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The IMCORE project ran from 2008 to 2011 and was funded under the EU Interreg IVB programme.

VIDEO: Rhoda Ballinger, from Cardiff University, explains the complexity of the Severn Estuary

 "We've learnt the value of tapping into local knowledge and expertise"                                                            Rhoda Ballinger
"'We have relished the opportunity to further our engagement and outreach on climate change adaptation in the Severn Estuary".                            Paul Parker


Education Pack "Adapting to Climate Change in Wales"

Research Advisory Group reports (SECCRAG)

Summary of the Severn Estuary Scenarios

Results from Delphi Survey

Access or download overviews, tools, techniques and examples of visualisation tools, educational tools, legal and policy tools, future scenario techniques, etc

Practical tips for following the IMCORE approach to planning to adapt to coastal climate change 

guidance2The scenario development process on the Severn Estuary has been relatively successful and has provided a rich series of exploratory scenarios to inform a range of planning and adaptation processes. However, the process was made more complicated by the complexity of the Severn estuary itself (both in terms of environments and governance arrangements) and by the consequent need to engage with a very wide number and range of stakeholders.

We also learnt that there is a clear need for cross-checking and verification of scenarios, particularly for exploratory scenarios developed at this regional, cross-local authority, scale. The expert review, in this context, was invaluable and helped build confidence in the workshop outputs.

Click here to view the Severn IMCORE Scenarios summary




Our Severn exploratory scenarios:

We also learnt how difficult it is to simplify complex scenarios into narratives that are easy to understand and plausible for planners. The focus on somewhat generic drivers throughout the workshops lead to scenarios which had a more strategic rather than local feel. Time and effort had to be spent trying to 'localise' the scenarios with suitable examples to make them more appealing and relevant to the target audience. All this meant that it took much longer than anticipated to build plausible scenarios.

Getting stakeholders to engage with the final scenario outputs has been variable and at times more difficult than anticipated, with some stakeholders reluctant to 'visualise' the possible worlds portrayed in the scenarios, preferring to focus on current, pressing local issues. However, the complementary Delphi survey provided some useful planning-specific and topical content to feed into the development of the adaptation guidelines and was appreciated by such sceptics.

The need to stress that the scenarios developed should 'evolve' in the light of new knowledge and changing political, economic and other circumstances has been an aspect we have stressed throughout the process. As a result, we decided that the full scenario narratives were best confined to the Severn IMCORE website, where they could be updated, as appropriate. Briefer and more accessible summaries of each of the four scenarios were circulated and given to stakeholders at relevant meetings and events (e.g. the Severn Estuary Forum) ensuring wide dissemination of these important outputs.

Click here to view the Summary of Severn IMCORE scenarios and here to view the webpage

Click the link here to download the IMCORE Scenario report


Scenario Development

Following the planning surveys, we decided on the following techniques to develop the Severn Estuary exploratory scenarios:

- Workshops with key stakeholders and associated follow up

- A Delphi survey with planning community

- Scenario testing through internal and external expert reviews

Once again, we decided on a staged approach on the Severn to ensure as wide engagement and involvement in the scenario development as possible, particularly in the context of travel and time restrictions on local authority staff. The use of experts in scenario testing and the cross validation of results through the Delphi survey also enabled us to develop more plausible exploratory scenarios for the region. The Severn Estuary, as noted in Section 1 above, is complex, both in terms of its environment and in terms of its socio-economic and institutional setting.

Within this stage the scenario workshops were perhaps the most vital element in the process, enabling us to verify and build on the issues identified in the previous stage (Section 4) as well as start to develop the exploratory scenarios with the key stakeholders within a clear and structured process.


Workshops with key stakeholders
What we did

Conducted two scenario workshops (Bristol and Cardiff) to explore the: Planning response to climate change

Why we did it

Highly differentiated and numerous discrete stakeholder groups likely to benefit from capacity building and strategic conversation provided as by-products by the exploratory method. Also highlighted as best approach in the issues and challenges derived from IMCORE Severn Planning Review (Phases 1 & 2)

Two workshops in different locations were chosen in order to facilitate attendance, given the scale of the estuary and the limited availability and budgets of participants. We invited a wide range of stakeholders with interests in the planning system, including planning officers, government agency personnel, representatives of key sectors and ngos, as well as researchers from around the estuary.

