Why involve Elected Members, Key Stakeholders and the public?
Working with natural processes may present a viable option for coastal erosion and flood risk management in terms of economic and environmental sustainability; SMPs are able to deliver robust evidence on the economic and environmental costs of using different policy options. However, our ability to understand and integrate social costs and benefits of a change in policy options for people and communities 'at risk' from erosion or flooding, remains limited.
As climate change impacts the frequency and unpredictability of coastal erosion and flooding in the UK, the number of people living in 'at risk' areas is set to rise. If social consequences are not identified and quantified the acceptance of management policies and the longer-term capacity of communities to adapt to changing flood and coastal erosion risk will be threatened.
Engaging with Elected Members from the operating authorities, and Key Stakeholders throughout the SMP development process is a central component of integrated coastal erosion and flood risk management and will provide opportunities to:
- more fully understand the issues involved;
- raise awareness of the constraints and framework the operating authorities are working within; and
- understand the process and reasons supporting the selection of the preferred policies which they will ultimately be asked to adopt.
In order for public participation and stakeholder engagement to succeed and be effective, technical and scientific issues, such as coastal evolution and climate change, need to be presented and explained in a non-technical manner; for example visual presentation of aerial photograph analysis highlighting the continuing dynamic nature of the coastal environment, and the rate and scale of change. By making results and messages arising from the best available science and research, clear and easy to understand the stakeholders:
- are better informed
- understand the present situation
- understand the implications of the sometimes difficult decisions that may need to be taken
- feel able to participate in the decision making process
- can begin to adapt their attitudes and behaviour.