Gaining the support of local communities should be the vital first step in guaranteeing the success of quarry projects, writes Christopher Hopkins
Since 2007 the number of Americans opposed to expansion of aggregate quarries has dropped from 76% to 59%, and those who favor such development have more than doubled from 15% to 36%, according to the 2011 Saint Index, an annual survey of public attitudes towards large-scale development.
Despite this significant increase in support, proposed quarries remain widely opposed across America. Virtually all demographic groups, regions and income brackets oppose plans to expand quarrying capacity in land use battles that pit developers against highly motivated and organized citizens.
A combination of factors add up to the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) phenomenon which the Saint Index has tracked since 2005 in the US, UK and Canada. People say they oppose quarries because they worsen traffic, noise, air and ground water pollution, and it harms the landscape, community character or their property values.
Fear of change, too, is a driver behind opposition. Some groups have evolved into sophisticated sources of opposition, sharing tactics that have worked elsewhere to thwart similar projects, particularly when wildlife and environmental sustainability issues are at stake.
Economic benefits alone do not fire up latent public support to counter the growing opposition to quarries. Due diligence provides the developer with a thorough self-examination of a project’s vulnerabilities and how opponents may exploit them.
Land use politics – and the concepts of political due diligence, building an advocacy pyramid and a virtuous cycle outlined below – provide a practical achievable way to get people to say yes to quarry expansion.
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Christopher Hopkins is senior vice president for aggregates and mining for The Saint Consulting Group, email email@example.com