11.1 Marine Spatial Planning is evolving and should therefore focus on the actual planning elements rather than ‘just’ producing a plan (see Ehler & Douvere, 2009, p. 82). However, as an initial step, the plan-making process is required to allow key stakeholders to come together and develop the framework and evidence base on which to build the subsequent steps. The collaborative approach between Marine Scotland and the two local authorities facilitated the project effectively, bringing a mix of skills and knowledge to the process.
11.2 The Planning Issues and Options Consultation approach, prior to the draft Plan, along with the variety of engagement events and activities, allowed new audiences to become involved in this relatively new arena of planning. Future plans could explore ways to include action planning or more detailed sub-regional zoning and implementation, but would likely have to go through the process of developing a plan first in order to have a base to build upon.
11.3 Developing the Plan also highlighted that a significant amount of input is also required from specialist staff to produce a variety of supporting documents such as the Sustainability Appraisal, Socio-economic studies and research to address data gaps. As this is a pilot project, these will not be updated, but subsequent MPPs would likely have to review and update these documents as part of an agreed review cycle. The overall plan making process is therefore both time and resource intensive; ensuring effective management is crucial.
11.4 Any regional marine plan will need to have a clear picture of what each sectors’ goal and priorities are, therefore early, active engagement and buy-in is required from an early stage. Industry sectors need to be shown the value to them of investing time and effort into the process ( MEAM, 2015  ). In addition, whilst any marine plan is being developed, it should be regularly sense checked to ensure that it can be used effectively by decision makers, developers and other stakeholders. It should build in an appropriate level of flexibility to accommodate changing trends and technologies but also be suitably robust.
Summary of challenges
- Initial largely marine renewable energy focus of the plan
- Stakeholder database crashed (June 2013)
- Managing decision making across multiple organisations
- Not always clear on sectoral priorities from the outset
- Needed a more structured approach to engage sectoral interests
- Differing stakeholder expectations of what the project could realistically deliver
- Difficult to develop a clear direction for future development and activities within a non-statutory plan
- Resource constraints restricted ability to address some identified data gaps and to deliver a spatial strategy for future development
S ummary of what worked well:
- Partnership between Marine Scotland and local planning authorities
- Developing a plan that reflects the aspirations of local communities as well as national policy priorities
- Good small core team with an appropriate mix of expertise
- Willingness of core agencies to actively participate in advisory group
- Planning Issues and Options stage to engage stakeholders to shape the plan early in the process to gauge prioritises, inform vision, aims and objectives, and scope the policies
- Engaging stakeholders in the drafting the scope of what policies should cover
- Use of National Marine Plan interactive as a web based mapping tool
- The substantial resources produced i.e. in the form of the Plan and all its supporting documents, which will help support fragile local communities in North Caithness and Sutherland and Orkney by providing a wealth of marine data on a variety of issues and sectors
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