What risks in whose risk society? : an assessment of what effect, if any, the historic and contemporary socio-economic conditions and expectations of the community of Sands End, Fulham, London, had on the character and dynamics of the 1983-1984 debate over the decontamination and demolition of Fulham Power Station
The thesis discusses the mediating role of socioeconomic factors in risk debates through an examination of the decontamination and demolition of Fulham Power Station in 1983-1984. The power station was built between the wars by and for the people of Fulham. Located on the Thames in the neighbourhood of Sands End, it generated electricity and provided employment until 1978, when it was sold to a property development company. During the decontamination, a quantity of asbestos was released into the environment. A protest group was formed to secure better standards of work at the site. The group never had more than a dozen active members. All the members were middle-class. At the time of the decontamination and demolition, Sands End was a poor neighbourhood. A majority of the local population faced many 'social' as well as environmental hazards. Amongst these were sub-standard housing, unemployment, under-employment, low wages, inadequate work and educational skills and crime. The thesis discusses whether the neighbourhood's socioeconomic problems had any bearing on the character and dynamics of the power station debate. It suggests that the social geography and economic status of Sands End had two major effects on the debate. Firstly, gentrification provided the neighbourhood with a (small) middle-class constituency receptive to issues of environmental risk, such as the long-term health implications of airborne asbestos dust. Secondly, the neighbourhood's pressing social and economic problems mitigated against a wider involvement in the campaign. Most residents were too preoccupied with meeting their social and economic needs to become actively involved. The thesis also suggests that the population's experience of Fulham Power Station as a source of 'convenient' electrical power, employment and civic pride may have made it difficult for those native to Sands End to accept the activists' construction of the power station as a source of danger.