SECTION A: Introduction
This report describes an evaluation of two regional land use framework pilot projects; it includes coverage of the background to the evaluation, the methodological approach, findings and key conclusions. The evaluation considered the process by which the regional frameworks were developed and the evidence for their actual and potential impact. It was undertaken by CAG Consultants (CAG) on behalf of the Scottish Government and is intended to help inform the 2016 review of the Land Use Strategy (LUS).
This chapter sets out a brief introduction and context to the aims and objectives of the pilots and the evaluation. Chapter 2 describes the evaluation methodology. Chapter 3 sets out the main findings and Chapter 4 the conclusions.
1.1 Background to the Regional Land Use Framework Pilots
The first LUS for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2011) sets out an agenda for sustainable land use in Scotland. Its aim is to guide and support decision-making with a view to maximising its contribution to sustainable economic growth. The overall objectives of the LUS are:
- Land based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland's prosperity.
- Responsible stewardship of Scotland's natural resources delivering more benefits to Scotland's people.
- Urban and rural communities better connected to the land, with more people enjoying the land and positively influencing land use.
To test and evaluate the practicality of operationalising the LUS approach at the local scale, the Scottish Government established two regional land use framework pilots. It was decided that these should be local authority led and Aberdeenshire Council and the Scottish Borders Council were invited to lead. The regional land use framework pilot concept was developed to complement existing local forestry-centred pilots, in Dumfries and Galloway, Caithness and Sutherland, and Cowal, and address the full range of relevant land uses in accordance with a recommendation by the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group (WEAG).
Aims and objectives
The aims of the pilots were:
- To trial a mechanism which considers existing and future land uses in a collective and integrated way, with a view to optimising the use of the land.
- To establish a mechanism to prioritise or guide decisions about possible competing or conflicting uses.
The objective was to produce a regional land use framework in each pilot area, which would facilitate decision-making in the delivery of policies, strategies and objectives in relation to integrated land use.
The project specification for the pilots stated that they were required to produce a Regional Land Use Framework for their locality which:
- Reflected Scottish Government policies relevant to land use.
- Had regard to the ten Principles for Sustainable Land Use contained within the LUS and supports the delivery of its Objectives and Vision.
- Expressed regional/local policies relevant to land use.
- Contained sufficient detail to enable grant funding decisions to be made e.g. for Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) funding.
- Considered all major land uses in the relevant area.
- Provided clarity for decision-makers on the opportunities and constraints within a given area.
- Were prepared in partnership with all locally relevant land use sectors and had been consulted upon.
- Took an ecosystems approach.
- Would be a meaningful tool in guiding decisions about land management, land use change and funding.
- Could take account of changing circumstances and the cumulative impacts of land use change.
The pilots ran from April 2013 to March 2015. In accordance with the project specification, each pilot had three stages of activity:
1. Baseline Mapping.
2. Identification of constraints and opportunities.
3. Production of the Framework.
Project governance structures were established in order to manage the pilot process and provide mechanisms for input and steering by a range of key stakeholders (Appendix 1).
1.2 Evaluation research objectives
The Scottish Government stated research objectives for the evaluation were as follows:
a) To examine and provide evidence on whether there is a role for a 'regional' land use mechanism in guiding land use decisions to meet the overall outcomes of the Land Use Strategy.
b) To examine the extent to which pilot regional frameworks meet the brief (as provided to the pilots) and to identify strengths, weaknesses and good practice in the pilot regional frameworks.
c) To examine and provide evidence on whether the process by which the regional frameworks was developed in the pilot areas was appropriate and effective.
d) To provide evidence on whether the regional frameworks have the potential to make a positive impact on land use decision-making in the local areas.
e) To provide evidence and views from responsible organisations and stakeholders in the pilot areas on whether the benefits of the regional land use mechanism policy are likely to justify the costs and resources required by the pilot authorities in making it.
f) To provide evidence on whether the regional frameworks have made a difference to land use decision making in the local areas and assisted in meeting the objectives of the national Land Use Strategy. (this work is provisionally scheduled for the autumn of 2016).
1.3 Evaluation research questions
Following discussion with the Scottish Government and the pilots, the research objectives were re-framed as a series of key research questions, which were:
- Was the process for the establishment and management of the pilot regional frameworks effective?
- To what extent do the regional frameworks meet the requirements set out by the Scottish Government?
- Do the regional frameworks have the potential to make a positive impact on land use decision-making in the local areas?
- How are the frameworks perceived by stakeholders and what lessons have been learned?
- Do the benefits of the regional land use mechanism policy justify the costs and resources required?
- 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?
These questions were then used to inform the development of an evaluation plan which guided all subsequent evaluation activity.
Email: Linda Gateley
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