Memorandum submitted by Jacqui Cuff
Jacqui Cuff, works independently on a range
of topics relating to EU and UK Environmental policy. Full details
of recent work and clients can be found on www.ruralhorizons.org.uk.
Of specific relevance to this enquiry is her experience
of public participation theory and practice in the context of
the requirements of Article 14 of the Water Framework Directive.
In her oral evidence to the Committee she shall specifically refer
to two recent publications which she has been involved in writing:
(Cuff J for RSPB, Environment Agency, English
Nature, WWF, Thames Water et al:, first published December 2001)
2. GUIDANCE ON
Guidance produced under the Common Implementation
Strategy, Working Group 2.9 on Best Practice in River Basin Planning
by a participation sub group of which Jacqui was a drafting member
(final draft dated 24 October 2002 to be presented for approval
to Member State Water Directors on 21-22 November at their Copenhagen
Copies of both these documents have been provided
to the Clerk to the Committee in electronic form. A summary leaflet
of the participation part of the Wise Use Project is available
to the Committee.
Public participation in the context of the Water
Framework Directive is more than consultation on pre-prepared
plans. The Directive encourages "active involvement of interested
Parties" and requires "information supply". Any
person or organisation with an interest in or stake in an issue
because they will be affected or may have some influence should
be regarded as an interested party.
Public participation cannot wait until 2006the
planning and outline phase for river basin management plans. Clear
guidance is emerging from the EU Commission that there is a need
for participation to start sooner. There is scope for public participation
in the context of river basin identification (by end of 2003)
and characterisation and analysis of the environmental impacts
of human activity (by end 2004). Methods for participation need
to be designed, tested and piloted now.
ARTICLE 14 OF
Public participation is an investment for the
long term. It can lead to long term integrated and sustainable
solutions for river basin district and catchment planning. Participatory
methods need not be expensive and are often small relative to
overall catchment management costs. But there needs to be investment
of time and people to manage the participation process. Opinions
can be sampled within river basin districts.
DEFRA needs to demonstrate a clear and early
commitment to public participation and particularly the concept
of active involvement. They need to encourage and resource the
Environment Agency similarly. The recently published new DEFRA
consultation paper is disappointing on public participation and
suggests there may be a minimalist approach in the UK. And the
DERFA sounding board/stakeholder group needs urgently to explore
ways in which Public Participation techniques can be tested in
the UK early in the Directive's implementation. Pilot studies
should be undertaken. DEFRA and EA need to work closely with environmental
NGOs and others who have extensive experience of touchstoning
public opinion and of public participation good practice.
There is no blueprint for public participation.
Processes need to be designed according to context (political,
economic, cultural and environmental). Often stakeholders relate
better to local areas within a river basin district. Experience
(EU Wise Use of Floodplains Project) shows that participation
at a local level can usefully be "scaled up" the river
to catchment and even cross border level as connections are made.
Public participation is a way of finding out
opinions and views and of grounding decision making. It is reflective
of a more modernised approach to decision making that is participatory
and inclusive. It should help ascertain what people want and are
willing to pay for on key issues such as flooding, water quality
and recreational use of rivers. It can avoid problems and misunderstandings
in the long term about the ways rivers are managed. It should
result in both better informed and better value decisions.
31 October 2002