ESRC White Rose DTP Collaborative Studentship: Public Engagement and Opportunities for ‘Shared Infrastructure’ in the UK

University of Leeds - School of Earth and Environment

Session 2018-19 - Closing Date 17:00 (UK time) 16 March 2018

The online application form can be found at:

Project: Public engagement and opportunities for ‘shared infrastructure’ in the UK

Awards provide fees and maintenance at standard Research Council Rates (£14,777 in Session 2018/19) for eligible applicants.

This studentship is in collaboration with Ove Arup and Partners Ltd

UK planning reform over the last decade has substantially altered the ways in which publics can engage with Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) in the UK (Johnstone 2014). A process of ‘rescaling’, streamlining and ‘de-politicisation’ has occurred, which aims to accelerate development and minimize delays while providing democratic oversight and social justice through the development consent process (Cotton 2017). However, some argue that the evolving infrastructure decision-making processes have in fact weakened public consent from citizens for major projects (ibid; Cotton and Devine-Wright, 2012). Citizens due to uninterest and/or distrust may choose to not engage consistently and constructively in the planning process (DbD and UCL TI 2015). In order to achieve public acceptance, some have argued that the ‘shared nature of infrastructure’, i.e. acknowledging the social value we get from it, needs to be fully transparent and deliberated (ibid).

The aim of this project is to explore the opportunity for ‘shared infrastructure’ through the processes of public engagement on NSIPs in the UK. In order to achieve this aim, the project will pursue five objectives:

  1. What constitutes formal public engagement best practice on NSIPs.
  2. How social actors respond to formal consultation around NSIPs.
  3. How informal modes of participation emerge and develop.
  4. The extent to which lack of capacity amongst UK communities, affected by large infrastructure projects, prohibits engagement with the planning process.
  5. How community/developer consultation could be improved.

The project will utilise triangulated qualitative research methods to evaluate up to four case studies from Arup’s portfolio comparing the differences of linear projects such as High Speed Two (HS2) and the proposed hydrogen gas network (H21) project in Leeds and point projects such as Heathrow’s third runway and shale gas fracking in Lancashire. Arup will support the studentship through provision of access to ‘live’ and past case study material, clients active in NSIP development, workspace within the Arup Leeds office at Rose Wharf, Leeds, and technical expertise to facilitate the research. It is anticipated that the student will spend substantial time in the Arup office engaged on primary and secondary research related to the case studies, and will travel to other offices or project promoter’s offices to undertake interviews.

This studentship links closely to the White Rose DTP Cities, Environment, and Liveability pathway particularly around the sub-theme of resilient infrastructures. Investigating how and why publics participate in NSIP engagement processes (both formally and informally) will lend insight into the scalar politics of sustainability, the social processes of engagement, as well as framings of ‘liveability.’ This project expands the concept of resilient infrastructures beyond that of planning, designing, building, and maintaining sustainable infrastructures to including public acceptance and social legitimacy of the consultative processes. We posit that the governance of infrastructure decision-making processes interacts significantly with community perceptions of liveability and well-being.

Further information on the application procedure can be found at

For more information on the project, please contact Dr James Van Alstine (

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Northern England