Land Use Strategy (LUS) Delivery Evaluation Project - Volume 1: Main Report

This report provides the fundings of the Land Use Strategy Delivery Evaluation Project undertaken in Scotland between 2012 and 2014. It evaluates eleven case study land use delivery mechanisms to ascertain their effectiveness in translating the strategic Principles of the LUS into decision-making on the ground.

7 Conclusions, key findings and lessons for wider application

7.1 Research Question No.5 asks "what are the emerging themes on how best to apply the LUS Principles to different circumstances and processes across Scotland? Are there any particular lessons for specific circumstances and different groups of decision-makers and stakeholders?" This question has been used as a framing for this conclusions Chapter which has been structured, where relevant, around the Research Question No.5 sub-questions. In particular, the conclusions Chapter has considered:

  • What are the overarching findings of the LUS Delivery Evaluation Project?
  • What are the emerging themes on how best to apply the LUS Principles?
  • Are there any particular lessons for specific circumstances (e.g. delivery mechanisms, contexts etc) and different groups of decision-makers and stakeholders?

7.2 As discussed elsewhere in this report (see paragraph 3.15 for example), the LUS Delivery Evaluation Project has focussed on eleven case study land use delivery mechanisms taken from the wider land use delivery 'landscape' in Scotland (see paragraph 1.19 and Table 1.2). As such, all findings and conclusions documented in this report are illustrative rather than representative of land use/management delivery in Scotland and should be read with this in mind.

Overarching findings of the LUS Delivery Evaluation Project

7.3 The research has identified a number of important overarching findings. These are outlined in more detail in the sub-sections below.

There is significant capacity within existing land use delivery mechanisms to deliver sustainable land use

7.4 The research has identified that the LUS Principles have been translated into decision-making 'on the ground', at least to a degree[75], in the majority (99 out of 110) of instances[76] (see paragraph 3.16 and Figures 3.1 and 3.4). As such, on the basis of the eleven case study land use delivery mechanisms considered, this research has found that there may already be significant capacity to deliver sustainable land use, as per the requirements of the LUS, within Scotland's existing land use delivery mechanism landscape.

7.5 Crucially, this finding recognises that within the scope of the project, none of the case studies reached a decision-making stage that would result in practical land management action with a resultant impact in the landscape. Further information to qualify the scope of this finding in terms of how decision-making 'on the ground' has been construed for the purposes of this project can be found at paragraph 2.28 and Table 2.4. Also, it is crucial to stress that this finding is illustrative of land use delivery in Scotland (as opposed to definitive) as the research findings are based on a non-statistically significant sample of case study land use delivery mechanisms.

7.6 Given the diverse nature of the case studies considered in the research (see Chapter 4 and Table 4.1 in particular), this finding suggests that the LUS Principles are relevant and can be applied in many different contexts, at different scales and across different sectors.

7.7 Although this is an important and policy relevant finding, it is crucial to stress that there is still 'room for improvement' in terms of the ability of existing land use delivery mechanisms to translate the LUS Principles. In particular, although the LUS Principles were translated to varying degrees in 99 of 110 possible instances, Principles were only translated fully in 57 instances.

7.8 Also, given the evaluation's focus on policy and process level decision-making, although the findings indicate relatively strong translation of the LUS Principles across the case studies, there is a concern that this strong translation could be 'diluted' as subsequent decisions move further towards practical land management actions that 'break ground' and cause a tangible impact in the landscape (see Figure 2.4). A case in point might be planning committee decisions that are not fully taken in the spirit of Local Development Plan policy (e.g. as a result of pressure to create growth and jobs) or forestry grant decisions that are not fully in accordance with the relevant Forestry and Woodland Strategy (e.g. as a result of pressure to meet afforestation targets).

Translation of some LUS Principles is more comprehensive than others

7.9 Perhaps unsurprisingly, the degree to which the LUS Principles have been translated into decision-making 'on the ground' varies across the ten Principles. In particular, the translation of Principle A on multiple benefits, C on primary use, D on ecosystem services, E on landscape change, I on involving people and J on land use and the daily living link was identified as having been more comprehensive across the eleven case studies.

7.10 Conversely, translation of Principle B on regulation, F on climate change, G on vacant and derelict land and H on outdoor recreation and access has been more mixed. This is perhaps a particular issue/surprise for LUS Principle F on climate change given the provenance of the LUS within the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The key reason for the less comprehensive translation of LUS Principle F lies in the Principle's dual focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation i.e. the general premise of the policy is that land use/management should be able to contribute to both agendas (a notion that is often borne out in practice and the literature also). This dual focus was reflected in the evaluation criteria (see Appendix 1) and therefore in the Research Question No.1 evaluation also (see Chapter 3).

