We polled over 1,500 UK internet users to find out what type of new infrastructure development they'd least like to see built near them.
The results of our beauty contest are in. Adjusted to ensure they are representative of the UK general population, 1,274 respondents gave us an insight into the relative popularity of certain types of new infrastructure were it to be built near them.
Tied in joint first place as the least popular form of development were waste facilities (32%) and oil and gas fracking sites (32%).
The next least popular form of infrastructure development was new housing, according to 15% of respondents.
11% of respondents said new road or rail infrastructure would be their least favoured development, with 10% saying large-scale renewables like wind or solar.
So what are we to make of these numbers?
Well, its probably no surprise to find waste facilities like recycling and incineration proving unpopular as potential neighbours. People's perception is likely to be that they are noisy, smelly and responsible for a constant stream of heavy goods vehicles delivering waste. They may also be worried about health risks, particularly in relation to incinerators thanks to the work of campaign groups that have, over the years, claimed that stack emissions are responsible for causing local cancer clusters etc (though there is apparently no evidence of this).
Oil and gas fracking sites are rarely out of the news, with every story referring to such developments as 'controversial'. Say that enough and it's bound to leave people with that impression, even if they don't really know much about it. Campaigners have also done a good job of spreading rumours about water contamination and earthquakes, and so anyone that's been exposed to these messages is likely to have reservations, making it no surprise that such sites share the top spot with waste facilities.
Fears about potential property price impacts and extra strain on local services are probably behind the fact that 15% of people said new housing was the sort of development they'd least like to see built near them. A home is the most expensive purchase most people will ever make, and something they will invest the most money in, so anything that could threaten that - especially by potentially lowering its value - is going to be viewed with scepticism. The sense most people will have is that an increase in the supply of housing in an area will bring down average values. Likewise, an influx of new families could put additional stress on GP lists, NHS dentists and schools.
When it comes to new road and rail, the results of our poll are very interesting. The fact that only 11% of people said this was the type of new infrastructure they'd least favour near them suggests two things: firstly, that they recognise the advantages that come with better connectivity of people and goods; and, secondly, that they're fed up of congestion. They're generally accepting of this sort of major development because they can see the benefits to them and because road and rail infrastructure already exists all around us so people are used to it; they know that the disruptive construction phase is soon forgotten.
The relative popularity of large-scale renewables is likely due to to their somewhat 'fit-and-forget' nature and the way they are portrayed in the media - particularly in respect of emissions savings. They're sold to us as being 'wholesome' and 'clean' and that clearly influences people's perception of them as potential neighbours.
But the overall message here, again, is that the triad of concerns that matter most to us - health, wealth and happiness - are likely to be at play in the way we view these sorts of controversial yet critical infrastructure developments.
For developers bringing forward plans, that means ensuring that your stakeholder engagement and community relations efforts are targeted toward addressing health, wealth and happiness impacts.
However, there's a caveat: like any poll, respondents answered our question posed in the abstract. So, whilst it could be argued that 90% of people would be happy to have a wind farm built near them based on our results, it's unlikely that such a development would prove so popular in practice. Likewise, the apparent unpopularity of waste facilities doesn't mean that they'll always be met with opposition.
Understanding how potentially affected communities could perceive your proposals, and why, is essential to meaningful stakeholder engagement.