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 Planning

The Marine Policy Statement

12. The UK Marine Policy Statement was published jointly by the UK Government and Devolved Administrations in March 2011. It sets out a shared vision for the whole UK marine area [4] and provides a framework for preparing marine plans, including economic, social and environmental considerations which need to be taken into account. It also sets out strategic policy objectives for key marine sectors. The Marine Policy Statement makes a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the UK marine area.

13. The Scottish National Marine Plan and any subsequent Scottish regional marine plans must conform with the Marine Policy Statement, and public authorities must act in accordance with the Marine Policy Statement, unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise, when taking decisions that affect or might affect the UK marine area.

Marine Plans

14. In accordance with the marine Acts, Scottish Ministers are required to prepare a national marine plan for the Scottish marine area. They may also prepare regional marine plans for any Scottish marine region. Marine Plans must set out economic, social, marine ecosystem and climate change objectives for a marine plan area, consistent with the Marine Policy Statement. They will set out how marine resources can best be managed and will ensure that different and potentially competing activities are managed in such a way that they contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the Scottish marine area.

15. For the purposes of preparing a national or regional marine plan, the Act requires Scottish Ministers to undertake an assessment of the condition of the Scottish marine area and a summary of significant pressures of human activity. Scotland's Marine Atlas: information for the National Marine Plan provides such an assessment and is the evidence base upon which the National Marine Plan has been developed. Assessments at the level of the Scottish Marine Region are also required and will be undertaken appropriate to the regional scale [5] .

16. Marine plans must be kept under review. A report for each marine plan (national and regional) must be prepared at least every five years, at which time Ministers must consider whether the plan needs to be amended or replaced.

The National Marine Plan

17. In accordance with the marine Acts, Scottish Ministers have prepared a National Marine Plan which covers both the Scottish marine area (out to 12 nautical miles) and the UK marine area which is adjacent to Scotland (12 to 200 nautical miles).

18. The National Marine Plan contains objectives and policies for the sustainable development of key marine industries. It recognises that many marine activities require both marine and terrestrial components and also that marine activity has potential to impact on adjacent coastal areas, islands and communities through service provision and issues such as visual impact. The National Marine Plan therefore recognises and is consistent with the National Planning Framework and the Scottish Planning Policy. It promotes alignment through its policies, supporting text and specific proposals, including provision for national developments outlined in the National Planning Framework.

Regional Marine Plans

19. Marine planning will be implemented at a local level through Scottish Marine Regions to take account of local circumstances and issues and smaller ecosystem units. The boundaries of the 11 Scottish Marine Regions were established by The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015. The regions extend from Mean High Water Springs out to 12 nautical miles. An illustrative map of the boundaries is shown below and the boundaries are also available on National Marine Plan interactive (NMPi). Regional marine plans will be prepared for each Scottish Marine Region.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Illustrative Map of Scottish Marine Regions

20. Regional marine plans must be developed in conformity with the Marine Policy Statement and National Marine Plan unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. They will be more spatially detailed, reflecting their smaller scale, the level and complexity of marine activity that occurs within coastal regions and issues specific to these areas. The National Marine Plan contains sections and policies which provide particular guidance on matters to be considered when regional marine plans are being developed. The precise approach taken by a Marine Planning Partnership in developing regional plans will be based on local priorities, existing partnerships and alignment with other local plans.

21. All reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that a regional marine plan is compatible with any adjoining regional marine plan and with the development plan for any area which adjoins. This will help ensure consistency between regional marine plans and between regional marine plans and development plans across Scotland. The National Marine Plan also contains policies to ensure alignment with other relevant plans, such as River Basin Management Plans.

Marine Planning Partnerships

22. Within Scottish Marine Regions, regional marine plans will be developed by Marine Planning Partnerships.

23. Marine Planning Partnerships will take different forms in different regions to reflect variation in the number of participating local authorities and communities of interest. The policy intent is for Partnerships to operate in a way which is representative and inclusive, although the core group may be of limited numbers in order to facilitate decision making. The structure should be supported and informed by a broad framework of groups able to focus on particular issues and engage with the full range of stakeholders and interests. Key public bodies with a relevant national remit should be involved. In particular, the involvement of Local Authorities will be important in all Partnerships. Island Local Authorities will lead the Partnerships in their areas. Strategic and local development planners will usefully form a key component of local authority representation. Their involvement will help with the alignment of marine and terrestrial plans and transfer of knowledge.

24. Marine Planning Partnerships will lead on the preparation of regional marine plans taking into account the National Marine Plan and any specific direction from Scottish Ministers.

