Public to have their say on Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan
In partnership with Orkney Islands Council and Marine Scotland, The Highland Council has been working on the preparation of a marine spatial plan that will support the economic development in the Pentland Firth. Members of the public will soon have the opportunity to give their feedback on the draft plan.
The pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan aims to streamline the process of preparing and determining marine licences, planning applications, consents and activities. It will provide Marine Scotland’s licensing team and other marine planners with information on the variety of marine activities and their potential interactions in one place. Once adopted, it will form non-statutory Planning Guidance for making marine planning decisions to support environmentally, economically and socially sustainable development along the north Highland coast and in Orkney.
Ahead of future statutory regional marine plans being developed around
Scotland, the non-statutory Marine Plan is being introduced. The Highland Council, along with Orkney Islands Council, has played a major role in assisting Marine Scotland with this work, including the provision of staff resources and expertise.
During a presentation yesterday (Tuesday 26 May) Members of the Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee heard that once approved the Plan would be a material consideration for future coastal planning applications. It would provide opportunities to support co-operation between many different stakeholders, in line with the Council’s core principles and the Corporate Plan.
After the presentation Councillors had the opportunity to comment on the draft plan. Following final sign off from Scottish Ministers, it will go out to public consultation.
Caithness Civic Leader, Councillor Gail Ross who chaired the meeting thanked the Council’s Coastal Planning Officer Dr Shona Turnbull and staff from Orkney Council and Marine Scotland for their work in bringing the pilot to this stage. She said: “This is a huge piece of work, the likes of which has never been done before in the Highlands so our thanks goes to everyone involved as it is a significant achievement to get to this stage.
“The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters are a vital part of the UK’s growing marine sector so we welcome this draft Plan which recognises the international significance of the marine resources in the north. The Plan aims to balance the interest of communities and industry. By being non-statutory, it should have the flexibility to complement existing ambitions and responsibilities rather than replace them. One of the biggest benefits will be having access to lots of marine information to support sustainable development in one place. This will give us a much better understanding of what is required when it comes to developing Marine Plans for the Scottish Marine Regions around our coast.
“I hope as many people and community groups as possible take up the opportunity to get involved and be part of the consultation.”
Consultation events will take place in Thurso, Durness and Stromness from the week commencing 6 July and full details of times and venues will be publicised shortly. There will also be the opportunity to view the draft Plan on-line and feed in comments via Marine Scotland’s website.