Low-income communities do not get a fair say in environmental and planning decisions


LOWER-INCOME communities feel left out of environmental decisions and have little say in energy policies or planning for housing, public transport, basic services and green spaces.

They are also disproportionately affected by congestion, poor air quality, pollution-related diseases, flooding, landfills, and development that favors tourists, students, and other groups who pass through rather than stay to form permanent neighborhoods.

These are some of the findings of a study that calls for much more consideration of the impact of planning and environmental policies on marginalized areas and groups.

The research was conducted by the Center for Climate and Society at Dublin City University (DCU) for the Center for Environmental Justice, run by the charity Community Law & Mediation.

Lead author, Sadhbh O’Neill, said that a large information gap hampers understanding of environmental justice.

Environmental data was collected from some agencies and social deprivation data from others, but the datasets were not linked to show their correlation.

“Environmental justice isn’t a concept that’s used in public policy, so it’s not really anyone’s responsibility in terms of monitoring and measuring,” she said.

Rose Wall, executive director of Community Law & Mediation, said marginalized communities and groups feel left out of environmental and planning considerations because the costs of filing or legal challenges are prohibitive and their concerns are sidelined in final decisions.

She said moves to further limit participation under the proposed Housing and Planning and Development Bill would make the situation worse.

“This will only make it harder for communities to have a say in shaping their local communities and taking responsibility for environmental issues,” she said.

“This will seriously harm environmental oversight and democracy at a critical time when access to justice should be strengthened rather than curtailed.”

The report found that older people, Travelers, migrants and women found it particularly difficult to make their voices heard in decisions affecting those around them.

An example of the inequalities highlighted are communities with poor public transport and low car ownership, which struggle to access services and facilities.

They contribute the least to traffic emissions, but often suffer the most from the effects of car owners using services and amenities unavailable to locals.

Joe O’Brien, Secretary of State for Community Development, who attended the publication of the report, said he was acutely aware of the need for strong local involvement in decision-making.

He said he was keen to continue strengthening the Public Participation Network (PPN), through which local authorities work with community groups in their jurisdiction.

Mr O’Brien said he would be releasing a review of the PPN system in the coming months which would indicate where further support was needed.

He also pointed out that local authorities are required by law to consult with PPNs on developing local climate action plans.

Mr O’Brien said he had commissioned an investigation into the barriers preventing people from marginalized backgrounds from attending their local PPN.

“Once these barriers are identified, we will take action to remove or mitigate them and provide marginalized people with broader access to local environmental and climate governance decisions.” Low-income communities do not get a fair say in environmental and planning decisions

Fry Electronics Team

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