8. Role of a regional land use mechanism
Research Question: Is there a role for a regional land use mechanism in guiding land use decisions to meet the outcomes of the LUS; and if so, what can be learned about the best geographical scale for such an approach?
As with evaluation question 3.4, the response to this question was based on stakeholder and project management team responses recorded during the stage 3 evaluation workshop and a set of four supplementary telephone interviews with representatives from the agricultural sector.
8.1 Findings from the pilot areas
Stakeholder participants in the stage 3 evaluation workshop supported the concept of a regional land use mechanism, going so far as to describe this as 'absolutely necessary'. However, participants were cautious about how this might best work in practice.
It was felt that the regional scale was about right, although there was also some interest in the community planning scale. Specifically, it was suggested that the tool should be used to target SRDP funding.
Some consideration was given to the issue of geographic scale within the project's final report. This suggested that the regional approach offered benefits in terms of setting goals and targets. However, it might be unable to incorporate the level of detail necessary to allow for localised planning. The report noted that a message from wider stakeholder workshops was that a multi-scale approach to planning might be required.
The project management team for the Scottish Borders pilot reported (in the final evaluation workshop) that they felt there was a clear role for a regional land use mechanism to guide and inform land use decisions. This view was shared by most of the stakeholders who participated in the final evaluation exercises. The project management team noted that whilst it was felt important that the framework remain non-statutory, given the limitations on partners' ability to directly influence most forms of land use, it was essential that the framework be able to guide SRDP spending to provide a clear incentive for engagement with the process. As noted in the response to Q3.2.3, the need to link the tool to SRDP funding was endorsed by many of the stakeholders who participated in the final evaluation workshop.
The issue of scale was seen as important but complex. It was noted that the ecosystems approach does not recognise administrative boundaries and that the Borders area is an important supplier of ecosystems services to wider areas. For example, at the regional level, the area provides one third of Edinburgh's water, whilst at the national scale it is important in terms of high grade agricultural land, tourism and onshore wind. However, local concerns and priorities could not be relied upon to automatically reflect regional or national priorities; indeed, in some instances they might be seen to be in conflict.
It was suggested that if local areas were required to develop local frameworks, there would need to be an effective mechanism for ensuring that they linked local, regional and national priorities. One issue discussed was whether targets reflecting national policy should be set for local areas, but based on the ability/potential of the area to deliver against such targets. In this scenario, it might then be left to local actors to determine how best to meet the targets.
Some stakeholders (in the stage 3 evaluation workshop) suggested that people were generally unused to, and sometimes uncomfortable with, dealing with land use at the landscape-scale and preferred to focus on individual sites and areas of direct interest to them. The project management team stated that the sub-catchment area had been found to be the most effective level at which to engage people and viewed this as one of the pilot's key findings.
Both pilots provided evidence of support for a mechanism to guide land use decision-making. The regional approach was endorsed, but the need to be able to accommodate a multi-scale approach was noted in both pilots. This was seen as necessary both to accommodate the perceived preferences of people to consider landscapes at a more localised level than the region (this was a key lesson from both pilots), but also to accommodate the fact that ecosystems services do not recognise administrative boundaries. It was noted, for example, that the Borders area was an important supplier of ecosystems services at the national scale. An issue noted by the Scottish Borders project management team was that local concerns and priorities could not be relied upon to automatically reflect regional or national priorities and that they might, in some instances, be seen to be in conflict. Consequently, it was suggested that if local areas were required to develop local frameworks, there would need to be an effective mechanism for ensuring that they linked local, regional and national priorities with this potentially being achieved through the setting of targets for different forms of land use (or outputs) within a given area.
Email: Linda Gateley
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