25. Marine Planning Partnership powers will not include licensing or consenting; this will remain the responsibility of consenting bodies such as Marine Scotland and Local Authorities. They will, however, be statutory consultees on marine licence applications submitted to Marine Scotland [6] . Terrestrial planning authorities are advised to consult Marine Planning Partnerships on fish farming applications and other developments with implications for the marine environment.

26. A phased approach will be taken to the establishment of Marine Planning Partnerships. It may take some time for all Partnerships to be fully functional and to develop regional marine plans.

The Marine Planning Process

27. The marine plan for an area will consist of the National Marine Plan and the regional marine plan which is in effect for that area.

28. The marine Acts require notice to be given, including to neighbouring terrestrial planning authorities, of the intention to prepare a national or regional marine plan. A statement of public participation must be prepared, and a draft of the plan published for public consultation.

29. The National Marine Plan must be laid before the Scottish Parliament, and Scottish Ministers must consider any resolution the Scottish Parliament may make before they adopt the plan. Regional marine plans will be subject to adoption by Scottish Ministers.

Alignment of marine and terrestrial plans

30. Marine plan boundaries extend up to Mean High Water Springs. Terrestrial planning boundaries extend down to Mean Low Water Springs, with the exception of fish farming which extends out to 12 nautical miles. There is therefore an overlap of planning jurisdictions in the inter-tidal area and for aquaculture. Outwith the intertidal zone, it is clear that marine development will have implications for the terrestrial environment and in turn that terrestrial development may have implications for the marine environment.

31. Policy consistency between marine and terrestrial plans will be crucial, particularly for those policy areas which have significant implications for both marine and terrestrial environments. This is likely to include renewable energy; electricity networks; coastal and flood defence; fish farming; ports and harbours; public access, tourism and recreation; protected sites and species; waste water infrastructure; carbon capture and storage; and landscape and seascape. The vast majority of marine development is likely to have implications for the adjacent terrestrial environment. This could arise from the need for access or infrastructure; or more broadly in terms of employment. Marine and development plan policy should address such potential implications and these common policy areas.

32. The importance of alignment between marine and terrestrial plans is reflected in legislation through both the marine Acts and the Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008, which require that marine plans and development plans have regard to each other. This will help ensure that decision making under each framework is consistent with regards to the marine environment.

Authorisation and enforcement

33. Section 15 of the Act and Section 58 of the UK Act require that all public authorities taking authorisation or enforcement decisions that affect or might affect the Scottish marine area or the UK marine area, respectively, must do so in accordance with the UK Marine Policy Statement, the National Marine Plan and any subsequent regional marine plan once adopted, unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. This includes decisions on terrestrial planning applications and enforcement action.

34. The Town and County Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 requires determinations to be made in accordance with development plans unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

35. In accordance with Section 15 of the Act and Section 58 of the UK Act, public authorities, when making decisions which are capable of affecting the Scottish marine area or the UK marine area, respectively, which are not authorisation or enforcement decisions, must have regard to the UK Marine Policy Statement and the National and regional marine plans. This applies to the preparation and adoption of terrestrial development plans.

36. In accordance with paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 to the Act all reasonable steps must be taken to secure that any regional marine plan is compatible with the development plan for an area which adjoins the marine area. This may require compatibility with more than one development plan.

Plan Development

37. In order for decisions to accord with marine plans and terrestrial development plans, it is essential that such plans are compatible with each other. Alignment between marine plans and terrestrial development plans can be positively addressed through:

Liaison between marine and terrestrial planning authorities

38. Liaison between marine and terrestrial planning authorities is essential in plan preparation and will involve close collaboration as well as formal consultation between authorities at each successive stage of marine and terrestrial plan preparation. This will help ensure that plans are developed with an understanding of both terrestrial and marine issues, objectives, policies and proposals. Terrestrial planning authorities will have a key role in the preparation of marine plans, and in some marine regions will be the lead partner. It will be beneficial to involve both marine and terrestrial planners in the preparation of respective development and marine plans.

39. Marine Planning Partnerships will be involved in the preparation of terrestrial development plans. In setting out the role of key agencies, Circular 6/2013 Development Planning states that once Marine Planning Partnerships have been established they should be appropriately involved in the development plan process. On this basis, Marine Planning Partnerships should have the same level of involvement in the development plan process as key agencies.

