At the university, we try whenever possible to create opportunities for our students to engage in real-world research, working with organisations in the public, private and voluntary section. Many of our students take up these opportunities during their . Recently two of our students Rory McGurk and William Pereira were invited to the annual conference and presented with a certificate in appreciation for their work for the institute.
In Rory’s words:
We were asked by the Consultation Institute to conduct some research into some prominent public consultation cases, and suggest ways in which they could have been improved. We were given the case of the King’s Lynn Incinerator – a controversial plan for an incinerator which involved numerous overlapping consultations in Norfolk. These were our findings:
The Kings Lynn incinerator proposal consultation was legitimate in relation to the Aarhus convention, namely the right to participate in decision making. However, each of these consultations suffered systematic flaws, the most overarching of which was an attempt to manipulate public opinion. This was seen in the omission of certain questions from the Cory Wheelabrator telephone survey in 2011, and the county council’s dismissal of a 92.68% residence opposition. It was therefore overtly plain to see that consultation in this instance was a participatory mechanism utilised only for the intention of legitimising a preconceived county-imposed waste management strategy that favoured an incinerator.
In recognition of the work we produced, the Consultation Institute invited us to their annual conference at the Emirates stadium. This proved to be a fascinating and extremely useful day, allowing us to listen to some high end speakers, such as Michael Portillo and Anthony King. We were also given the opportunity to network with individuals at the Consultation Institute and explain our research to them. We were also given an award for our contribution to the work produced by the Consultation Institute. Overall, the research was helpful in expanding our political knowledge and analytical skills, and the conference was a very interesting and helpful day. We would like to send our thanks to Rhion Jones and Elizabeth Gammell for allowing us to conduct the research and for allowing us to join them at their conference. Also, to Matt Ryan for setting up the research with the Consultation Institute and for joining us on our adventure down to their headquarters in Biggleswade.