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An emergent methodology for public engagement in the rural landscapes of HS2

Phillips, Joanne (2018) An emergent methodology for public engagement in the rural landscapes of HS2. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This thesis proposes the concept of cascading public engagement as a desirable condition in which public engagement with landscape expands and deepens in a self-sustaining way, through continually evolving interconnectedness of landscape processes. Emergence theory is applied and tested as the methodology for the research and also as the strategic foundation for the proposed approach to engaging people with landscape. I consider how small disturbances in landscape systems can have transformative effects and apply this thinking to how small disturbances might catalyse engagement. The study is grounded in a view of landscape as a continually changing, emergent and complex entity, which is composed of open systems and requires suitably responsive engagement. This is especially pertinent to projects with long timescales, such as High Speed Two (HS2), the UK’s proposed high speed railway linking the north and the south of England. It examines HS2 Ltd’s engagement activities and the associated parliamentary procedures, in order to gain some insight in to the challenges for both the company and inhabitants of rural places. The work is based on action research carried out in the rural parish of Ashley, adjacent to Manchester Airport and on the planned Phase 2b alignment of HS2. Evidence from Ashley is reviewed in order to explore how such a change in public involvement might be triggered and supported. The qualitative, lived and embodied landscape knowledge held by local people is central to this thesis. I discuss how to access this knowledge within an emergent framework, and why it should be valued. Walking the landscape with inhabitants has been a significant method, proving valuable in developing final recommendations for achieving non-linear cascading engagement. I report on a variety of other engagement methods, used to gather local knowledge in Ashley. This includes sustained involvement in neighbourhood planning. The research seeks to instigate an empowering, creative and inclusive experience for local inhabitants, as they become pro-active in minimising detriment and maximising benefit to their own landscapes. The desired outcome for such flourishing engagement would be that it makes policy and shapes landscape.

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