Public Engagement on Landscape and Ecosystem Futures in England, Scotland, and Wales

March 28, 2019 16:04   (UTC +00:00) Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team
March 28, 2019 16:04   (UTC +00:00) Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team
March 28, 2019 16:04   (UTC +00:00) Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team
March 28, 2019 13:01   (UTC +00:00) MartinKing

A dialogue addressing landscape and ecosystem futures in the UK. The project consists of interrelated projects across Wales, Scotland and the East of England.

Problems and Purpose

A number of agencies, including Scottish Natural Heritage, the Countryside Council for Wales, and the Government Office for the East of England are working in conjunction with Sciencewise-ERC to carry out public dialogue pilot projects on future land use scenarios in the context of climate change. The dialogues will explore values, benefits and trade-offs relating to landscape change, using the ecosystem services approach. The dialogue will be exploring future challenges, opportunities and management options, and developing new ways for local communities to contribute to holistic discussions about environmental change. This dialogue is made up of three interrelated projects, led by different agencies with a role in ecosystems services and future landscape planning and policy.


This project constitutes the Scottish strand of a public engagement programme addressing climate related landscape change and impacts on ecosystems and quality of life across the UK. Public workshops were held in the areas of Nairn and Machars.

East of England

Two public dialogue projects in the east of England sought to pilot the Ecosystem Services Framework, as a way of supporting public engagement with planning ecosystem futures. 


A series of deliberative workshops involving farmers and communities around the Cambrian Mountains addressed ecosystems goods and services proposals.

In addition the Natural Capital Initiative is leading the evaluation, lesson learning and policy dissemination. [1]

Background History and Context

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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities


Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the entity responsible for Scotland’s natural heritage.

Land Use Consultants, a specialist environmental consultancy. [2]

East England

Sustainability East, Environment Agency, Natural England, NFU, Country Land & Business Association, Arable Group, East of England Sustainable Food and Farming group, Defra, Foresight, Scott Wilson, Ursus Consulting, Dialogue by Design [3]


Resources for Change, an ethical consultancy with a reputation for innovation in involving people in sustainable development and regeneration.

Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), the Government's statutory advisor on sustaining natural beauty, wildlife and the opportunity for outdoor enjoyment in Wales and its inshore waters.

Cambrian Mountains Initiative, a wide-ranging project that aims to help promote rural enterprise, protect the environment and add value to products and services in Mid Wales [4].


Natural Capital Initiative (NCI), a partnership between the Society of Biology, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology of the natural Environment Research Council and the British Ecological Society.

Icarus, an organization which provides professional support, policy advice and direct delivery in a number of fields, including the environment. Icarus is conducting an evaluation of the dialogue on landscape and ecosystem futures. [5]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

A total of 188 public participants and 20 experts/stakeholders participated in the projects.

Recruitment and selection methods varied in the different projects. [6]

Methods and Tools Used

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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

Detailed descriptions of what went on are available in the case entries on two of this project's components: 

Public Engagement on Landscape and Ecosystem Futures: Scotland  

Public Engagement on Landscape and Ecosystem Futures: East of England  

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Influence to date 

Feedback indicates that at this at this stage in the process much of the learning is about process rather than policy outcomes. 

There is some indication from interviewee feedback that the pilot initiatives are likely to have some immediate influence on: 

  • The National Environment Framework – Wales.  
  • Glastir – the proposed new all Wales Agri-Environment Scheme being introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government.  
  • Highland Council’s Adaptation Strategy.  

There is an aspiration to influence in the medium term: 

  • CAP reform.  
  • Rural Development Support – Wales.  
  • Micro hydro MCS accreditation for Feed In Tariff.  
  • Large scale wind and water management  
  • Department for Communities and Local Government - but would need more socio/economic valuations to be incorporated.  
  • European policy - as most environmental legislation comes from the EU.  
  • The Localism agenda, however feedback suggests that more work is necessary to consider linkages and specific areas for influence.  

Feedback from the Natural Capital Initiative suggests that policy influence may be more effective in Scotland and Wales due to the smaller size of government in the devolved administrations and the easier access to senior civil servants and ministers. Indeed, the Cambrian Mountains process has already met with the Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs to feed back the initial finding of the process and to secure commitments to take certain initiatives forward at a senior policy level nationally. [7] 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The evaluation report identified the following issues and lessons from across the projects.

