Health Impact Assessment of Transport Projects for Plaine Commune

Health Impact Assessment of Transport Projects for Plaine Commune

English

Problems and Purpose

Plaine Commune, an agglomeration of municipal districts, is situated to the north of Paris and is a mix of disused industrial sites and modern office buildings. As early as 1984, plans to expand and improve the area's infrastructure and public transportation were discussed as a way to improve and revitalize the area’s economy and prestige. However, to mitigate any potential negative consequences these planned expansions might have on the local population, the decision was made to conduct a Health Impact Assessment (HIA, EIS in French) of the three projects. To further ensure the wellbeing and to cater to the needs and wishes of the affected population, they were involved in the HIA process through the form of various focus groups and interviews. The purpose of their inclusion was to give them the opportunity to voice any opinions they might have regarding potential positive and negative impacts of the expansion. They were also questioned on what type of transports they commonly use.[1]      

History

As previously mentioned, the nine communes which together make up Plaine Commune are situated in Seine-Saint-Denis, a department located north of Paris. Traditionally, Plaine Commune has a significant heritage of being a working class suburb. It is defined by its young population and the diversity of their background. Furthermore, a significant part of the population are/were experiencing various social difficulties and the region suffers from a great gap in development between the north and the south of Plaine Commune.[2]

            In contrast to this, however, Plaine Commune is considered to be “one of the local areas with the strongest potential for growth and development in the Paris metropolitan area.” It is a part of the Local Area Development Contract (LADC), Contrat de Développement Territorial (CDT) in French, which is associated with the Grand Paris project. One of the LADC’s stated goals is to improve journeys across the local area, and to improve connections to and from Paris. As such, three objectives were set up to achieve that goal: improving the offer and quality of  existing public transport and develop new inter-suburb transport networks; decreases the usage of cars in the area; and finally, render the whole area more accessible to cyclists, pedestrians, and public transport users.[3]

            This stated goal of the LADC comes against a background of general discontent by the population with the, at the time, current state of public transport. When asked about it, participants described the available means of public transport as insufficient. Access to schools, universities, shops, and other various services were perceived to be difficult by the public. Women in particular did not feel at ease with using public transport late at night on their way home. All participants further raised the point that the costs of public transport were too high. All this had for consequence that people were reduced in their mobility.[4] Improvements of the modes of transport available were thus greatly needed.    

 

 

Originating Entities and Funding

The decision to conduct a HIA of the planned projects was taken by Plaine Commune and by the Île-de-France Regional Health Agency (ARS in French), with slightly different motivations. Plaine Commune was undergoing a significant growth in its transport network capabilities on its way to becoming a major transport nexus in the Grand Paris project. As such, it wished to ensure that those transport developments benefited all of its population.

            As to the ARS, they intended to more generally develop advocacy tools so as to ensure the inclusion of health into considerations regarding urban planning projects and public policies. Their goal with this was to reduce social and territorial health inequalities.[5]

            Both being government organizations, the funding would have been provided by the superior regional or central government.

 

 

Participant Selection

The goal of the HIA was of course to study the potential health impacts of the whole population. But more specifically, the focus was put on those groups of the population who were considered to be extra vulnerable in relation to transport and health, and who would otherwise rarely get the opportunity to have their voice heard. These various groups were identified by resorting to the available academic literature around the topic, in addition to looking at which of these groups were part of the inhabitants of Plaine Commune. In the end, seven different groups were identified: young people, job seekers, people with an immigrant background, the elderly, the handicapped, poor households, and lastly, single mums. These different groups were considered vulnerable for various different reasons, ranging from bad access to educational and sportive facilities, to language and economic difficulties.[6]

            These focus groups were recruited through various different organisations and institutions, such as community centres, neighbourhood councils, etc.[7] In Ville de Stains, young girls in the age bracket of 14 to 18 were recruited from a health educational association called ‘Femmes dans la Cité’ (Women in the City). Likewise, another group consisting of women of varying ages and backgrounds were also recruited through ‘Femmes dans la Cité’.[8] In Ville de Villetaneuse, cooperation with the mayor’s office permitted the recruitment of two vulnerable groups, young ones through local youth organizations, and job seekers by refereeing to the employment centre. Further, the decision was also made recruit students from the University of Villetaneuse. Within that group emphasis was put on students who did not live in the local area, found through the student housing organisation ‘Crous’.[9]

            The locations of the meeting points for the various focus groups were situated as close as possible to the participants, often in the location of the association they had been recruited through.[10] In this way, travel for the participants was minimized and their participation facilitated.

