public participation before the change in policy. One outcome of the initial negative reaction to the policy change has been the response of the Environment Agency in the area of the village of Orford, and indeed all along the Suffolk coast (See Figure A1). The Agency has been seen to make improvements in their efforts to be more inclusive of local people in their plans. Observations of how they have proceeded to engage with local populations along the Suffolk coast have been made in the ten years since 2003, and are reported in this research. The Environment Agency approach in this area, at least initially, has been from the ‘top down’. This research aims to focus on improving engagement from the ‘bottom up’. An integration of these approaches could be where solutions to problems with public participation lie. Solutions to integration have been reported in other research. One example is the work of Webler and Tuler (2006) in the US, which has particularly influenced the direction of this research. The research focuses on the knowledge and involvement that individuals have about coastal flood management in a local area. Levels of knowledge and involvement are then used to aid an investigation into their problems with, and preferences for participation in flood planning. Assessment of the levels of knowledge and involvement of the whole sampled population of Orford was undertaken in a questionnaire administered in 2008. The classification of people with various levels of knowledge and involvement demonstrated that different groups of people and individuals had a variety of perspectives to participation in flood management. Perspectives were identified by using a Q Methodology carried out in 2009. People with different perspectives and levels of knowledge and involvement were engaged in interviews for their views in 2010, and a cross section of villagers attended a workshop in 2011. The workshop provided an opportunity to suggest preferences for different forms of engagement. The main implication of these findings is that a variety of engagements need to be planned to include a greater proportion of a population, and that previous approaches, for example village hall meetings and a ‘one size fits all’ approach, is not an inclusive solution to participation in coastal flood management. The research identifies significant problems or issues that local people felt inhibited involvement and makes recommendations for improving participation in flood management. Figure A1 below shows the location of the case study on the coast of Suffolk in East Anglia, UK.