The Aarhus Convention: why begin communicating when all options are open?

Reflecting on Article 6, Clause 4 of the Convention today I began to think about the motives of the people who drafted the Aarhus Convention back in 1998 that caused them to include the words, “when all options are open” in the clause – which reads in full, “Each party shall provide for early public participation, when all options are open and effective public participation can take place.”

This though made me consider my own situation in relation to Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) proposal to cite a 400kV ‘supergrid’ corridor through the beautiful glen my wife and I have stayed in and been happy in for the past 20 years.

After thinking this question through I believe the reason for including the words “when all options are open” is as follows, although I would appreciate your comments too.

There is a certain psychological factor that kicks-in when faced with an external threat that causes human beings to internalise worries and fears.  The natural thing is to share our worries and fears with others but in a situation where these pylons and overhead lines may run past my house or my neighbours house, say half a mile away where would I prefer it to run, given the choice – near my neighbours house of course.  It’s all about self preservation and self-interest.  These thoughts are natural and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have such thoughts so we shouldn’t feel bad and nor should we expect our neighbour not to have the same thoughts.

However, what this process does, if left unchecked and in the extreme, is to pit neighbour against neighbour.  It leads to an invidious situation where neighbours cease to work together.  Just type in “pitting neighbour against neighbour” into Google to see how many hits you get of examples of this sort of behaviour!

So, I contend that by beginning the consultation process with a proposed corridor for this Strategic Reinforcement Project and asking resident to comment on this rather than presenting the range of potential options on which to comment SPEN could be accused of deliberately attempting to pit neighbour against neighbour so as to reduce the strength of any collective opposition.

I therefore take my hat off to the wise men and women who all those years ago included the term “when all options are open.

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