The suite of ten LUS Principles is internally compatible and most Principles are relevant to land use delivery in most instances

7.11 On the basis of the eleven case study land use delivery mechanisms considered in the research, LUS Principles were considered as 'not relevant' in only a small handful of instances[77] (7 out of 110). This relates specifically to LUS Principle B on regulation and Principle G on vacant and derelict land (see paragraphs 3.7 and 3.16). Both of these Principles are felt to be highly context specific and may not be relevant to land use/management in a given area or for a given land use delivery mechanism.

7.12 Similarly, the research has identified how the ten LUS Principles generally work well together as a suite i.e. there are no particular areas of internal conflict or inconsistency between the Principles. This is evidenced by the fact that the Principles have been translated at least 'to a degree' in the vast majority of instances (see Figure 3.4). Key areas of inconsistency or incompatibility might have been evidenced, for example, through the observation of distinct conflicting themes in LUS Principle translation (e.g. a given Principle not being translated by the majority of case studies while a related or potentially conflicting Principle was translated). In reality, only two Principles displayed any sort of trend in this regard (see paragraph 7.10) and this can largely be attributed to context/situational factors.

Translation of LUS Principles is primarily implicit

7.13 For the most part, the consideration of LUS Principles has been implicit rather than explicit i.e. the LUS Principles are not discussed explicitly and their consideration by the case studies has been teased out using the evaluation criteria at Appendix 1 (see paragraph 3.17 also). This was found to be the case even where the case study 'on the ground' decision-making juncture took place after the adoption of the LUS (March 2011). In effect, it is hard to separate out the direct influence of the LUS over and above existing practice.

7.14 The corollary of this of course is that there is already a wealth of good-practice in sustainable land use/management in Scotland from which to build upon. The LUS Principles provide a useful overall framing for this good-practice and could be used as a backstop or baseline to justify and develop innovative practices (e.g. using the LUS Principles as a guide/framework for relevant land management grant applications - see paragraph 5.80).

There are many examples of useful methods and approaches that can be used to help translate the LUS Principles into decision-making 'on the ground'

7.15 As is evident from Chapter 5 there are many examples from the case studies of existing methods and approaches that can help land use/management stakeholders and practitioners translate the LUS Principles into decision-making 'on the ground'. These include specific methods under the following seven categories: spatial analysis (see paragraph 5.8 onwards), environmental assessment (see paragraph 5.18 onwards), ecosystem services (see paragraph 5.32 onwards), partnerships and governance (see paragraph 5.46 onwards), engagement and awareness-raising (see paragraph 5.52 onwards), planning and design(see paragraph 5.64 onwards) and grants and incentives (see paragraph 5.75 onwards),

7.16 Within these categories there are also key examples of emerging innovative practice that could potentially be developed into more mainstream approaches[78]. These include, for example, specific innovations in spatial analysis (e.g. use of fine grained constraints data to exploit land use/management opportunities in highly heterogeneous landscapes - see paragraph 5.14), the use of ecosystem service assessments to better understand land use values (where 'value' can be monetary or nominal - see paragraph 5.34), the use of cross-boundary partnership working at the ecosystem or landscape scale (see paragraph 5.48) and using the LUS Principles themselves as a guide or framework for relevant grant applications (see paragraph 5.80).

There are many examples of potential barriers to the translation of LUS Principles

7.17 Whilst there are many examples of useful methods and approaches that can support translation of the LUS Principles, there were also a number of key barriers identified from the case studies. These include specific barriers under the following seven categories: methods and data (see paragraph 6.8 onwards), grants, incentives and revenue (see paragraph 6.17 onwards), land manager skills, awareness and training (see paragraph 6.25 onwards), public awareness of land use issues (see paragraph 6.36 onwards), partnerships, governance and leadership (see paragraph 6.42 onwards), land use decision-making(see paragraph 6.58 onwards) and land use policy interactions and constraints (see paragraph 6.65 onwards).

7.18 Within the barriers data, two potential key themes were identified:

  • The most widely experienced barriers relate to the availability of data and methodologies/techniques required to support the planning of more integrated land use/management and the availability of grants/incentives and revenue streams to support the delivery of integrated land use
  • Other barriers experienced by a number of the case studies cluster around the more social/community focussed barrier categories - partnerships, governance and leadership and land use decision-making

Emerging themes on how best to apply the LUS Principles

7.19 As well as the more general overarching findings described above at paragraph 7.3 onwards, the research also identified several more specific themes in relation to how best to apply the LUS Principles.

Scale and tiering

7.20 Whilst the ten LUS Principles (and the LUS itself) are inherently strategic, they can be applied at different scales however consideration may need to be given as to how the Principles are applied at different scales (e.g. national, regional, local) and between related/tiered land use delivery mechanisms operating at different scales (e.g. the various plans and policies that make up the statutory planning system in Scotland).

7.21 The notion of a regional scale land use delivery mechanism is something that is currently being considered by the Scottish Government through the Regional Land Use Framework (LUF) Pilots. This sort of mechanism could potentially provide a useful policy 'stepping stone' between the national level LUS and the delivery of practical land management 'on the ground'.

