Seeking Spirituality: Respecting the Social Value of Coastal Recreational Resources in England and Wales

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Abstract

PIKE, K., JOHNSON, D., FLETCHER, S and WRIGHT, P., 2011. Seeking Spirituality: Respecting the Social Value of Coastal Recreational Resources in England and Wales. In: Micallef, A. (ed.), MCRR3-2010 Conference Proceedings, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 61, pp. 194-204. Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy, ISSN 0749-0208.

Social value is understood by individuals but is itself a contested concept, although community and participation are key associated terms. Arguably social value of protected areas can be viewed as primarily recreational and aesthetic. Perhaps as a result, social value is often much less considered when compared to environmental and economic aspects when planning the establishment and management of protected areas in coastal locations. Understanding how society values these areas could therefore make a significant difference to optimising management direction and outcomes. Furthermore, understanding non-monetary values could help evaluate trade-offs which can be made between scenarios such as alternative development, management and conservation.

Literature on social value touches on many topics including the emotional appreciation of wilderness and theory of visitor management. Ironically, in the future, climate change may raise social value at the coast given a public fascination with dramatic storms and sensational rapid change as a result of coastal processes. In order to identify social value, evaluate how it has been applied, and suggest better future integration, research focussing on selected coastal protected areas in England and Wales has taken an inductive grounded theory approach. A combination of practitioner and public interviews were undertaken to inform the design of a normative statement and model of social value. To understand social values at an operational level a detailed ‘zoning chart’ exercise in conjunction with an expert scoring system was applied to four case studies This work has resulted in validating social value criteria and has highlighted the complexities of measuring social value, particularly using a scoring system to rate the criteria. Tranquillity, for example, is typically subjective. Zoning charts proved to be a productive data collection tool, allowing visualisation of the criteria. All the data collection phases demonstrated that criteria in the ‘spirituality and natural environment’ theme provided the most social value to the public. Criteria in this theme include areas where it is possible to get away from other people in order to experience tranquillity, isolation and remoteness: experiences of views and open coastline: inspirational opportunities for art, poetry and photography: and an outdoor experience in a place where people want to be.

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