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Marine planning

Why do we need marine planning?

There has been a planning system on land for over 50 years, but until now there has been no similar system to plan for all uses of the marine environment. This has meant that different sectors have developed in isolation from each other and there has been no way to plan ahead and coordinate activities in our increasingly busy seas.

What should marine planning deliver?

We welcome the introduction of a marine planning system as one of the most important elements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 external site . We are keen that marine planning will:

  • guide the location of all marine uses and activities and ensure they occur in the most suitable and least environmentally sensitive areas; 
  • minimise conflicts of interest and encourage compatible uses;
  • be guided by clear sustainable development objectives and respect environmental limits to ensure healthy and productive seas in the future;
  • identify and safeguard important natural and cultural heritage features, including Priority Marine Features and complement the role of Marine Protected Areas .
  • support, where appropriate, measures to actively improve the environmental quality of Scotland's coasts and seas, particularly where these qualities enhance ecosystem services.

How will marine planning work?

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 external site introduces a 3-tier marine planning system:

  • International - providing links to the UK Marine Act provisions (through a UK Marine Policy Statement external site ) and to wider initiatives such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive;
  • National - a Scottish National Marine Plan external site   (NMP) setting out high-level objectives, general policies and sectoral policies. Scotland's first National Marine Plan was adopted under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 in March 2015, providing a high-level framework for the management of all developments, activities and interests in the marine environment around Scotland (territorial and offshore waters);
  • Regional - Regional Marine Plans external site , which may be prepared for 11 Scottish Marine Regions external site  covering Scottish territorial waters. Statutory regional Marine Planning Partnerships (MPPs) are expected to be established in a phased roll out. Regional marine plans must be developed in accordance with the NMP.

The first two regions expected to establish MPPs are the Clyde and Shetland regions. In the Clyde region work is already underway via the auspices of the Clyde Forum. Shetland already has a marine plan, now in its fourth iteration and adopted as supplementary guidance to the Shetland Local Development Plan external site (under the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1984).

Once marine plans are in place, public bodies must take decisions, such as granting licences or planning permission, in accordance with the plan policies.

Our engagement in marine planning

We have previously engaged with a series of pilot projects that trialled approaches to preparing regional and local marine plans in Scotland. The Scottish Sustainable Marine Environment Initiative external site  (SSMEI) included 3 pilot planning projects for the Firth of Clyde, external site  Shetland and Sound of Mull external site . More recently we have provided input to the development of a pilot plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area external site . We have also had considerable input to the development of the Shetland Marine Plan external site , which progressed from the SSMEI project.

Looking forward to further marine planning under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, we are likely to have an important role in plan preparation, implementation and monitoring at both the national and regional scales. We will:

  • work jointly with other agencies and stakeholders as part of a joint process of plan-making;
  • advise on the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitat Regulations Appraisal of marine plans;
  • provide information on the importance, distribution and sensitivity of marine habitats and species;
  • help to determine marine natural heritage priorities (including biodiversity, geology, landscape and recreation);
  • advise on the management of Marine Protected Areas and other sensitive sites within the plan area;
  • support coherence of planning systems across the land-sea interface by joint-working across units in SNH.

We are members of the Scottish Coastal Forum external site  and work closely with communities through local coastal partnerships and Inshore Fishery Groups external site . Our engagement with these groups will be closely linked to our input to marine plans.

Last updated on Wednesday 16th December 2015 at 11:15 AM. Click here to comment on this page