5. Public Drop-In Sessions in Kirkwall and Thurso
5.1.1 Two public drop-in sessions were held in Kirkwall and Thurso. These were held in the evening after the workshops had finished. The drop-in sessions ran from 17.30 to 21.00 with a presentation from 18.30 until about 19.00 with an opportunity to ask questions after the presentation.
5.1.2 The format was to allow interested people to come and talk to about specific issues of interest before or after the presentation and to also have the opportunity to attend the presentation and be given an overview of the work being carried out.
5.1.3 In a similar format to the workshops during the day, the presentation was split into two with Marine Scotland leading on behalf of the Working Group for the first half and ICIT Heriot Watt leading on the second half. The speakers took questions on both presentations and these were answered by the most appropriate person.
5.1.4 Notes were taken of the questions asked and the responses given during the session and participants were encouraged to fill in feedback forms ( Annex 5).
5.2 Attendance at each drop-in session
5.2.1 There were approximately 24 attendees at the Kirkwall session and 30 at the Thurso session. Some participants attended the presentations only but others came beforehand to talk to the organisers and ask specific questions.
5.2.2 There were a range of interests represented including recreation, fishing, the renewables industry, commercial interests and also interested members of the public
5.3 Summary of Discussion from Kirkwall Drop-In Session
5.3.1 Unfortunately there were no notes were taken at the Kirkwall drop-in session so there is only a brief summary. There were about 24 participants throughout the evening with people coming in to take a look at the displays and the literature and to talk to the organisers about, in most cases, specific issues. Approximately 10 people stayed for the presentation and there were a few questions to the presenters.
5.4 Summary of Feedback from Kirkwall Workshop and Drop-In Session
5.4.1 No feedback forms were received from the Kirkwall event.
5.5 Summary of Discussion from Thurso Drop-In Session
5.5.1 The discussion in Thurso covered a range of topics and questions were directed towards both of the presenters who each answered those relating to their area of work. The main themes of the questions and the responses given are outlined below.
5.5.2 Knowledge base
There were a number of questions relating to concerns about gaps in knowledge on a range of subjects e.g. severe weather and storm impacts and the lack of historical data and long-term data sets. The response given was that it is acknowledged that there are data gaps and these have been identified during the first stages of the development of the Plan. There is a lot of on-going work to obtain the information that is required to fill these. The examples given were the work being carried out by Marine Scotland on developing a hydrodynamic shelf model and the Stage 2 studies outlined in the Planning Issues and Options Paper. The Shipping Study was given as an example of work that was undertaken to improve knowledge.
5.5.3 Use of the marine environment
Some concerns were raised about restrictions being imposed on e.g. fishing or the use of zones for different activities. The response was that there will be on going consultation with specific sectors and that the Plan is for use by all sectors. There are currently no plans to zone areas and the aim is to encourage co-existence and multiple use wherever possible.
One participant felt the process was a waste of time and that environmental aspects will be ignored and developers will get their own way. The response was that the Marine Scotland Marine Licensing Team has a robust process for assessing whether to issue a licence and has turned down licensing applications in relation environmental impacts. Individual cases rely on environmental law balanced against the development policy.
There were some questions regarding the consultation and whether this was the first opportunity to get involved. A specific question in relation to whether local foreshore owners would be consulted was also asked. It was explained that for this specific piece of work this was the first opportunity to be involved as it was currently at the first stages of being developed and it was emphasised that there will be further opportunities for consultation as the process of drafting the Plan develops. In response to the question regarding consultation with owners of the foreshore it was explained that there is a statutory requirement for consultation if any development was proposed above Mean Low Water Springs. The Town and Country Planning (Development Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 require that where a local development plan includes a proposal for development relating to a specific site, the planning authority are to give notice to the owner, lessee or occupier. There is no equivalent statutory provision in marine planning legislation that requires owner, lessee or occupier notification of development proposals within the marine area. It may be considered appropriate for consultation to take place on a case by case basis.
