Imagining the measure of change: art, science and the estuary community

Lead Research Organisation: Middlesex University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts & Creative Industries

Abstract

The intention of this network proposal is for an artist, Simon Read and coastal scientist, Helene Burningham to collaborate with a community partnership, the Deben Estuary Partnership (DEP) on the consultation exercise leading to an estuary management plan. The context for this is the need to reach beyond opinion to a resolution that fuses interpretation of available data, stakeholder need and the passionate connection that a community has to its landscape.

Historically, where an estuary strategy is government agency led, the parameters are already constrained by established determinants such as Flood Risk Management and the obligation to conserve intertidal habitat. Where in the past it has been found at public consultation stage that this can lead to discord, the DEP has sought to harmonise the process by adopting a more integrated approach to link stakeholder interest to a more informed understanding of estuary systems and how they are likely to change in the future

In 2015, the DEP published an estuary plan that was both endorsed by the Environment Agency and adopted by the local planning authority. Now however, due to a change in local government there is a need to review and revise this document to align with a new Local Plan. It is coincidental that many of the actions proposed in the existing management plan have come to pass, including extensive improvement to the capability of the flood defences and an enhanced appreciation of the value of saltmarsh.

In the interim so much has changed: climate change continues to drive sea level rise, putting pressure upon intertidal habitat, sustainability of flood defences and causing saline intrusion into the groundwater. Pressure for housing will cause an increase in visitor numbers and footfall, increasing levels of disturbance around the estuary, as will the agreement over the route for the Coastal Path. Disturbance has also been caused in the estuary landscape by the installation of infrastructure for the Anglia 1 offshore wind turbine array. Given these pressures and the Deben may become the victim of its own popularity both afloat and ashore, it is not an option to just update the existing management plan. This has led the DEP to decide to focus upon the nature of change, what evidence there may be in the estuary, what a future scenario may look like and what strategies should be put in place to adapt and to manage it.

Since many changes in landscape are so incremental that communities may not be aware of their significance, it will be a challenge to develop a format for a discussion about how to build a management plan around the certainties and uncertainties to be faced in future. Since the conditions that both affect and respond to change are profoundly cultural as much as factual, it makes sense that an arts and science team might collaborate with the DEP to devise a programme of workshops for community members to accumulate and negotiate evidence for the estuary plan.

The proposal is to generate six workshop events through 2000-2001 to explore themes relating to understanding change in the context of the Deben Estuary and to make this a material discourse requiring participants to contribute to the accumulation of evidence during the project. The final workshop will be a feedback session to reflect on what has been learned, followed at the end of 2021 by an exhibition of the material produced at a suitable location in the estuary to which all participants, institutional and community stakeholders will be invited and will subsequently be open to the wider public.

Our aspiration is that working in partnership with the DEP, a reflexive and reflective arts/science activity will enhance a sense of understanding of estuary systems, foster a more informed level of debate and have the potential to contribute materially to the Deben Estuary Plan.

Planned Impact

Our project is planned to deliver impact at multiple levels. Focusing on a specific set of environmental governance challenges in a coastal landscape where change is evident at multiple spatial and temporal scales, we are certain that the project will have a direct impact on those involved in the decision-making process locally. But more generally, similar issues challenge other coastal communities not only in the UK, but around the world, and we are therefore confidence that the impact of our work will have both reach and significance. Impact through this project will be achieved through:

i) Stakeholder engagement: our project focuses on the development of a network of people and action to explore different collaborative approaches across art and science that consider and embrace the concept of change within estuarine landscapes; the knowledge exchange activities of this has the potential to have impact both locally and regionally

ii) Participation in regional and national coastal management conferences: we will disseminate the progress and activities of our project to regional and national audiences who work in and/or research the environmental governance sector, and by doing so we hope to have impact on the approaches used elsewhere to support decision-making.

iii) Wider dissemination: we plan to share our experiences and ideas to public and private sectors, stakeholders and researchers through regular web, social media and newsletters updates. We also plan to submit research papers reflecting on the process to disseminate to the wider academic community.