               

 

 

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

The focus groups as much as possible consisted of around ten people. In some cases, interviews were held rather that focus groups, according to the situation. Participants and the group facilitators were seated in circles or around tables. The number of observers were tried to be kept to a minimum. However, the people responsible for inviting the participants, such as the leaders of one of the associations they were recruited through, were present for the entirety of all meetings. Their role was to intervene when necessary and to be a person of confidence for the participators. Further, in the beginning of most meetings, a member of the local government was present so as to present the objective of the meeting.[11]     

            Members of the HIA evaluation team were also present during the meeting. Usually this team consisted of three people; one to lead the debate, and two who were responsible for note taking. All meetings, with the authorisation of the participants, were recorded. This recordings were all destroyed at the end of the study.[12]

 

 

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

In the end, various recommendations were made, factoring in the data results from the inhabitants’ participation. The different focus groups were also revisited after the study to further allow them the opportunity to put in their recommendations.[13] The three different public transport expansions were all given the green light to go through, so the local population’s participation lead to real world consequences in their local communities. Further, all recommendations were marked with an ‘O’ or ‘N’ (‘Oui’/’Non’, ‘Yes’/’No’ in French) to show whether these were recommendations which had been made with the involvement of the participants (see the tables on pp. 218-256). Interesting to note is also that some of these recommendations have been able to be put to use in other projects of a similar type, both elsewhere in France and abroad.[14]

 

 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Seemingly, the whole process and the participatory inclusion of the habitants of Plaine Ville seems to have been a success. Multiple recommendations were made and not only were the participants’ opinions included, it was further pointed which recommendations had been made with or without them, emphasizing the importance of their inclusion. Their inclusion further allowed the stakeholders to be informed of the opinions and situations of some of the most vulnerable members of society, in addition to identifying them in the first place. The various needs of these vulnerable groups served to alter certain recommendations as appropriate.[15]

            Further, the HIA has initiated a greater process of empowerment. Through the associations of the participants, they were given the chance to make their voice heard and to discuss and deliberate with other societal groups, which they normally may not have much contact with.[16]

            According to Pateman[17], democracy is essentially a process belonging to the people. That is to say, they are the main actors in it. Within this framing, the HIA conducted by Plaine Commune seems like a good example of that. The people concerned were consulted and their opinions were seriously taken to heart. What’s interesting here is to put it against the background of general French politics. With a great emphasis on representational democracy, its role is often seen as protecting the general interest against that of individuals and groups. Often the involvement of societal groups in decision-making is seen as encroaching on public power for the benefit of only certain parts of the public.[18] As such, Plaine Commune’s decision only to target certain groups, rather than an average of the habitants, could be seen as a confirmation of this fear. However, France is not foreign to direct participatory democracy. A number of laws from the 1990s invited and made compulsory the consultation of affected citizens when it comes to infrastructure projects.[19]

                Worth noting is that in Southern Europe, including France, democratic participation is more developed on the local rather than at the national level, and that on the local level it is often the initiative of left-wing local governments.[20] This fits well with Paris, and France, voting for the French Socialist party in the 2012 election.[21] Accordingly, Plaine Commune would have been under a socialist government in 2014 when the HIA was made. Further, Plaine Communes’ use of democratic participation fits into the narrative of participation being used to strengthen local communities and increasing solidarity within the area.[22] It would also have served to empower an low-income district, as recommended by many French experts in urban policy.[23]

            Lastly, the whole project was mentioned in the newspaper Le Parisien. Their article also presents the HIA as having done well, focusing on the great role health has taken in urban planning.[24]

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secondary Sources

"Ces Projets De Transports Sont-Ils Bons Pour La Santé ?". Leparisien.Fr, 2014. http://www.leparisien.fr/espace-premium/seine-saint-denis-93/ces-projets-de-transports-sont-ils-bons-pour-la-sante-19-11-2014-4302869.php.

della Porta, Donatella, Yves Sintomer, and Joan Font. Participatory Democracy In Southern Europe: Causes, Characteristics And Consequences. London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014.

Laporte, Anne, and Muriel Dubreuil. Évaluation Des Impacts Sur La Santé De Projets Transport De Plaine Commune. Ebook. Paris: Agence régionale de santé (ARS) Île-de-France, Observatoire régional de la santé (ORS) Île-de-France, 2014. https://www.iledefrance.ars.sante.fr/sites/default/files/2017-02/EIS-plaine-commune-rapport-integral.pdf.

