The general aim of public participation within ICZM is to enable project or programme success. An essential precondition for the success of any ICZM programme or project is the public appropriation and support. This activity should be carefully planned and organised.
When a decision needs to be taken for a plan such as building a harbour, a factory or developing tourism all options should be discussed openly within administration and in public to weigh their benefits against each other and to discover synergies.
General aims for involving the public include:
- the identification of key issues of concern to the public,
addressing public perceptions,
- the provision of local expertise and knowledge,
- the identification of possible alternatives/options,
- ensuring that affected groups are involved at the very beginning of project design,
- the critical review of documentation.
The separation of these objectives is somewhat artificial as the achievement of one will often depend upon the achievement of another.
The willingness of developers to engage with the public and vice versa is often limited by concerns over costs and the need for confidentiality. Involving the public is also seen as time consuming.
Public participation is, however, necessary for increasing the legitimacy of planning decisions and enhancing the political credibility of developers. General experiences of public participation in EIA have shown that where developers do actively engage the public, even for large scale and controversial developments, there can be substantial benefits (see example of the wastewater sea outfall, Antalya, Turkey at this page).
Case Study: Towards a more balanced management of a harbour through a Local Authority Academic Couplet, Cork (Ireland)
Cork Harbour is a large natural harbour on the southern coast of Ireland. It is of considerable importance to the socio-economic well being of County Cork and the surrounding region. It is the second largest port in Ireland, is a hub for global pharmaceutical and food-processing industries and has also a long tradition of recreation use, including sailing, fishing and power boating. All of these activities are of vital importance to the society and economy of Cork and surrounding region but also for the national economy. The Harbour is designated as both a Special Protection Area for birds and a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance. The areas of salt marsh habitats and inter-tidal mudflats are also designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
There was a recognised need for balancing the development and conservation needs of different
stakeholders in this multiple use harbour due to the potential for tension and conflicts of interests
between users. The most important issues arising were the impact of industries and land use activities
(in Brownfield sites, water quality, atmospheric pollution); catchments land use (urbanisation and
infrastructure development, land use changes); Maritime Spatial Planning (port development, aquaculture & fisheries, maritime transport); Maritime heritage, recreation and tourism (carrying capacity); and coastal flooding and erosion (impacts of climate change). The implementation of the strategic alliance approach was at a local scale with comprehensive regulatory body involvement.
A strategic alliance between the local authority and academic experts was established with direct
interaction on a regular basis. Discussions included, planning, technical measures and research tools. New knowledge of physical, social and economical attributes of Cork Harbour was generated through various studies that were mutually agreed. These involved a multi-disciplinary approach, with collaborative input of geographers, engineers, environmental scientists, geo-morphologists, legal experts and GIS IT specialists. Recommendations were made and discussed with planners who added value to the research process by contributing their local knowledge, professional experience and appreciation of political realities to the equation. The ultimate outcome was the publication of an Integrated Management Strategy for Cork Harbour in 2008. There was stakeholder consensus by means of a multi-stakeholder Forum underpinned by the couplet relationship.
Source: OURCOAST, Integrated Coastal Zone Management, Participation Practices in Europe (European Union, 2010)