5.5.5 Community benefits
There were a number of points raised in relation to aspects of community benefits with some participants raising concerns that they felt Caithness would get nothing out of the process and that all the benefit would go to the Highland Council in Inverness. Other concerns were regarding who decides on what community benefit would apply to whom and what jobs would be provided. There was also an opinion expressed that this process was being inflicted on remote marine areas.
The response to these concerns was that the Plan is being developed as a partnership approach between the Highland Council, Orkney Islands Council and Marine Scotland to ensure there is local input to the process. There is commitment from both the Highland Council and local councillors in Caithness and Sutherland to support local jobs amongst other things. It is likely that there will be job opportunities in operations and maintenance and that many local companies are already working to get involved. It was also noted that there is no statutory obligation for community benefit in relation to offshore renewable energy. There is also no marine equivalent to land based Section 75 Agreements where a developer can make a financial contribution to enable a planning applications to be acceptable in planning terms e.g. by making a contribution towards the provision of supporting infrastructure. As the renewables industry is at an early stage there are limitations on how much the industry would be able to contribute in terms of community benefit or developer contributions.
In response to the fact that the Plan is being developed in remote marine areas it was explained that there have been pilot marine spatial plans in other areas e.g. the Clyde, Shetland and Sound of Mull and that this is the first pilot plan under the new Marine (Scotland) Act legislation.
5.6 Summary of Feedback from Thurso Workshop and Drop-In Session
5.6.1 A total of 10 feedback forms were received. The majority of these were received on the evening of the drop-in session with two further forms being posted in after the event.
5.6.2 The questions asked whether the person filling in the form had any specialist knowledge that could be used to help develop the Plan, whether there were any key topics that had been missed and any other comments. There was also a box to add a name and address if the person wanted to be added to the consultation database.
5.6.3 Names and addresses to be added to the consultation database are not included in this Consultation Analysis but have been noted and added as required with a note of any specialist knowledge.
5.7 Question 1
Do you have any specialist knowledge on any of the key topics in the proposed plan that you would be willing to share with us e.g. fishing, tourism, renewables?
5.7.1 In response to Question 1 seven people noted specialist knowledge or interests and these were:
- Marine renewables.
- Community Councillor.
- Planning community engagement.
- Recreational boating and kayaking knowledge.
- Opportunities for educational involvement.
- Fishing knowledge of the Western Approaches to Pentland Firth.
- Volunteer whale watching and contact with tourists.
5.8 Question 2
Are there any key topics we have missed?
5.8.1 There were 5 responses to Question 2, which asked whether any key topics had been missed. These included potential future developments e.g. new harbours, stressing the need for wide consideration of developments in relation to the local environment and culture and concerns regarding the wind farm developments in the North East coastal area as this would be detrimental to birds and sea life and have a severe visual impact. Two responses had nothing to add but noted it had been good to hear different viewpoints on a range of different topics.
5.9 Question 3
Do you have any other comments to add?
5.9.1 Question 3 asked for general comments and there were 4 responses, these are summarised below:
- Local Caithness councillors should form a committee to explore all community benefit options and raise awareness to potential developers that community benefit will be an issue for them in the future.
- One participant found the drop-in session very interesting and thought it would be good to have the information presented in a more visual way. This participant also expressed disappointment about a blinkered approach when it comes to a vision of Orkney, Caithness and Sutherland.
- Another participant noted that it was an excellent opportunity to meet people with different perspectives and to gain a wider perspective on the issues, concerns and potential within their community. This participant thanked the organisers.
- Another participant emphasised the importance of conserving and protecting Dunnet Head and the seascape as this attracts people from all over the world. This participant noted that scenic coastal walks are a good idea as long as they are discouraged in the breeding season.
- More people attended the Thurso drop-in session than the Kirkwall sessions.
- A wide range of topics were discussed regarding the knowledge base, use of the marine environment, consultation and community benefits.
- There was a feeling expressed that the local community would get no benefit from the development in the area.