The general consensus of those attending the first public consultation workshop was very positive. Everyone largely felt that the event had been helpful in building a better understanding of the issues, and that it would help improve the quality of their responses to the consultation.
The event attracted a broad range of interests, including engineering and construction sectors, broader business groups, trades unions, local authorities, conservationists and anti-nuclear campaigners. The notable omission was anyone from community or place-based organisations. This is not for the want of trying, as GDFWatch knows well because we are at the forefront of reaching out to the sector. Hopefully there will be greater representation of these groups at the regional events around the country that BEIS is organising during March — and we will be continuing to encourage community groups to attend.
The workshops are very interactive, with little in the way of presentations, and a heavy focus on group discussion and shared learning. Delegates were provided with video and written material before the event, and you are expected to come to the workshop with a basic understanding of the consultations, and a list of questions from your initial reading of the documents. This approach works well in bringing out the different perspectives, questions and issues of groups representing diverse societal interests. The format doesn’t allow for detailed analysis of specific questions, but that is not the purpose of the workshop. BEIS have offered to publish a FAQ sheet online to address key issues raised during the workshops.
I don’t think it would be helpful to set out all the issues discussed, because that may unwittingly shape discussion at future workshops. In general terms, there were areas where people felt the consultation documents were too vague (but as BEIS pointed out, often it is on those areas they are seeking public experience and advice to help flesh out), and an acceptance that for some issues a certain vagueness was necessary to retain flexibility, because each community will have its own individual needs.
BEIS have worked hard to develop their proposals in an open, inclusive way, and the workshops are a further opportunity for the public to shape the final policy. We urge everyone to participate in the process and to have your say. There are still seats available at the workshops in Birmingham (27 Feb), Bristol (1 March), Darlington (6 March) and Lancaster (20 March), and at the technical workshop for the National Policy Statement in London (22 March). Contact the workshop’s independent facilitators, 3KQ, to register your interest (firstname.lastname@example.org)