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Although “sustainable development” lacks a universally accepted definition, it can be seen as a policy area that attempts to draw together, compare, and resolve economic, social, and environmental issues as a principle or “working ethic.” The inclusion of the social factor not only adds an important dimension to economic/environmental problems but also identifies the need for local actors’ support, particularly through the policy area of Local Agenda 21. It is public participation that primarily draws together citizens and decision-makers in this context so that information can be obtained, understandings increased, and solutions reached. However, in as much as definitions of sustainable development can vary, “public participation” is equally difficult to discuss, and the simplistic way that many in research and practice view it needs to be challenged. Participation is not a unique or shared construct, and failure to recognize differing views can lead to unsatisfactory outcomes for all. With this comes a need to understand the ways actors choose to become involved in public participation and the methods they use, from the perspective of both a participant and those that wish to consult.

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