UCL Faculty of Laws


Evidence, publics and decision-making for major wind infrastructure

19 August 2015

How can the public make their voice heard in the development of major infrastructure projects like wind farms?

Wind Farm

A new UCL project will explore public participation in decision-making on major wind energy infrastructure projects. Bringing together academics from planning, legal, and science and technology studies, including UCL Laws’ Professor Maria Lee, the project has recently been awarded funding by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Typically, research into the public’s engagement with wind energy projects tried to look at and understand the potential opposition to such schemes.

Instead, this project examines the ways in which institutional arrangements shape local communities’ ability to engage with, and their treatment by, decision-making processes within the planning system.

A pilot research project at UCL suggested that central government policy, which at the time was strongly in favour of major wind farm development, held back engagement with public concerns and aspirations.

It also observed a preference for ‘evidence’ and ‘knowledge’ to be constructed from highly technical ‘expert’, rather than lay, contributions.

This study raises interesting questions about how decision-making on major wind projects might take the concerns of diverse local publics into account in practice.

This new project draws on a conceptual framework that recognises the centrality of language in framing discussions, constructing knowledge and justifying decisions.