3.1: incinerator was proposed in 2012, and received Gloucestershire

3.1: Introduction

As
chapter 2 outlines, little research exists into the impact of socio-demographic
factors upon the social acceptance of renewable energy infrastructure, despite Devine-Wright
(2017) and others indicating their potential importance to this topic. This
dissertation will therefore explore the impacts of age, annual income, and
education level. This chapter begins, discussing the rationale for the
selection of a case study method, before outlining the development and
deployment of its questionnaire, concluding by discussing limitations of deployed
methodology whilst addressing ethical and positionality concerns.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

3.2 Research Approach

This
research utilises a critical positivist ontology, asserting that knowledge,
nature, and reality are objective, but influenced by social actors (Research
Methodology, 2017). Resultantly this dissertation utilises a positivist
epistemology, employing research methods facilitating collection of valid
empirical data to utilise in testing research questions through statistical
analysis. This was appropriate for this dissertation as it would facilitate the
production of definitive answers regarding the impact of each socio-demographic
factor, also allowing direct comparison to place based factor research which
utilises a comparable research epistemology. A case study methodology was
selected, producing a form of sampling frame for research questionnaire
distribution.

A
case study method:

“Investigates a specific case …to
answer specific research questions…seeking a range of different kinds of
evidence, evidence which is there in the case setting, …to be abstracted and
collated to get the best possible answers” (Gillham, 2000 p.1).

Case
studies are highly suitable methodology to investigate the research questions
of this dissertation, carrying a multitude of benefits. Firstly, case studies
allow research to focus upon smaller samples, ensuring more time is available to
effectively analyse and manage research findings (Yin, 2009). Furthermore, case
studies place research into context which is important to unearth hidden
factors which may underpin research findings. Yin (2009:p40) states that a case
study used in a critical fashion, excels when used to conduct “critical testing
of a significant theory”. This dissertation aims to employ a case study for
this exact purpose, with a working theory that social factors may be of similar
importance as place based factors. This case study can be seen as an
exemplifying case “capturing the circumstance and conditions of an everyday
or commonplace situation” (Yin, 2009:p48).

Javelin
Park energy from waste incinerator, Gloucestershire, was chosen for this dissertation
as it represents the increasingly widespread construction of energy from waste
plants in the UK, often pushed by waste industry officials to solve the
intermittency of existing renewable power. The incinerator was proposed in
2012, and received Gloucestershire County Council funding of £30 Million
(Perchard, 2015). Independent corporation Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) was
contracted to construct and operate the plant for 25 years (Ibid). The plant is
currently under construction despite delays and initial planning rejection, with
local opinion divided. The developer claims, upon completion, the plant will
increase renewable energy generation in Gloucestershire by 50% (Urbaser Balfour
Beatty, 2017), “enough to power half of the homes in the district of Stroud”
(Urbaser Balfour Beatty, 2017:p1) where the incinerator is located. Some residents
however, cite fears over air and noise pollution, congestion, landfill sector
job losses, project cost, and visual impact (Stonehouse Town Council, 2013). Others
however are more positive, thanks to claimed CO2 emission reductions, landfill reduction,
new apprenticeship schemes, and 100% job offer guarantees to Gloucestershire
residents (Urbaser Balfour Beatty, 2017). Such disparity in the social
acceptance of local residents towards such a project is not uncommon. The case
study is also well sited, capable of providing the required data whilst being easily
and repeatedly accessible, key attributes for any case study (Gillham, 2000).
Gloucestershire was the home of this dissertations author for 18 years,
ensuring easy access via the family home, and ensuring the researcher had many
contacts in the area, providing a broader sample of respondents. Potential bias
was accounted and adjusted for.

3.3 Questionnaire
design

Whilst
interviews may have unveiled potential explanations to research questions not
foreseen by case study based questionnaires, this dissertation was unable to
conduct both methods due to time constraints. This dissertation believes a case
study based questionnaire, including some open-ended questions, would be most
effective as empirical results would allow effective statistical analysis, with
open-ended questions used as a secondary supplementary data source, unveiling
potential themes which would occur through interviews.

Questionnaires
are a research method used within social sciences to obtain both “factual and
attitudinal information” (Bulmer 2004 ,XIV). They differ from interviews,
attempting to gather less extensive data from a larger sample of respondents
within shorter time periods. This makes questionnaires an ideal research method
for this dissertation. Questionnaires are a versatile, dependable methodology,
capable of collecting multiple data types, becoming rich data sources when
utilising mixtures of open and closed questions (Hague, 1993). Furthermore, with the
socio-demographic factors of this research being potentially sensitive,
questionnaires provided an additional layer of anonymity (particularly when
completed online), which can effectively combat social desirability bias (Hague,
1993). This helps produce more valid, reliable results and conclusions. Open
ended questions were also included to ensure context was provided, and perhaps
un-considered themes were brought to light,
also helping participants feel involved, preventing boredom and non-completion (Bulmer, 2004). Questionnaires can
also be highly standardised, being easier to analyse than interviews (Bradburn
and Sudman, 1979), also providing participants time to think upon their responses
as they largely remove time pressure (when administered online). Whilst they possess
many advantages, questionnaire weaknesses were also considered in subsection
3.5.

A
pilot study of 15 respondents was conducted from the 26-29th of
November. It resulted in various amendments to the questionnaire, ensuring
wording was clear and non-leading, whilst checking that responses reflected the
true nature of the question asked, and assessing the questionnaires length and
question order.

The
finalised questionnaire was made available online on 30/11/2017, ending
05/12/2017, receiving 130 responses. Face to face questionnaires, identical to the
online component were conducted on 01/12/2017, receiving 20 responses.
Total responses totalled 150. Conducting both online and face to face
questionnaires ensured this dissertation reached the widest possible
demographic. Face to face questionnaires were key in assessing older
demographics, who may not utilise computers, thus being otherwise omitted from this
study. The questionnaire contained no mandatory questions, which could deter
participation. A copy of the questionnaire is attached to this document; please
see Appendix ‘B’.

Online
participants were recruited through Toluna Quick Surveys. This online programme
allows questionnaires to be shared via a link, which can be uploaded to social
media or sent electronically to respondents. This dissertation utilised a
purposive sampling technique, sending links to individuals via Facebook and
email who knowingly resided within Gloucestershire, requesting they forwarded
the link to others within Gloucestershire to increase response rates. This was
a form of snowball sampling, helping to increase response rates, and reach a
wider demographic than purposive sampling alone. Face to face questionnaires utilised
convenience sampling, with the researcher stood in Gloucester City centre’s public
space, ‘The Cross’, asking passers-by to complete the questionnaire. Surveys
were issued during three, one-hour periods on 01/12/17. Periods were 8-9AM,
11AM-Midday, and 7-8PM, aiming to reach the widest demographic possible, not
restricting data collection to respondents using the city centre at a given
time, such as workers arriving at 9AM.

The
questionnaire contained 19 questions, commencing with demographic questions
such as location within Gloucestershire and gender, before collecting responses
for the 3 independent-variables of study, age, annual income and education
level. Data for these variables can be seen below for age (Table 3.1),
Education Level (Table 3.2), and Annual Income (Table 3.3). 50 (33.33%) male
respondents and 93 (62%) female
respondents made up the sample, with a further 7 (4.66%) respondents selecting ‘prefer
not to say’. Whilst these responses fail to directly correlate with census data
from Gloucestershire in 2011 (ONS, 2016),
which showed a more even gender balance than this sample, this should not
be detrimental to the statistical analysis of this study, as it does not
investigate gender directly.