The role of place attachment in community renewable energy: an interdisciplinary study

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Geography


This proposal is for a collaborative interdisciplinary study drawing from human geography and
planning policy. It addresses a two-fold gap in knowledge; little is known about how place
attachment informs responses to community energy projects and no published studies to
date have asked how a better understanding of this might inform planning policy and
Renewable energy has widespread support (ComRes, 2016), but there is often strong
opposition to specific proposals, which can lead to schemes being delayed or rejected (Jones
and Eiser, 2010). Place attachment, a concept used in human geography and environmental
psychology to study the emotional bonds between people and places, has been shown to
influence how people respond to large-scale renewable energy developments such as wind
farms (Devine-Wright, 2011a), other large-scale energy infrastructure such as high voltage
power lines (Devine-Wright, 2013; Bailey et al, 2016), and smaller scale community energy
projects (van Veelen and Haggett, 2016). It has also been suggested that place attachment
might be applied in planning policy to inform community engagement and help manage
conflicts (Devine-Wright 2009).
It is sometimes assumed that community ownership reduces opposition to renewable energy
projects (Bell et al, 2005), but van Veelen & Haggett (op. cit.) warn against this presumption.
Their analysis of two schemes in the Highlands of Scotland is the only published study to date
looking specifically at place attachment in community energy; place attachment was found to
influence widely varying responses. My proposal is novel in extending the evidence base to
England and including an analysis of potential policy application.
My study will be based on case studies in Cornwall, where plentiful renewable resources are
central to policy for their contribution to the economy (Cornwall Council, 2013). Cornwall
Council seeks greater community ownership of generating capacity and has innovated in
including this in supplementary planning guidance (Cornwall Council, 2016). Delivery has been
slow however, due in part to local opposition (Simpson, 2017, Niven, 2014); my study
addresses this by developing understanding of the reasons for opposition and looking for
ways to address it through the development process.


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