Laporte, Anne, and Muriel Dubreuil. Health Impact Assessment Of Transport Projects For Plaine Commune (Summary). Ebook. Paris: Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS – Regional Health Agency) Île-de-France, Observatoire Régional de la Santé (ORS – Regional Health Observatory) Île-de-France, 2014. http://healthimpactassessment.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/hia-of-transport-projects-for-plaine.html.

Pateman, Carole. Participation And Democratic Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

"Résultats De L'élection Présidentielle 2012". Http://Www.Interieur.Gouv.Fr/Elections/Les-Resultats/Presidentielles/Elecresult__PR2012, 2017. https://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Elections/Les-resultats/Presidentielles/elecresult__PR2012/(path)/PR2012/011/011.html.

Saurugger, Sabine. "Democratic ‘Misfit’? Conceptions Of Civil Society Participation In France And The European Union". Political Studies 55, no. 2 (2007): 384-404. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.2007.00662.x.

Talpin, Julien. Mobilizing People In Low-Income Neighbourhoods: The Virtues And Ambiguities Of Community Organizing. Ebook. Books and Ideas, 2015. http://www.booksandideas.net/Mobilizing-People-in-Low-Income-Neighbourhoods.html.

 

 

External Links

https://www.iledefrance.ars.sante.fr/

http://www.plainecommune.fr/


[1] Laporte and Dubreuil, Health Impact Assessment Of Transport Projects For Plaine Commune (Summary), pp. 26-27.

[2] Ibid, p. 1.

[3] Laporte and Dubreuil, Évaluation Des Impacts Sur La Santé De Projets Transport De Plaine Commune, p. 17.

[4] Laporte and Dubreuil, Health Impact Assessment Of Transport Projects For Plaine Commune (Summary), p. 27.

[5] Laporte and Dubreuil, Évaluation Des Impacts Sur La Santé De Projets Transport De Plaine Commune, p. 17.

[6] Laporte and Dubreuil, Évaluation Des Impacts Sur La Santé De Projets Transport De Plaine Commune, pp. 100-102.

[7] Laporte and Dubreuil, Health Impact Assessment Of Transport Projects For Plaine Commune (Summary), p. 19.

[8] Laporte and Dubreuil, Évaluation Des Impacts Sur La Santé De Projets Transport De Plaine Commune, p. 288.

[9] Ibid, p. 288.

[10] Ibid, p. 286.

[11] Ibid, p. 286.

[12] Ibid, p. 286.

[13] Laporte and Dubreuil, Health Impact Assessment Of Transport Projects For Plaine Commune (Summary), p. 19.

[14] Laporte and Dubreuil, Évaluation Des Impacts Sur La Santé De Projets Transport De Plaine Commune, p. 217.

[15] Ibid, p. 264.

[16] Ibid, p. 264.

[17] Pateman, Participation And Democratic Theory.

[18] Saurugger, "Democratic ‘Misfit’? Conceptions Of Civil Society Participation In France And The European Union.", p. 389

[19] Ibid, pp. 393-394.

[20] della Porta, Sintomer and Font, Participatory Democracy In Southern Europe: Causes, Characteristics And Consequences, p. 24, p. 28.

[21] "Résultats De L'élection Présidentielle 2012.”

[22] della Porta, Sintomer and Font, Participatory Democracy In Southern Europe, p. 28.

[23] Talpin, Mobilizing People In Low-Income Neighbourhoods: The Virtues And Ambiguities Of Community Organizing, p. 1.

[24] "Ces Projets De Transports Sont-Ils Bons Pour La Santé ?."

 

Case Data

Overview

Location

Geolocation: 
Plaine Commune Paris
France
FR

History

Start Date: 
[no data entered]
End Date: 
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Ongoing: 
No
Number of Meeting Days: 
[no data entered]

Participants

Targeted Participants (Public Roles): 

Process

Methods: 
[no data entered]
Facilitation?: 
Yes
Facetoface, Online or Both: 
Face-to-Face
Decision Method(s)?: 
If voting...: 
[no data entered]
Method of Communication with Audience: 

Organizers

Who paid for the project or initiative?: 
French government
Who was primarily responsible for organizing the initiative?: 
[no data entered]
Who else supported the initiative? : 
[no data entered]
Types of Supporting Entities: 
[no data entered]

Resources

Total Budget: 
[no data entered]
Average Annual Budget: 
[no data entered]
Number of Full-Time Staff: 
[no data entered]
Number of Part-Time Staff: 
[no data entered]
Staff Type: 
[no data entered]
Number of Volunteers: 
[no data entered]

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