Community, vulnerability and wellbeing in Trawsfynydd
Projects 29th January 2019
Key contact: Emma Banister, Senior Lecturer in Consumer Research, Alliance Manchester Business School
This pilot study, led by the universities of Manchester and Lancaster will explore issues of community wellbeing and vulnerability as nuclear facilities move from operational to decommissioning status.
Trawsfynydd in North Wales is the site of a nuclear power plant which brought employment and affluence to the area. The plant ceased operations in 1991, resulting in a reduction in the required workforce, and began a lengthy decommissioning process.
At the same time, discussions regarding the location site’s suitability for the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) suggest that the site is facing an uncertain future.
The lack of clarity surrounding the future of the site creates economic and social uncertainty for the Trawsfynydd community, with implications for individuals and their families, and the social and economic health and sustainability of the community in general.
This study will examine the experiences and wellbeing of members of the community, seeking to understand how community members experience being part of the community, and what they see as its challenges and opportunities.
In doing so the notion of ‘consumer vulnerability’ provides a conceptual starting point. This refers to “a state of powerlessness that arises from an imbalance in marketplace interactions”. The term reflects individuals’ lack of control and empowerment within their day-to-day activities and considers individual characteristics (e.g. age, health) in conjunction with structural / external factors (e.g. service availability, economic uncertainty) as possible triggers of vulnerability.
Trawsfynydd’s rural setting, the continuing loss of skilled, potentially high earners, the dominance of the Welsh language, and the state of uncertainty and flux resulting from the local employment situation suggest the potential susceptibility of Trawsfynydd community members to experience consumer vulnerability.
By talking to members of the Trawsfynydd community we aim to develop an in-depth understanding of what Trawsfynydd community membership means to them, how they would like to see the community develop (the future) and what they see as the main challenges, uncertainties and risks for the community.
As well as providing a detailed picture of a specific rural community in North Wales, the project aims to specifically explore the dynamics between individual, external and community factors as possible triggers of consumer vulnerability and reduced wellbeing.
Trawsfynydd provides an ideal opportunity given its status as a community in (potential) flux facing much uncertainty as well as opportunities, which may be perceived very differently by various stakeholders and community members.
The project aims to provide scope for community members’ voices to be heard at a point where there is economic and social uncertainty associated with the area.
The resulting initial understanding of Trawsfynydd community members’ experiences will support the development of insights and recommendations for local stakeholders such as Gwynedd Council, Snowdonia Local Enterprise Zone and also national bodies, such as the Welsh and UK Government.
The research findings have the potential to contribute local voices to the on-going consultation and debates regarding the potential development of the Trawsfynydd nuclear site (e.g. into SMR development) and more general discussions focused around supporting a sustainable community at Trawsfynydd.
Research team: Emma Banister, Richard Taylor and Helen Bruce (Lancaster University Management School)