7.22 This sort of regional scale approach was evidenced in several of the case studies operating at this scale (LLTNP Partnership Plan, CSGN and Biosphere). This included examples of how planning at this scale can usefully articulate the LUS Principles (implicitly at least) in greater detail through the use of local priorities, targets, objectives etc. This was supported by the undertaking of technical assessments that become increasingly feasible, relevant and practical at this scale (e.g. assessment of risks and opportunities for climate change adaptation planning, whole catchment planning, ecosystem service assessments etc).

Use of methods and approaches

7.23 The research has highlighted how there is no one perfect method or approach to support land use/management planning and delivery that can be used in all circumstances or for all ten LUS Principle. For example, whilst the use of SEA can potentially support the translation of all ten Principles (see Figure 5.7) it is not an appropriate method/tool for use in project level decision-making.

7.24 Rather, practitioners should use a suite of methods/approaches relevant to their particular land use/management context or problem. In this regard, Figure 5.7 links the twenty methods/approaches to the ten LUS Principles in terms of their relevance and potential utility helping to translate the Principles. The methods/approaches identified through this research may also have utility helping to overcome the barriers to LUS Principle translation identified at Chapter 6. Specific opportunities in this regard are highlighted, where relevant, throughout the discussion in Chapter 6.

7.25 There will undoubtedly be a range of useful methods/approaches that were not identified from the case studies considered in this research (e.g. from other aspects of land use/management practice in Scotland, relevant literature, relevant land use/management practice elsewhere in Europe etc). In this regard, the methods/approaches identified through this research can be used as an initial basis for the development of land use delivery methods though this should be supplemented through wider research etc.

Particular lessons for specific circumstances and stakeholders

7.26 Based on the findings of the research it has been possible to identify several particular lessons of relevance to specific stakeholders. These are as follows:

Scottish Government

7.27 There is an obligation to enhance the delivery and deliverability of the LUS by careful integration of the LUS Principles across all relevant Scottish Government policies and initiatives that influence land use and land management. This concept is already enshrined within the LUS: "In order to achieve the full benefits that can be secured from sustainable land use the Government will ensure that its own policies are aligned with the Strategy's Objectives and Principles" (Scottish Government, 2011a p.5). Key policies in this regard include the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP), the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, the statutory planning system and the National Planning Framework (NPF) and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) in particular, River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) and Flood Risk Management Strategies.

7.28 As outlined in detail at Chapter 5 and in summary at paragraphs 7.4, 7.13 and 7.14, there is a wealth of good-practice sustainable land use and land management practice in Scotland. There may be scope for this good-practice to be shared more widely e.g. through specific training events and through the Scottish Government's annual Land Use Strategy Stakeholder Event etc.

7.29 As outlined in Chapter 4 and at paragraph 7.19, regional scale land use/management planning can provide a useful stepping stone between the national level LUS and practical land management 'on the ground' (e.g. at the farm level). Depending on the findings of the Regional LUF Pilots there may be scope to roll out this sort of approach more widely in Scotland, especially where there is no existing mechanism in place (i.e. the LLTNP, CSGN and Biosphere case studies are already providing regional scale land use planning in different forms).

Other government agencies

7.30 The use of more novel tools to support land use/management planning was evidenced by a number of the case studies - e.g. the use of ecosystem service assessment by the Biosphere case study. Crucially however these methods are often linked to specific barriers - e.g. in the case of ecosystem service assessment there was a concern that without standardised methodologies, land owners would not accept ecosystem service values as an input to land use/management decision-making. There are also issues concerning access to government agency owned or managed datasets that can be required to support the use of specific tools and approaches (e.g. spatial datasets for use in ecosystem service assessment/mapping). In this regard, there may be scope for other relevant government agencies (e.g. SEPA, SNH, FCS) to develop training, capacity building and guidance and to extend the availability of datasets to support the standardisation and adoption of methods and approaches. One case study identified the UK Woodland Carbon Code as an existing example of good-practice in this regard.

Local authorities and planners

7.31 Evidence from this research and wider anecdotal evidence suggests that the LUS is a bit of an 'unknown quantity' to some land use stakeholders in Scotland (see paragraph 6.70). This was felt to be particularly the case for those working in more urban local authorities, planners working primarily within the Town and Country Planning regime and elected members of local councils. Full implementation of the LUS across Scotland will require all land use stakeholders to be aware of their role in delivery.

Estate managers and landowners

7.32 Private landowners are increasingly required to manage their land for the delivery of public goods (e.g. to qualify for Direct Payments under Pillar I of the CAP). Furthermore, the Scottish Government expect that the LUS and its ten Principles for sustainable land use will be used to guide decisions about the future use of land, including land in private ownership (Scottish Government, 2011a). Whilst there is a wealth of good-practice in sustainable land use/management in Scotland (see paragraph 7.27 for example), there is still a requirement for training and capacity building to support the move towards more integrated land use/management planning across the private as well as public estate. There is also a need to strike an appropriate balance between the use of regulation and grants/incentives.


Email: Liz Hawkins

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