Understanding Local Public Responses to a High-voltage Transmission Power Line Proposal in South-West England: Investigating the Role of Life-place Trajectories and Project-related Factors
Bailey, Etienne Benjamin
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
- Journal publication of the contents of my PhD thesis.
With a projected increase in electricity demand and low-carbon energy generation in the UK, expansion of the existing transmission grid network is required. In going beyond the NIMBY concept, Devine-Wright (2009) posited a place-based approach that highlights the roles of place attachment and place-related symbolic meanings for understanding public responses to energy infrastructure proposals. This PhD research investigated two overarching and interrelated research aims. The first sought to enlarge our understandings of the processes of attachment and detachment to the residence place by investigating the dynamics of varieties of people-place relations across the life course (people’s ‘life-place trajectories’), thus addressing the limitation of studies adopting a ‘structural’ approach to the study of people-place relations. This research, in a second instance, sought to better understand the role of people’s life-place trajectories and a range of project-based factors (i.e. procedural and distributive justice) in shaping people’s responses to a power line proposal. This research focussed on the Hinckley Point C (HPC) transmission line proposal and residents of the town of Nailsea, South-West England. A social representations theory framework was usefully applied to this research by acknowledging that people’s personal place relations and their beliefs about proposed place change, are situated and embedded within wider social representations of place and project. A mixed methods approach was employed comprising three empirical studies. The first consisted of twenty-five narrative interviews, the second a set of five focus group interviews, and the third a questionnaire survey study (n=264) amongst a representative sample of Nailsea residents. Triangulating findings across the three studies produced a novel set of key findings. By elaborating five novel ‘life-place trajectories’, this PhD research moved beyond structural approaches to the study of people-place relations and made a novel contribution to our understandings of the processes and dynamics of attachment and detachment to the residence place across the life course. This research further confirmed the existing typology of people-place relations and revealed a novel variety termed ‘Traditional-active attachment’. Life-place trajectories were instrumental in informing divergent representations of the nearby countryside which were more or less congruent with objectified representations of the HPC project. Future studies investigating place and project meanings should be sensitive to these trajectories. Interestingly, place as a ‘centre of meaning’ rather than a ‘locus of attachment’ (or non-attachment) emerged as particularly salient for understanding responses to the project. Project-based factors were salient in informing participants’ responses toward the project. A perceived imbalance between high local costs and an absence of local benefits was seen to result in distributive injustice and opposition toward the project. However, improved perceived procedural justice following National Grid’s announcement of siting concessions in the spring of 2013, was seen to ameliorate local trust in the developer and project acceptance.
- EPSRC - SusGrid research project
PhD in Geography