What we achieved Through the workshop process we were able to

- engage a range of stakeholders including planners and other stakeholders with an interest / link to planning around the estuary

- provide opportunity for wide ranging discussions

- provide opportunity for stakeholders to 'think outside the box' (outside usual issues/certainties)

- help stakeholders understand each others' perspectives better

- provide new insight and understanding of existing issues

- promote ICZM

- help stakeholders question simple, predictive scenario approaches

Problems we had Through the workshop process we encountered:

• time constraints of potential attendees

• issues associated with the size of the estuary (for local authority attendance)

• some stakeholders who had difficulty in understanding process

After the workshops, there was some difficulty in engaging with stakeholders in post workshop communication, particularly in relation to scenario development. It was considered that this was largely a time constraint, but the complexity of the initial scenarios possibly was also a deterrent.


Some solutions to the workshop problems were:

The use of external expert to help with facilitation.

The organisation of two workshops, one on each side of the estuary, to encourage wider participation. In relation to the two workshops it had been anticipated there might have been problems in combining the outputs of the workshops. However, this was generally not the case with similar themes coming through from both events.

What we learned

From the workshops we learned that it is essential to use well trained facilitators who have experience of the process. In terms of workshop preparation it also became clear not to expect too much of stakeholders prior to workshops. There Dissemination of workshop findings: Need imaginative and engaging dissemination. Don't over-detail at the outset – it confuses them.

Best to explain process to stakeholders on the job, in vivo.

To gain stakeholder support and buy in there is a need for relevant and appropriate targets, using existing contacts and networks).

Post workshops, it was decided to target specific authorities to discuss the scenario descriptions to enable these to be made more meaningful for the local authority officer audience.


Click here to view the Climate Change Scenario general leaflet used for workshops

Click here to view the Severn IMCORE Scenarios Workshop Overview

Click here to view the Severn Workshop Outputs Report

Click here to view the Severn Scenario drivers list 


Internal and external expert review of scenarios to refine and check scenario validity
What we did

Internal review: workshops with Cardiff University academic experts from a wide range of different perspectives

External review: 3 days desk top consultancy reviews of the scenario process and descriptions

Why we did it

Expert review needed to check plausibility and expand on key aspects of the scenarios. We did not have enough expertise in-house to be able to develop aspects related to the economic characteristics of the scenarios.

What we achieved Validation of scenarios

Identification of additional drivers and issues relevant to scenarios in relation to a range of different relevant perspectives.

Problems we had Gaining considerable very contrasting inputs from experts and synthesising these into meaningful scenarios. Getting experts from a wide range of backgrounds to work to the same brief and to understand the scenario development process and output.

Clear (and modified) guidance to experts in terms of scenario development and their specific review role.

What we learned

Expert review is a useful adjunct to the workshop, providing greater confidence in the resultant scenarios. It also provided some fresh ideas to the process.


Please click the link here to view the summary of the expert review

Click here to view the scenario outputs from Cardiff internal workshops

Cardiff University internal review (including natural and social science issue seminars) can be viewed here

Delphi survey with planning community
What we did

An on-line questionnaire (Delphi) survey with Severn Estuary planning and related stakeholders (used Calibrum Corporation Delphi Online software)

Why we did it

- to inform the development of IMCORE guidelines for climate change coastal adaptation for local planning authorities around the Estuary

- to gather views on a range of important areas identified already through previous research and consultation with Severn Estuary planning and other key stakeholders

Within the context of planning for coastal adaptation the survey also sought to:

• collect trans-disciplinary visions about the future for planning

• explore assumptions or expectations about prospective developments

• reveal judgements related to relevant topics

• identify interconnections between topics

• pinpoint the most likely areas of consensus

What we achieved Detailed responses from 42 individuals with clear findings in relation to the political, economic, social, technical, legal and environmental (PESTLE) issues related to planning for climate change. There were some clear inadequacies of the planning system outlined within the results as well as some useful observations for informing the development of the Severn Estuary adaptation guidelines.
Problems we had Getting a sufficient response rate to the survey, given the timing of the initial survey over the Christmas period.

Designing suitable questions and restricting the questionnaire to something that would be able to be completed with relative ease and speed.

A few respondents had difficulties with the software.


Having two survey rounds to ensure a wider response rate.

In terms of questionnaire design, an external, independent expert was invited to provide input and the questionnaire was piloted with a range of relevant individuals prior to being released.

What we learned

A Delphi on-line survey can be a very useful supplement to engage with a wider expert and stakeholder base and to verify and expand on results from other surveys. We learnt that there needs to be sufficient time to design and pilot such surveys and that having external review of questions/questionnaire format can help ensure that the survey is manageable and meaningful.



Click here to view an extract from the Delphi survey

Click here to view the summary results from the Delphi survey

Click here to view the Report of Delphi survey


This learning portal brings together the results and lessons learned from the IMCORE project. This project was funded under the Interreg IVB programme from 2008 to 2011.

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