Consistency between marine and terrestrial plan policy and proposals

40. The National Marine Plan, the National Planning Framework ( NPF) and Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) provide an aligned framework for marine planning at a national level. They support sustainable development both in the marine area and on land and provide complementary policy. The National Marine Plan supports national developments in the NPF and relevant policies of the SPP. This national coordination is an essential reference point that will help to align marine and terrestrial plans.

41. The process of ensuring policy alignment between terrestrial and marine plans will be iterative. As regional marine plans are developed they must take all reasonable steps to align with existing terrestrial plans. As development plans are revised they should have regard to marine plans.

42. It is evident that both terrestrial and marine planning systems and their respective policy objectives will evolve over time. Careful consideration, dialogue and joint working between marine and terrestrial planners will be required during both preparation and revision of marine and terrestrial plans.

43. There should be mutual support for specific development proposals in marine and terrestrial plans which relate to each other. Each plan should make appropriate provision for resource or infrastructure requirements which may be necessary to support a development proposal in the other plan.

Timing of plans

44. Although marine and terrestrial plans each have statutory preparation and review requirements which are separate and different, there may be opportunities to programme them so that the key stages, including key consultation stages, are aligned. This could deliver efficiencies and may assist in stakeholder and community engagement. Temporal alignment may only be achievable over a number of iterations of terrestrial and marine plan preparation cycles and may be most easily achieved when Local Authorities play a lead role in Marine Planning Partnerships.

45. Supplementary guidance could, in some cases, be used as a mechanism to facilitate temporal alignment. Supplementary guidance does not need to be adopted at the same time as a development plan. This could allow for terrestrial policy alignment with marine plans that are adopted after a development plan has been approved or adopted. Supplementary guidance addressing marine planning will however require a policy principle relevant to the content of the supplementary guidance and an explicit reference, in the adopted or approved development plan. Supplementary guidance should be regarded as a temporary measure to ensure interim alignment, with fuller policy integration being achieved in subsequent reviews of strategic and local development plans.

46. In areas where a marine region borders more than one terrestrial planning authority, such as some firths, coordinating the timing of plans may be more difficult and other options to help promote policy consistency should be explored. Any mechanisms developed will need to be appropriate for local circumstances but could, for example, include some form of report prepared by Marine Planning Partnerships which outlines key marine issues and proposed development for a marine region. These could highlight areas which require specific integration with development plans and could provide a basis for alignment at the time of development plan revision.

Sharing the evidence base

47. Marine and terrestrial planning authorities should aim, where appropriate, to share a common evidence base. This would form a foundation upon which policies, proposals and monitoring statements could be developed and would support assessments such as Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitats Regulations Appraisal. National databases on a variety of subjects will be available for common use as promoted by national strategies [7] . Where additional data is gathered to inform planning within a marine region or development plan area, this should be made available to both terrestrial and marine planning authorities. Where appropriate it should be compiled in such a way as to be fit for purpose for both planning regimes. This will help to make plan-making processes more efficient, improve the quality of decision making and enable fuller alignment and monitoring of plans.

48. Marine Scotland hosts National Marine Plan interactive ( NMPi), an interactive GIS tool which provides spatial data relevant to marine planning. Where terrestrial data is relevant to marine planning, it could also be provided to terrestrial planners via NMPi.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Flow Chart

1The National Marine Plan also applies directly to Strategic and Local Development Plans and to Supplementary Guidance and non-statutory planning guidance
*Opportunity for public engagement

Integrated Coastal Zone Management

49. Integrated Coastal Zone Management brings together all those involved in the development, management and use of the coast within a framework that facilitates the integration of their interests and responsibilities. The objective is to establish sustainable levels of economic and social activity in our coastal areas while protecting the coastal environment. To date in many areas it has been facilitated by relevant public bodies and/or coastal partnerships comprising of relevant public bodies and stakeholders.

50. In most circumstances aligned marine and terrestrial planning and consenting regimes will be sufficient to ensure an integrated approach to planning and management of the coastal zone. However, there may be some areas and circumstances in which additional mechanisms and approaches are required for effective management of complex issues or competing interests. This is most likely to be where there are a high number of different uses and users of coastal resources, for example in and around some of our firths, sea-lochs and sounds.

51. At a regional level it will be for Marine Planning Partnerships and terrestrial planning authorities, along with relevant stakeholders, to consider and agree whether there is a requirement for more detailed management of the coastal area. It may be necessary to work with other agencies and to employ additional mechanisms to address specific issues for which marine and terrestrial planning do not provide the entire solution.

52. Where additional mechanisms and approaches are relevant to marine and terrestrial planning it will be important for them to remain consistent with the policies and proposals in the respective terrestrial and marine plans.


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