The Crown Estate commissions vital research to understand the social impact of marine sectors on coastal communities

Published on 11 January 2024

Dr Pamela Buchan at the University of Exeter (ACCESS Leadership College Fellow) talks about the work she is doing with The Crown Estate to better understand the social impact of marine sectors on coastal communities.


Pamela is leading the review of evidence on the social impacts of marine sectors on coastal communities, on behalf of The Crown Estate. As manager of the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The Crown Estate plays a key role in the processes that regulate how the UK marine environment is used and developed. The Crown Estate is proactively seeking evidence to inform decision-making that recognises social impacts, alongside more widely understood environmental and economic impacts, to help meet its objectives to create thriving communities and stewardship of the environment.

Coral beneath the sea and boat in background above the water

Above and below the sea. John Reed UPY 2022

Pamela has expertise in marine citizenship and governance, and practical experience of a range of marine sectors. Her research is committed to creating important social scientific evidence and applying it to marine decision-making processes to tackle complex social and environmental challenges.

“In the UK, impact assessments in marine sectors have a strong focus on environmental impacts and the socio-economic benefits of marine developments, typically job creation and influence on local and national economies.” explains Pamela. “However, both marine developments and their shoreside infrastructure can have a wide range of potential social impacts, particularly on their nearby coastal communities. These range from changes to land and seascapes, affecting how people feel about their place, health and wellbeing implications where access to the water or water quality are impacted, and onshore industrialisation such as ports and electricity substations.”

Offshore wind farm

Offshore wind farm. Ben Barden Photography Ltd

“The ability to consider the impacts of the whole-life of a marine development at the planning stage is currently quite a complex process. Public awareness of and participation in decision-making varies across each phase and agency involved. Where people are not effectively included in the process, or at the right stage, schemes can become increasingly expensive and can potentially be abandoned. Poorly managed schemes can have unintended negative impacts upon communities if they proceed without the right assessment. These types of outcomes can miss the opportunity to meet economic and community needs with one well-designed solution.”

The review considers evidence from research and industry to understand what is currently known about the social impacts of marine sectors and how these are being measured. The review will look for trends in social impact assessment, such as key concerns for specific sectors, and how citizens are participating in decision-making. By examining social scientific research and industry thinking and practices, it is hoped that the review will uncover best practice for social impact assessment in the marine context and identify key gaps where more knowledge is needed.

Please contact Pamela Buchan if you have any questions