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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 Scottish Marine Act 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 Scottish Marine Act external site introduces a 3-tier marine planning system:

Once marine plans are in place, public bodies must take decisions, such as granting licences or planning permission, in accordance with the plan policies. The National Marine Plan external site   is under development, with regional plans due to follow according to the strategic framework described at that higher tier.

The objectives set for any plan are very important in steering planning decisions and helping planners to balance competing demands. In addition to social, economic and environmental objectives for the sustainable development of our seas, we see Marine Ecosystem Objectives having a key role. These may set out the environmental limits within which development could take place, or at least support a framework and policies to make informed decisions to ensure that international obligations (such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive) are met and that our seas remain healthy and productive for future generations.

Our engagement in marine planning

A series of pilot projects have trialled approaches to preparing regional and local marine plans in Scotland. The Scottish Sustainable Marine Environment Initiative external site  included 3 pilot planning projects for the Firth of Clyde, external site Shetland Isles external site and Sound of Mull external site . There is also a pilot project underway in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area external site .

Although the details of Scotland's marine planning system have not yet been determined, we are likely to have an important role in plan preparation, implementation and monitoring at both the national and regional scale. We will:

  • work jointly with other agencies and stakeholders as part of a joint process of plan-making;
  • advise on the Strategic Environmental Assessment 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.

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



Last updated on Friday 30th May 2014 at 11:09 AM. Click here to comment on this page