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The unknown but well-known wells in Holma. Public participation and norms in the City Tunnel Project in Malmö

  • Per Wickenberg
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 42-57
Publication/Series: Retfærd: Nordisk juridisk tidsskrift
Volume: 133
Issue: 2
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: DJØF Publishing

Abstract english

Environmental management in the City Tunnel Project was a three-year, sociology of law research project (1999-2003) on how the new Environmental Code was applied to one of the largest infrastructural projects in Sweden: the City Tunnel in Malmö. The aim of this article is, after some years, to reflect on and re-examine what happened during the two extended consultations processes to try to find an understanding and explanation of what happened when the tunnel project totally changed the focus and structure for the consultations.

In this article there is an interesting combination of both lifeworld and system oriented perspectives and findings. The law (the Environmental Code), belonging to the system, could, with new and more bold, personal knowledge and interpretations by the management how to realize the extended consultations, thus meet the citizens’ personal demands and needs stemming from their lifeworld. Legality and legitimacy became in my interpretation two of the other key concepts in the analysis of the public consultations in the City Tunnel project. These concepts were also to have a great significance for the interpretation and understanding of what happened and why the design of the consultations totally changed form and content. The need for legitimacy regarding the City Tunnel project in Malmö – with its big social pressure that the tunnel at all costs must be accepted by the residents and citizens of Malmö – was also a driving force behind the fact that the management was realizing and using the legal means which included new opportunities. This change in the City Tunnel organisation regarding the public consultations was thus made possible due to two factors: the need for legitimacy by the citizens for the great construction project in Malmö; and a reflective leadership using social norms on public participation, realising the need for a revamp of the consultation design. In this last part the new environmental law was clearly supporting changes in a direction towards concrete public participation by citizens to have a say leading to sharing local knowledge and thus to some extent influence the building project. This local knowledge saved a lot of time and money for the City Tunnel Project e.g. in finding the unknown wells in Holma. Local knowledge was an excellent example and a result of real public participation during the second round of the consultations according to an open interpretation of the new Environmental Code. The law – in congruence with social norms and attitudes toward public participation in the management of the City Tunnel organisation – could in this case open up for broader public participation.


  • Law and Society
  • environment
  • public consultations
  • lifeworld
  • system
  • law
  • norm
  • legality
  • City Tunnel in Malmö
  • legitimacy
  • sustainable development
  • leadership


  • MiC-projektet, Miljöledning i Citytunnelprojektet i Malmö
  • MiC-projektet, Sociology of Law-lup-obsolete
  • ISSN: 0105-1121
Per Wickenberg
E-mail: per [dot] wickenberg [at] soclaw [dot] lu [dot] se


Department of Sociology of Law

+46 46 222 88 15



Professor emeritus

Department of Sociology of Law


Per Wickenberg was a primary school teacher in the 1970s - and '80s.  Since 1993 he has been working at Lund University, with various assignments based on sociology of law-research and education.

Sociology of Law Department
Lund University
Visiting address: Allhelgona Kyrkogata 14 M, 223 62 Lund, 3rd floor
Postal address: Box 42, 221 00 Lund

Faculty of Social Sciences