Citizen participation in decision-making: the role of the independent overseer in (re)building trust
C.P. Nathanail

Many introductory presentations use manufactured gas plants (MGPs) as the exemplar contaminating former land use. Yet there are many examples of successful reuse of former MGPs. The construction of a new secondary school on land formerly used for MGP, landfill and municipal depot under the private finance initiative was almost derailed by poor risk communication and poor citizen involvement in the decision-making process. Understandable parental concern, coupled with awareness-raising NGO activity, catalysed a crisis of confidence in the project which resulted in an independent overseer being appointed. His role was to review the quality of the risk assessment and likely effectiveness of the intended remediation. During remediation, he had access to the works and ongoing monitoring data. The final remediation report was reviewed. At each stage, written and verbal reports were given to local residents. Over twelve months, the atmosphere at public meetings was transformed from one of fear and anxiety to one of quiet confidence and anticipation of the improved facilities that the new school would bring. Earlier public involvement and more proactive communication could have avoided much unnecessary anguish, and reduced project costs.

Key words: CABERNET, gasworks, public participation, remediation, risk communication

Land Contamination & Reclamation, 14 (2), 314-317

DOI 10.2462/09670513.775

© 2007 EPP Publications Ltd

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Article code 775