Making Sand Dunes Public: involving communities with living sea defences

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts and Social Sci (FASS)


Making Sand Dunes Public (MSDP) is an experimental project exploring ways to build trust and support for coastal management by engaging and enrolling local publics centrally in practical decisions concerning the management and planning of sand dunes as a natural form of coastal defence. It starts from the premise that current complex environmental problems, such as those related to climate change, require new, more creative approaches to environmental decision making. These will necessitate more inclusionary process, incorporating many currently neglected and unheard voices, constituencies and forms of evidence within processes that build understanding, exchange and trust in times of environmental uncertainty.

The project is developed through a partnership with the Norfolk County Council (NCC) ENDURE (Ensuring Dune Resilience against Climate Change) project team which emerged in the later stages of the AHRC funded project Listening to Climate Change: experiments in sonic democracy (public facing title Sounding Coastal Change (SCC) (AH/P000126/1 01/09/2016 - 30/06/2019). ENDURE is a 2.1m Euro European funded project with partners in the UK (Norfolk), Belgium, France and the Netherlands. It aims to 'look at establishing sand dunes as adaptive, living sea defences'. Many traditional concrete sea defences are old and failing and can be expensive or challenging to maintain. Natural ecosystems can provide better, more resilient protection. However, building trust and collaboration with localities at an individual community level to develop and encourage natural sand dune systems remains both problematic. In North Norfolk this is reflected at two dune sites in particular: Holme-next-the-Sea and Brancaster. MSDP will partner with ENDURE to develop a workshop programme and facilitate a series of local public and community engagements which involve users and local publics in co-producing future management strategies for these key coastal dunes sites

The project builds on key aspects of methodology developed in public engagement work involving SCC and the Norfolk Coast Partnership (NCP) who produce the 5-year statutory management plan for the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). NCP will co-partner MSDP and NCC as part of their remit in increase public engagement in the AONB planning process. Building trust through local involvement, in environmental policy and management has been highlighted as a key national issue in the current period of climate change and uncertainty. MSDP contributes to developing the mutual understandings, shared knowledge bases and co-created solutions that are fundamental to building resilience and ongoing and flexible adaptation strategies for coastal locations. These become increasingly vital in the face of sea level rises, increased flooding, inundation and more volatile coastlines resultant from climate change.

Aims and Objectives
* Develop and facilitate a series of workshops and events at the two north Norfolk sand dune sites in order to improve the cooperation between site managers, the local community, visitors and local businesses;
* Involve neglected and unheard voices, constituencies and multiple forms of evidence within processes that build understanding, exchange and trust in the management of the sand dunes;
* Engage schools, volunteers, local groups and publics in devising, implementing and taking responsibility for dune management plans;
* Explore, trial and develop a new facilitated collaborative working methodology for environmental engagement involving local schools, volunteers, groups, publics, environmental and conservation groups with environmental and planning professionals;


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