Final Report on Case Studies
Final Report on Sustainable Resilient Coast Case Studies
Developed by Nikki Maguire, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust. Summer 2022.
The Sustainable Resilient Coasts project seen partners from different areas, backgrounds, knowledge bases and perspectives come together to work in partnership to explore and better understand how the challenges faced by both communities and decision-makers, in northern peripheral areas, could be recognised discussed and solutions found, within the framework of sustainable coastal development.
The project faced challenges from the beginning. The most significant external factor was the COVID-19 pandemic. This had started as the project was granted, 01.03.2020, and meant partners had to work together online only, each distracted by the pandemic and local issues and were unable to meet until Summer 2022. This significantly impacted community engagement aspects of the project. Tasks such a launch events, community get-togethers and workshops had to be paused or reimagined online. Other challenges were intrinsic to a project of this nature; partners presenting their own understanding of the topics, each case study area being rather different, different local authority and government set-ups in each jurisdiction and staff changes as the project progressed. Add to this, the relatively new concepts of Future Earth Coasts, Bioregionning and Blue Growth and the partnership had a major hill to climb in March 2020. Through regular meetings, frank discussions and open communication the partnership grew to understand each other’s knowledge base and local challenges and adapted as needed to the pandemic. As each of the four case studies took shape partners chipped in with ideas, collaborated on drafts and joined together to complete tasks such as drone filming on Rathlin Island.
By 2022 the reports and case studies were building into bespoke examples of how peripheral communities can be better supported by local authorities (Westfjords planning issues), how various engagement techniques are needed (Hailuoto capacity building methods), as well as how technology can support greater understanding of local resources (Mayo Clew Bay study), and how to document resources today for future generations (Rathlin Island).
The challenges faced and differences in the four areas have been highlighted above but what connects the case studies is a common thread; a need to truly speak to and listen to local communities about decisions which go on to shape lives and livelihoods, for years to come. This statement is mostly aimed at local authorities but interestingly, through the process the partnership found that we too needed to pause, reflect on our engagement actions and check if we were taking the best actions for the community or if we too focused on fulfilling our work commitments. Finnish partners from OAMK led this conversation across the partnership and drove development of capacity building materials, available in the Toolkit website.
Comment on each Case Study
A once traditional rural fishery-based area turning more towards tourism and aquaculture for economic gain means the need for marine and coastal planning has been recognised by the authorities. A researcher at the Agricultural University of Iceland quickly identified the conflict between the authorities’ approach on community consultation in the marine planning process and how the community found it. Local knowledge, heritage and public participation were being
overlooked for desk-exercises and a roll-out of planning policy. A top-down approach such as this isolates people from the process and works to obscure the purpose, while key environmental information can be lost as local people tend to hold more information than can be found in reports. The marine plan for Westfjords partly aims to provide strategic direction for economic growth however the capacity and wishes of residents are not being sounded out. Cumulatively, it is felt that this top-down approach is removing the residents from the decision-making process for their area, a process led by local authorise, partly voted for by residents. If such disenfranchisement continues residents may grow to resent rules and projects, evading them or acting against them. Capacity within the planning sectors of local authorities needs to be fully resourced to deliver community engagement efforts.
Hailuoto is the largest island in Bothnian Bay with about one thousand inhabitants. It is connected via ferry to the mainland, or by ice road in Winter. Approximately half the working-age population commute to work on the mainland with the local authority being an important employer on and off island. The natural environment of the island is fragile and important. As tourism continues to increase, climate is changing, and lifestyles alter there are concerns about what that means for Hailuoto and its residents. Researchers from OAMK University connected with the Hailuoto municipality to explore and better understand what residents value, the issues faced and what they want to see in the future of their island i.e. a causeway to replace the ferry service. A series of engagement activities were completed; workshops, stakeholder mapping, youth meetings, stands at a festival and a survey. Not only did these engage the community but they built capacity around the questions of sustainable development and shared relevant language and ideas. Findings from the Case Study indicated that residents supported the municipalities approach, valuing it as sustainable thinking. The ability to live rurally while connecting to the mainland for work provided the best of both worlds. While a general sense of community resilience was attributed to facing future challenges responsibly with very few knee-jerk reactions which would later be retracted. While the Case Study returned mostly positive results and connected with 15% of the population directly, wider conversation and purposeful effort to involve more residents is needed. Responsible Communication across society, economic sectors and keeping in mind the sensitive environment is a key action to take forward in the area.
Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.
Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island, lying 6 miles off its north coast. It is home to some 160 permanent residents and is thought to have been inhabited for over 1,500 years. People working and living on the island have shaped it, evidenced by buildings, land workings and signs of industry along the coastline and inland. This intrinsic fabric of natural and built heritage is being lost to time, the elements and neglect. The Case Study focused on identifying key sites for documentation, which could then be captured via drone filming by University College Cork. Therefore, documenting them for posterity and allowing monitoring as years the progress. CCGHT connected with the community, virtually to start, progressing to building drone flying capacity in 2021 and welcoming UCC to film two locations in early 2022. The process demonstrated how once forgotten or inaccessible heritage can and should be documented. While it was found the topic didn’t initially connect with residents a secondary approach through a digital map spurred conversation about what heritage should be valued, shared and go on to be documented in a similar style. A key outcome of the Case Study, beyond the site scanning, was the community reconnecting with heritage sites, re-discovering their value, meaning and importance. In summary, while technology can support a community to preserve special places, it is not a replacement for the
intangible knowledge held by local people, the care and sense of ownership over their own heritage stories. This learning is transferrable across the NPA region.
Clew Bay, Ireland
Clew Bay, in County Mayo, Ireland, is formed of over 100 islands. Aquaculture such as oyster and salmon farming as well as seaweed harvesting is present in the Bay. This Case Study follows on from Rathlin Island as it explored how drones can be used understand the seaweed resource in Clew Bay, Ireland, to support local authorities in practical decision making as the market for the product grows globally. Four sites within the Bay were surveyed and various post-processing applied. Results indicate that drone surveying, when following guidelines, can be an effective and efficient way to map seaweed coverage, to as low as millimetre coverage. This success indicated that technology such a drone surveying can aid local authorities in understanding coastal resources and go on to influence decision making. The environmental benefits of understanding and monitoring natural resources in a time of climate change is vital to peripheral communities while the opportunities to better value the resources both economically and socially are clear. The Case Study itself acts as a guide for others to implement this methodology, therefore is transferable across the NPA area.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Each Case Study identified a different aspect of peripheral coastal living; from a disconnect in Westfjords, through community cohesion in Hailuoto, onto rediscovering and valuing heritage assets on Rathlin Island to realising the natural bounty on the shoreline of Clew Bay. Together these case studies present some joint conclusions and indicate recommendations for the Sustainable Resilient Coasts partnership and the NPA Region. These are set out below, they are not ordered in priority.
- Governments/Local Authorities need to resource teams properly to allow for community engagement in processes. This will reduce top-down, disconnected planning and strategies.
- Government/Local Authorities need to recognise the wealth of knowledge in local people.
- Communities need to be supported through capacity building especially around technical terms.
- Projects, initiatives and planners need to coordinate community engagement to stop consultation fatigue. Lack of engagement can be expensive in time and money to re-run activities so better planning might save money and bring better results.
- Government /Local Authorities need to remove the us VS them approach to some tasks, government are public servants and should not be oblique about goings on.
- Projects/partnerships need to step back and check they are engaging with communities for the right reasons and in the right way, not ticking a box or following old methods just because.
- Projects/Partnerships should not start/stop engagement with a community or trust will be lost.
- All should be reactive to the requests of the community regarding training, capacity building and connections beyond the immediate community.
- Technology can support understanding but should not be viewed as replacing the human element. Government/Local Authorities can use drone technology to save money on surveying and direct the resource toward community.
- Project/partnerships are good sounding grounds for ideas however tackling too many new theories within a project can distract from the task at hand. More room should be built into projects for learning and understanding the theme.
- The Sustainable Resilient Coasts partnership should explore opportunities through Horizon 2020, NPA, LIFE or other funding streams to further develop the work and thinking created in this project.
- The Sustainable Resilient Coasts Partnership should leverage opportunities to share and disseminate learnings from this project across the NPA a region and further afield.