Overall those engaged fed back that participating in the deliberative processes was positive and interesting, enabling meaningful conversations about issues that were important for local communities. For many this was the first opportunity to have these discussions with others and the eco system services approach provided a useful lens through which to view issues such as the impact of climate change and landscape / land use planning. 

A fundamental process point however is that public dialogue projects must communicate the purpose of the exercise to those the initiatives seeks to engage. This was not done well across all projects, the process being clear but the intended outcomes not. Equally reporting must go back to participants to validate their participation and demonstrate the likely benefit of the dialogue process. Again this was variable. 

Pressure of time worked against all of the pilots and restricted the establishment of meaningful linkages pre and post dialogue process with community structures and current policy development. The Welsh pilot was particularly strong in terms of working with ongoing community structures (the Menter groups) and achieved some initial but positive policy links through meetings with the Department for Rural Affairs in the Welsh Assembly Government. The Machars pilot in Scotland also benefitted from working with a pre existing community organisation (Machars Action) who may be able to perpetuate some of the work undertaken. A range of policy instruments were cited as having been influenced or likely to be influenced with particular potential emerging from the Welsh and Scottish pilots. This may reflect the better / easier links the commissioning and delivery teams had with the devolved administrations. 

Although feedback was good about the running of the meetings, more clarity, in terms of framing discussion questions, was needed and discussion facilitators at tables would have enabled better focus and recording of key points. Methods that enabled a visualisation of planning options, ecosystem types and related goods and services were particularly useful. 

The understanding of ecosystem services as a concept was good and helped those engaged to move quickly into meaningful conversations about landscape and land use planning. Indeed, the entry point of ecosystem services enabled groups to discuss what could potentially be contentious subjects such as wind energy projects and coastline management more openly and with less immediate polarisation of views. 

The input of science was cautious across all pilots with the majority feedback from participants indicating that more detailed, in depth but well explained science would have assisted the depth and breadth of deliberations. Timescales again worked against this, however drawing more on, and interpreting clearly, existing regional and national research would help. Other structures and methods that allow a more in depth deliberation may also need to be considered. 

The pilots were considered good value for money and time was well used however Sciencewise-ERC could have considered teaming up with organisations such as Living With Environmental Change and the National Ecosystem Assessment to enable more resources to be deployed, a broader data source established and additional routes into policy. This may be an arrangement that could be developed as the learning from the pilots moves the debate and methodologies forward. 

Next steps could include a scaling up and replication of the approach. There is already another similar piece of work being delivered in Scotland and the Cambrian Mountain Initiative in Wales will use the learning as it further develops its Polyscape modelling. Caution needs to be exercised in streamlining and simplifying the methodologies as suggested by some respondents, as given the need for an understanding of both complex and uncertain futures a simplified version may struggle to achieve the required insight, quality of debate and longer term links to community structures and policy. [7]

In summary the case study identifies the following general lessons with regard to the projects [6]

  • The purpose of the exercise needs to be clear from the start of the engagement process. The purpose needs to be communicated very clearly to participants  
  • Reports need to be made to participants about how their input has been used and what difference it has made  
  • Linkages need to be made to, and work developed with, existing community structures  
  • Direct links need to be made to current policy developments and relevant policy makers  
  • More time for public discussions, and stronger links to existing detailed regional and national scientific data, may enable more in-depth deliberation on these issues  
  • More clarity was needed in terms of framing discussion questions, and discussion facilitators at tables would have enabled better focus and recording of key points. [6]  

See Also


Public Engagement on Landscape and Ecosystem Futures: East of England 

Public Engagement on Landscape and Ecosystem Futures: Scotland 


[1] Sciencewise (2017) “Public-engagement-on-landscape-ecosystem-futures-in-england-scotland-and-wales” (Online) Available at:

[2] Sciencewise (2017) “Public-engagement-on-landscape-and-ecosytem-futures-scotland” (Online) Available at:

[3] Sciencewise (2017) “Public-engagement-on-landscape-and-ecosystem-futures-east-of-england/” (Online) Available at:

[4] Sciencewise (2017) “public-engagement-on-landscape-and-ecosytem-futures-wales” (Online) Available at:

[5] Sciencewise (2017) “public-engagement-on-landscape-and-ecosytem-futures-evaluation-and-learning” (Online) Available at:

[6] Sciencewise (2012) “Case Study: Landscapes and ecosystems futures”

[7] Smith, S and Bovey, H (2011) “Ecosystem Services Public Dialogue Project Evaluation” Icarus Collective, June 2011

External Links