iv) Estuary plan: the materials generated in our project, including synthesis of existing data and information, will exist as a legacy resource for the Deben Estuary Partnership to use within the new estuary plan. Perhaps more importantly, the discussions we facilitate and reflective environment that we offer, will feed into the decisions made and the plan developed.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The value of a non specialist community as a partner contributing to decision making in landscape policy. A clear methodology to enable knowledge sharing with community members by holding events in the landscape for limited numbers of specialist and non specialist participants, including specific stakeholders including landowners, leisure interests community campaign groupsand institutional representation, including Environment Agency and local government
Exploitation Route The aim of this project is to enable the participation of a broader stakeholder community to be able to understand participate in and be represented by the decision making process for the Deben Estuary in Suffolk. Since this study identifies transferable interdisciplinary methodologies for ensuring that a broader public interest is represented, it is expected that lessons learned may be applied to enhance public engagement in other contexts nationally and internationally.
Due to the limitations imposed by Covid, we have developed strategies for engaging community members to enhance their understanding of estuary systems and the management policies that relate to them, we have emphasised the importance of informal exchange by holding events in specific locations to explore particular challenges for the future. As a part of this project we will be holding an exhibition of findings from our participants, and will accompany this with a publication.
A key component of our project has been the setting up of an online group who have undertaken to reflect upon landscape change over the course of a calendar year and record it in whatever means is considered appropriate. The outcome of this work will form the core of a public exhibition in April 2022 . As a means of engagement, this has been very successful and we believe is transferable as a strategy.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL https://debensoundings.wordpress.com
 
Description To facilitate public participation in the negotiation of a management plan for the Deben Estuary in Suffolk. Foster a broader understanding of the interaction between layers of understanding of landscape systems from the direct enjoyment of the benefits of the experience of being in landscape to the management decisions that make it work and the data that informs those decisions Through the conduct of the outreach for the project, our aim has been to raise awareness of the symbiotic relationships between natural systems in the landscape and the reciprocal influence of particular stakeholder interests, leading to the understanding that any management plan for the estuary landscape must take an integrated view of al human and non-human interests.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Big Skies and Intimate Landscapes January 4th 2022. A group meeting in the estuary landscape at Ramsholt to consider the range of policy decisions related to flood defences on the Deben Estuary 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was the second of our Deben Soundings events in the estuary landscape and was a walk between Ramsholt on the Deben and Shottisham Creek to discuss the prognosis for threatened flood cells and their defence and to learn first-hand about the policy for flood defence works from the Environment Agency and the landowners. This was an event for 20+ participants and incorporated a debriefing session in the Ramsholt Arms afterwards over lunch.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://debensoundings.wordpress.com/2022/01/
 
Description Deben Soundings exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An exhibition to launch the research project 'Imagining the Measure of Change: art' science and the estuary community. Exhibition title: Deben Soundings Sepember 17th-24th 2020. This was an alternative strategy to a public meeting due to limitations of Covid pandemic. It was attended by 250 visitors and led to a community of interest from a very broad sector of the community with further interest expressed in the project by 100 people leading to current participation of 20 individuals in ongoing contribution to its output.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://debensoundings.wordpress.com
 
Description Interests in Conflict and Harmony: Waldringfield 10th February 2022. field event for public stakeolder group. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This third field event of the Deben Soundings series, held at Waldringfield on 10th February, started from an intention to explore the concentration of several business, community and environmental interests all in very close proximity to each other and to scratch the surface of what appears to be a relatively harmonised collection of interests to see where the pressure points are and how they are managed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://debensoundings.wordpress.com
 
Description Residential Workshop for the Landscape Decisions Aalert Programme at Kestle Barton Arts Centre Helston Cormnwall 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an opportunity for the Aalert programme to explore the question of interdisciplinary collaboration and the place of the arts within environmental research. This is a partner activity with strong synergies with the Deben Soundings project, for which Simon Read is a member of the advisory board.. This event also includede a daylong writing workshop. 21st-24th November 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://landscapedecisions.org/aalert-4dm/
 
Description The Tail that Wags the Dog, a community event to explore the relationship between coastal sedimentary processes at the entrance to the Deben Estuary, and the policy for managing the sea defences. November 1st 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This activity was the first of a series to be conducted through the current year to foster debate upon areas of the Deben Estuary Landscape that will be subject to intense study within the development of the Deben Estuary Management Plan, currently under development. The aim of this particular event was to explore with a lay and specialist group the influence the geological feature, The Knolls, has upon the stability of the rest of the Deben Estuary System and our intention was to demystify the decision making process. This event was reported upon and is accessible through the website: https://debensoundings.wordpress.com
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://debensoundings.wordpress.com/2021/11/01/the-tail-that-wags-the-dog%ef%bf%bc/