Developing local community participation within shoreline management in England: the role of Coastal Action Groups
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Empirical evidence from the broader literature suggests that public participation is vital to improving coastal management. This study focuses on the wider context of factors influencing local community participation and more specifically upon the nature and influence of Coastal Action Groups (CAGs) involvement in the shoreline management decision-making processes. CAGs represent a reaction by local communities to local shoreline management policies that they fail to understand or perceive as detrimental especially decisions involving withdrawal or relaxation of defences. Precisely, some strategic coastal defence policies arising from shoreline management initiatives from the late 1990s onward have generated the conditions promoting formation of CAGs. Using a multiple-case study approach, this research examined 12 prominent community based CAGs in England. The research further investigated the modes of CAGs establishment and operations via an extensive postal questionnaire survey and semi-structured interview process. The results provided a comprehensive and critical evaluation of the key opportunities, gaps, barriers and factors affecting local community participation in the shoreline management process in England. It also evaluated the roles of CAGs in these processes. The study revealed that the participation of local community in decision-making processes is still at a ‘rudimentary’ stage. This was found to be due to a number of issues, including insufficient information on shoreline management planning processes and lack of awareness of the management authorities’ decisions. Through analysis of empirical findings, a series of recommendations were made on how to further: 1) promote fairness and transparency in decision-making processes; and 2) improve access to information. The research concludes that, in order to reduce conflict and future rejection of management options, the process of local community participation should not be viewed simply as a ‘tick box’ exercise, but as a process from which mutual understanding can be fostered and compromises is established. This research provides a unique contribution to the on going debate regarding public participation in coastal zone management.