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Improving community engagement in renewable energy developments

Project Description

Many of UK’s renewal energy developments that obtain government sanctioned approval to proceed, but not ’community approval’, are compounding the NIMBY oppositions that often lead to protracted conflicts between communities, industries and governments which in turn results in significant social, political and economic costs to the interests of all concerned. There is a growing emphasis for developers of renewable energy to engage in active consultation and discussion with local communities at an early stage in the planning process, and before any planning application is formally submitted.Early community engagement is now regarded as a vital component to the success of renewable energy developments. However, two challenges present themselves from this discussion. First, many developers, because of obvious resource and time constraints are ill-prepared to engage, let alone manage community concerns and involve often only in tokenistic consultation with the view that this is a tick-in-the-box planning application exercise. Many developers and professionals tend to assume that community concerns get resolved during planning and if they are not, their residual concerns could be dealt with during construction phase. Second, by default, the existing ‘decide-announce-defend’ model of the planning system limits the role of the public where community engagement often comes too late and has limited ability in altering planning decisions.

Despite repeated policy-related calls to make community engagement process an integral part of the planning system, no research in construction management or planning has been undertaken to investigate how this can be done or how this can be best achieved. Therefore, this research is framed within the context of construction developers who must, in line with contemporary expectations manage the community engagement process more effectively in these developments. There is a sense that a more effective way to improve community engagement is through developers providing leadership in the way they procure renewable energy developments. The primary research objective is to explore the underlying institutional and industry environments, and how these could be effectively managed to pave the way for more conducive approaches for genuine community engagement to take place. Regulators would be looking to the industry for support and evidence on how community engagement can be incorporated into the planning system, and the speed in which this can take place. In this instance, the basis for public policy change would be drawn from industry best practice approach. The twin reseach objective would be to explore the extent to which this can materialise.

Funding Notes

Candidates require a first class or 2.1 degree and/or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject. Good command of English and good academic writing skills.

How good is research at University of Reading in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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