Renewable energy and the historic environment: an analysis of policy and practice

Green, Helen Mary (2018) Renewable energy and the historic environment: an analysis of policy and practice. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information:


As the renewable energy sector in Scotland, particularly in the past fifteen years, onshore wind, has grown, so have landscape impacts and impacts on the settings of heritage assets – on how they are perceived and experienced in their landscape context. Such non-physical impacts, characterised in archaeology as ‘indirect’, nonetheless affect the cultural fabric of society, and are linked with issues such as social tensions, tourism, local identities and political values. Moreover, setting impacts have been the subject of intense disagreement within the archaeological profession. This research aims to critically examine the concept of setting, the effectiveness of various related processes and of recent policy and practice, the causes of tension and disagreement, and the value of strategies proposed to redress the balance where setting impacts have been deemed insufficient to prevent development. The ultimate aim in doing this is to consider potential future directions.
I approach these issues using a conceptual framework based on perceptual experience, values and ethics, which sees these as relational in nature and broadly supports a discourse of sustainability to which the cultural dimension is fundamental. The aims are addressed through a focus on three case studies, dating between 2004 and 2009: all windfarm proposals culminating in public inquiries, in Orkney, Caithness and Clydesdale. The time elapsed enables reflection both grounded in hindsight and taking account of subsequent changes; and in the cases of consented and built developments, additional insight into actual, as opposed to potential, impacts that was unavailable during the case study period to the actors involved. I investigated the case studies through public inquiry reports, landscape visualisations and setting assessments, other available online and documentary sources, fieldtrips and informal qualitative interviews.
I found that the concept of setting has evolved over the past decade, in part as a result of testing through onshore wind energy developments, and the work of heritage professionals of all kinds, whose different roles and remits have contributed to strong differences of opinion. Setting also must be differentiated from landscape impacts and from more general windfarm opposition: it is fundamentally about the cultural significance of heritage assets as experienced by people, in the widest sense of the term. However, how people value and experience heritage sites in Scotland remains under-researched. I also found that this debate is interconnected with certain injustices, some of which are quite embedded, and that one of the most significant of these was the disparity between levels of investment in the heritage resource in different areas of Scotland, which can be self-perpetuating. I argue that development-related processes can contribute positively to this situation, through for example more effective use of the data and analysis so generated, greater involvement of local communities, and the development of research-based principles and guidance to facilitate greater innovation and flexibility in relation to compensatory mitigation measures.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information:
Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
This doctoral thesis was funded by the Caledonian Scholarship, awarded in 2013 via the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.
Keywords: Heritage, landscape, renewable energy, policy, practice, Scotland.
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Supervisor's Name: Brophy, Dr. Kenny
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Helen Green
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-9020
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 May 2018 13:28
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2019 09:59

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