Planning Circular 1/2015: relationship between the statutory land use planning system and marine planning and licencing

The circular explains the relationship between the marine and terrestrial planning systems, including related regimes such as marine licencing and consenting for offshore energy generation, ports and harbours development and aquaculture.

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Marine Legislation

7. The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 ('the Act') along with the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 ('the UK Act') (the marine Acts) forms the legislative framework for the marine environment. Implementation of the marine Acts, in particular on marine planning, provides key delivery mechanisms for international obligations and Directives including the EU Marine Spatial Planning Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

8. The Act provides a framework to help balance competing demands on Scotland's seas. It introduces duties to protect and enhance the marine environment. The main measures include:

  • Marine planning: a new statutory marine planning system to sustainably manage the increasing, and potentially conflicting, demands on our seas.
  • Marine licensing: a simpler licensing system, minimising the number of licences required for development in the marine environment.
  • Marine conservation: improved conservation powers for marine natural and cultural heritage.
  • Seal conservation: improved protection for seals and a new licence system to ensure appropriate management where necessary.
  • Enforcement: a range of enhanced powers for marine conservation and licensing.

9. In accordance with Part 2 of the Act, Scottish Ministers and public authorities must, in carrying out any statutory function which affects the Scottish marine area [3] (out to 12 nautical miles), act in a way best calculated to further the achievement of sustainable development. This includes the protection and, where appropriate, enhancement of the health of that area, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of the function concerned. Under Part 2 of the Act, when carrying out any function under either that Act, the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, or any other enactment that affects the Scottish marine area, Scottish Ministers and public authorities must also act in a way best calculated to mitigate and adapt to climate change, so far as is consistent with the purpose of the function concerned.

10. This applies to terrestrial planning functions which affect the Scottish marine area in the same way as it applies to marine planning functions.

11. In accordance with the Act, Scottish Ministers have responsibility for marine planning, nature conservation, licensing and enforcement from Mean High Water Springs out to 12 nautical miles. In addition, the UK Act executively devolves responsibility to Scottish Ministers for marine planning, nature conservation, licensing and enforcement in waters adjacent to Scotland out to 200 nautical miles. With the approval of the UK Secretary for State, this includes planning for reserved activities such as oil and gas, shipping and telecommunications, although licensing for these remains reserved to the UK Government. In effect this means that marine planning in Scotland applies to the exercise of both reserved and devolved functions from Mean High Water Springs out to 200 nautical miles.


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