Deliberating the environmental risk posed by contaminated land: the importance of local context
Philip Catney, John Henneberry, Nigel Lawson and Sally Shaw

Risk assessment is now firmly enshrined in environmental protection policy. It is often thought of by policy-makers as an apolitical activity, driven by ‘neutral’ technical experts, producing ‘objective’ results based on clear and firm scientific foundations. As a result, risk assessment possesses a privileged voice in the decision-making processes relating to the amelioration of environmental hazards. The paper suggests that this view is simplistic and uncritical. Complex contextual factors such as personal/organizational values and interests contribute to definitions of and responses to risk. From this starting point, we analyse how risk assessment is structured by its politico-social context; how its outcomes may be contested and marginalized in deliberations over the remediation of potentially hazardous sites; and how the lay public may be excluded from the process. These arguments are illustrated and discussed through a detailed case study of deliberations over the threat posed by a highly contaminated site in an urban setting in England. Recommendations are made for improving public trust in and engagement with current policy and practice.

Key words: contaminated land, context, implementation, interests, risk, risk assessment, values

Land Contamination & Reclamation, 16 (2), 113-124

DOI 10.2462/09670513.894

© 2008 EPP Publications Ltd

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Article code 894