Why assess socio-economic impacts

  • Why assess socio-economic impacts

    The impact and consenting process for OWFs is currently weak on socio- economic impacts, yet such impacts can be significant for local communities. This research will raise the profile of such impacts and mitigating measures to reduce the impacts. For example, maximising local benefits can tie into a normative approach to methods, such as building local employment targets into the methodology and then employing various training and supply chain enhancement methods that seek to best achieve them (as in recent English OWF Development Consent Orders (DCOs)).

    Aberdeen beach

    Aberdeen beach and seafront looking north towards where the wind turbines will be located, Photo attribution: Paul Chapman / Aberdeen Beach and Seafront

    Aberdeen dunes 2

    Sandy beach, Aberdeen

    The socio-economic impacts assessed for the onshore element of the EOWDC comprised limited and flimsy consideration of ‘local economies of Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City, and the potential impact upon tourism and recreational receptors within or close to the Proposed Development site’ (AOWL, 2012). However, Chadwick (2002) identified that a much wider range of socio-economic impacts should be potentially assessed:

    Economic impacts

    • direct employment effects, including employment generation and safeguarding of existing employment;
    • indirect employment effects;
    • other labour market effects, such as changes in wage levels or commuting patterns;
    • expenditure and income effects, including the use of local suppliers, rates and rental payments and other types of project-related expenditure;
    • economic effects on existing commercial activities (including tourism, agriculture and Žfishery);
    • effects on the development potential of the area, including changes in the image of the area or in investor confidence;
    • effect on property values.

    Social impacts

    • effects on population and demographic structure;
    • effects on accommodation and housing;
    • effects on community facilities or services;
    • changes in community character or image;
    • changes in community stability or cohesion (e.g. due to in-migration);
    • changes in the incidence of social problems such as crime;
    • distributional effects, i.e. effects on specific groups in society (e.g. women, the elderly and ethnic minorities).

    Due to the nature of the assessment process, the cumulative effects of the development are also often poorly addressed (Durning and Broderick, 2015). Impacts that may have cumulative effects e.g. potential conflict of interest arising during construction with fisheries and maritime traffic/transport are not often considered in terms of the indirect effect they may have on socio-economic determinants.

    There is increasing focus on the desire to understand the impact of developments on the construct of human ‘wellbeing’. This is a contested concept which is considered ‘complex, controversial, and continually evolving’ (Butler and Oluoch-Kosura 2006, p. 1) and consequently there is again lack to clear guidance on methods for assessment. Hattam et al (2015) in their assessment of positive and negatives impacts of OWF on wellbeing, use a framework derived from combining six ‘capital stocks’ (financial, manufactured, human, social, governance and natural capital, with an ecosystem services approach used to further subdivide the natural capital stock considerations) with the Office of National Statistics well-being domains (economy, what we do, where we live, personal well-being, education and skills, personal finance, health, our relationships, the natural environment and governance). Busch et al (2011) also use the complex construct of ecosystem services to assesses the potential impact of changes in marine ecosystem services on human wellbeing, concluding that an ‘evidence-based link could be demonstrated between an ecosystem service impacted by offshore wind farming and change in human well-being’.

    This research will aid in the assessment of socio-economic impacts by demonstrating the wider context of the impacts and therefore the wider range of stakeholders that need to be brought into the assessment process.

  • Contact us

    You can contact us by writing to or emailing Dr Bridget Durning via:

    School of the Built Environment
    Oxford Brookes University
    Headington Campus
    Oxford OX3 0BP

    tel: +44 (0)1865 482845
    bdurning@brookes.ac.uk