Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Residents' Perceptions toward Coastal and Dune Management: An Evaluation of the Hightown Dune Restoration Project (HDRP), UK

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Residents' Perceptions toward Coastal and Dune Management: An Evaluation of the Hightown Dune Restoration Project (HDRP), UK

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The study of human perceptions of the environment was developed by anthropologists and provided an important framework for environmental protection and resource management practices (Campos et al., 2012). Local people possess a diverse range of indigenous ecological and environmental knowledge developed through prolonged relations with and through the use of resources in a place of a particular cultural and environmental context (Roth, 2004; Warren et al., 1995). Such knowledge shapes their perceptions and attitudes (Alkan et al., 2009; Campos et al., 2012; Jim and Xu, 2002). Perception refers to the beliefs people develop through their experiences and interaction with a particular program or activity (Htun et al., 2012) and is manipulated by cultural, contextual, experiential and individual factors that bring about interpretation (Bell, 2001).

Local people's perceptions are associated with the costs and benefits, their knowledge and dependence on the resources of a designated area (Xu et al., 2006). Local residents are the immediate beneficiaries of a neighboring coast and simultaneously they are the direct victims of any coastal risks or calamities. Therefore, their perceptions, observations and experiences of coastal and dune management, and their concerns about safety, satisfaction and sustainability are vital for the evaluation and improvement of local coastal defense projects. Community involvement and participation therefore, should be a fundamental requirement.

Community involvement in coastal and dune management projects opens up opportunities for collaboration that lead to well-organized policy, increased government responsibility, enhanced sustainability of the initiatives, lower community tensions, and reduce conflicts arising from competing agendas, socio-cultural differences and economical concerns (Ernoul, 2010; French, 2004). The philosophy of public participation is now so deeply entrenched that obtaining EU funding is practically impossible for environmental management proposals that exclude a strongly developed public participation component (McKenna and Cooper, 2006). Stakeholder participation is now an imperative to the extent that coastal management literature no longer stresses if, but rather how this should be realized (King, 2003).

In the following sections I first provide an overview of the relevant literature on participatory approaches of coastal and dune management, as well as the current state of coastal zone management research in the UK. We then detail our research strategy and methodology, followed by a report of key findings and discussion of their implications. The final section concludes the paper.

2. Participatory Approaches & Current State of Coastal and Dune Management

Successful coastal zone management requires participatory planning, a modern trend of public empowerment that prevents top-down, centralized prescriptive management and promotes bottom-up, decentralized participatory approaches (European Parliament and Council, 2002; McKenna and Cooper, 2006). However, given that different stakeholders each have their own vested interests as they compete and contend for resources, achieving high levels of cross-sectoral co-operation is likely to be a difficult task (European Commission, 2010).

Although research (Stojanovic and Ballinger, 2009) identifies public participation as a problem in the misinformation of coastal management and points to poor understanding of dune ecology and management in spite of high levels of awareness, the role of the general public cannot be understated. Rather, such research points to an increased need for training, leadership and enhanced communication among government authority, voluntary sector and the public. Although not necessarily scientifically trained, local residents can be well informed about the local area, and possess relevant information about the processes, nature and general behavior of coastline. …

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