With a projected increase in electricity demand and low-carbon energy generation in the UK, expansion of the existing electricity network is required (DECC, 2011). In going beyond the NIMBY concept, Devine-Wright (2009) posits a place-based approach that highlights the role of place attachment in shaping responses to energy infrastructure proposals. Moving past one-dimensional accounts of place attachment a five-partite typology of ‘people-place relations’ has emerged (Hummon, 1992; Lewicka, 2011). This typology comprises two forms of place attachment and three forms of non-attachment to place. Whilst valuable, these studies adopt cross-sectional research designs that overlook the dynamic nature of people-place relations over time. Furthermore, existing research has tended to overlook potential impacts of electricity infrastructure proposals upon ‘people place relations’. This study thus set out to investigate both the dynamic nature of people-place relations over time, and the disruptive or enhancing impacts of a transmission line proposal upon those place relations, with a view to better understanding public responses to such developments.

The above research aims were attended to in an empirical study that utilised semi-structured narrative interviews (n=25) amongst a stratified random sample of Nailsea residents, South-West England, where active opposition to a transmission line proposal (the Hinckley Point C project) arose. Narrative interviews were deemed well suited to exploring the changing nature of people’s place relations over time and to investigating individuals’ experiences of and responses to the proposed transmission line. Thematic narrative analysis (Riessman, 2008) was utilised in order to gauge the dynamic nature of people’s place relations over time.

Findings suggest that: (1) people’s place relations change over time due to a range of both social (e.g. separation, death of a family member, increased social bonding) and environmental (e.g. actual or proposed place change) causes; (2) The Hinckley Point C power line proposal was seen to have a disruptive impact on those identifying with varieties of place attachment resulting in weakened place bonds and project opposition; (3) A lack of perceived fit arose between place and project based representations, with the power line seen to industrialise surrounding countryside areas and thus induce project opposition. The extent to which place-based factors predict opposition to the power line proposal could be the object of a future questionnaire survey study; (4) Some interview participants portrayed the power line proposal favourably as an ‘iconic’, ‘majestic’ and ‘familiar’ form of electrical infrastructure. For such individuals no disparity existed between place and project-based meanings and indifference to the power line proposal was expressed.

This study suggests that people’s place relations are dynamic over time and proposes that future studies could move away from static conceptualisations of people-place relations through adopting biographical/narrative or longitudinal research designs. The study further suggests that disruption to existing forms of place attachment and threat to place-based meanings may induce opposition to energy infrastructure proposals. Greater sensitivity could be paid to this place-based dimension by energy developers both in attempts to allay opposition and in facilitating the transition toward low-carbon energy generation and transmission in the UK.