Wind Power Planning Controversies and the Construction of ‘Expert’ and ‘Lay’ Knowledges

Mhairi Aitken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

UK and Scottish planning policies include commitments to reflect the views of the public. However, this case study of one planning application for a wind farm in rural Scotland highlights the limited role played by lay knowledge within planning processes. The planning application process had two separate stages which structured the roles of lay and expert knowledge differently. Local objectors were able to influence the early planning application stage. However, this resulted in an appeals process (public inquiry) which was beyond the influence of lay people, and within which lay knowledge played only a marginal role. The early planning application stage enabled a wider range of knowledges to be relevant, perhaps even allowing lay knowledge to sideline expert knowledge. Within the inquiry such roles were reversed. Witnesses who could not back up their evidence with ‘reliable’ data or scientific reasoning were discredited as illegitimate and as having little to contribute to the inquiry process. Thus the inquiry constructed boundaries between expert and lay knowledge, in ways which diminished the role that lay knowledge might play. Whilst the construction of expert knowledge at the public inquiry played a central role in marginalising lay knowledge, it was central to all sides of the argument; the role of expert knowledge was reinforced by both the opposition group and the developers. Therefore, it is not only policy-makers and planning officials, but also lay people who act as though expert and lay knowledge can be clearly distinguished from one another.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-64
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Wind energy
  • public participation
  • science
  • conflict
  • expertise


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