Benefits of Mediation in Infrastructural Development
Ireland has recently seen huge controversy over some major infrastructural developments, from wind farm construction, pylon erection, motorways, The North/South interchanger through to the Shell Oil development in Rossport Co Mayo. There is no doubt that further infrastructural change will be necessary to energise economic recovery and to maintain developments which keep Ireland at the competitive edge in the global economy.
However how these infrastructural development are managed and how the communities affected by them are consulted can have a massive bearing on how easily the development takes place and ultimately the cost basis for it. There has been large delays in many of the recent projects which have proven costly at the least, and may lead to abandonment in the extreme.
It seems that to date the consultation with some of the communities has been too little too late and has led to the backlashes seen on the news frequently. Often, despite legal processes being engaged there is a so called back channel whereby communications happen between the communities and the developers to resolve issues. Almost always the development happens to some extent, with massively increased costs so neither the developer or the community gets what they wanted.
A mediated solution
It would appear logical to me that prevention is better than cure and prior to the planning, or at the earliest stages possible, that the developer would invest time in firstly identifying the communities which may be affected, positively and negatively, by the development and seek to engage with them. Using an experienced commercial mediator at this stage, and at any stage during the development where difficulty arises, is the most efficient way to go. The skills of the mediator would be in bringing a representative group of those who object to development together to identify and clarify their concerns and see where there is possibility to ease them, whilst at the same time seeking acknowledgment from them of the concerns for the developer, state or private, and seeking to resolve them.
Community Benefit Agreements
These agreements are becoming more and more common as a mechanism for marrying the requirements of the developer and the community. They usually have a financial element which is used to provide infrastructure to benefit the community. They can be one off payments, in some countries a single payment of €40000 is paid for each pylon erected, in others there is a lower figure paid but on an ongoing basis. The key thing for the developer is that they get a fixed cost going forward, they can streamline the development with less resistance and there is agreement on the project as a whole. For the community they get some control over the development in that there is agreement on what will happen and they get much needed revenue to improve the local area. They key is in understanding who is involved, what is required and reasonable to request, a good knowledge of planning and environmental laws, and a good mediator to tie the issues and the solutions together.
What are your thoughts on infrastructural development disputes?
We would like to hear your thoughts on conflicts between communities and government led infrastructural developments. If you have ever been affected by community disputes or been involved in lobbying against infrastructural initiatives please share using the form below.