Contents this month
Last month we described the way in which we have used a representative
sample of the population to understand better the spread of views
across Surrey regarding treatment of municipal waste. (See July
Project news.) The results make interesting reading.
The people of Surrey have been tackling the challenges of disposing
of their waste for several years. Surrey is quite a highly populated
county with many areas of Special Scientific Interest and Outstanding
Natural Beauty and the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society
are based there. In previous consultations, the discussion of sites
for new waste disposal plants has aroused a high degree of dissent
and anger among the population and highly organised local action
groups have mobilised the local population, distributing information
supporting their case and contributing a vigorous collective voice
to the consultations.
The local authorities have had to try to find solutions that give
the county more waste capacity while balancing the understandable
opposition of people to have sites built near them and the various
constraints in terms of centres of population, use of green belt
land and cost. In the midst of this has been the emotive subject
For this consultation run for the Surrey Local Government Association,
a partnership of the county and district councils, the issues were
actually about the less controversial subject of treatment of municipal
waste rather than the siting of waste facilities, but we thought
that it would still be useful to add another level of analysis to
allow a deeper understanding of the responses.
We separated the respondents into three sets: a general set of
public respondents some of whom were invited to take part because
of their special interest in waste issues; the main local action
group which submitted a joint response to the consultation in the
form of a petition; and a control group, recruited to be statistically
representative of the population of Surrey.
This approach allowed us to understand the responses in terms of
both the strength of feeling held by those who felt themselves to
be affected most by the proposals and the balance of opinions across
the county. It has been particularly interesting to see how similar
the responses from the public group, excluding the action group
responses, have been to those of the control group.
We will be advocating this three-pronged approach in similar contentious
subject areas as it offers an excellent way to gather information
on both strength of feeling and balance of views.
If you would like to discuss the use of control groups for your
own project please call Pippa Hyam to discuss on 020 8683 6602 or
email her at [email protected].