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Regional Marine

What is Regional Marine Planning?

Marine planning, or marine spatial planning, is similar in a number of ways to town planning on land; both consider how the environment is used by people and the impacts of economic growth and development. Marine plans strive to manage resources effectively and sustainably for the economic, social and environmental needs of an area.

Marine planning involves the public as well as interests such as shipping, fisheries, defence, transport, conservation, recreation, local authorities and central government. The marine planning process brings all these groups and interests together with the aim of creating well-coordinated policies and plans which meet the desired outcomes for the area.

Moray Firth Coastal Partnership will:

  • actively encourage consultation on national and regional plans affecting our marine region, providing support in the consultation process to enable a wide range of participation

  • engage with planning organisations and act as a neutral, consultative body, assisting with their processes from a wide standpoint and with strategic overview

  • ensure that our Management Plan aligns, wherever possible with other organisations’ providing a cohesive approach.

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Image by Jenny Grant showing the range of activities and uses of the Moray Firth that could be regulated by regional marine planning policy.

Our Vision is that:

  • integrated and sustainable management practises are embedded in the systems for planning and management of the Firth

  • marine spatial planning is operating as an effective and well-developed process in the Moray Firth

  • as participation and consultation have increased; industry, local communities and the public, have become fully engaged in understanding, protecting and enhancing the Moray Firth

The Marine Planning Framework:

Marine planning in Scotland is driven by the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the EU Marine Spatial Planning Directive, and integrated across the devolved Administrations of the UK by the UK Marine Policy Statement and the UK Marine and Coastal Protection Act 2009 [PDF].

The passing of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 set the wheels in motion for the full development of marine planning in Scotland. The measures incorporated within the Act include:

Marine planning: a new statutory marine planning system to sustainably manage the increasing, and often conflicting, demands on our seas

Marine licensing: a simpler licensing system, minimising the number of licences required for development in the marine environment to cut bureaucracy and encourage economic investment

Marine conservation: improved marine nature and historic conservation with new powers to protect and manage areas of importance for marine wildlife, habitats and historic monuments

Seal conservation: much improved protection for seals and a new comprehensive licence system to ensure appropriate management when necessary

Enforcement: a range of enhanced powers of marine conservation and licensing

Further background can be found through this link - Our Seas – a shared resource


Scotland’s National Marine Plan

In December 2014 a new National Marine Plan [PDF] for Scotland was laid before Parliament. Under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 this Plan covers Scottish inshore and offshore waters. Providing the required assessment for the Plan, Marine Scotland has published an updated edition of Scotland’s Marine Atlas. Key data form the Atlas is underpinned by a newly developed interactive GIS portal: National Marine Plan interactive (NMPi). A three-year review of the National Marine Plan was undertaken in 2018 and the report can be found here. 

The Highland Council produced the Highland Coastal Development Strategy in 2010.  This is a pre-cursor to the development of a marine plan for the Highlands. This is now due for review but highlights many of the issues still current today.


Linking with terrestrial planning:

Terrestrial planners are responsible for planning down to Mean Low Water Springs and for marine fish farming (finfish and shellfish); marine plans extend up Mean High Water Springs so the two planning regimes overlap in the intertidal zone, between low and high water springs. The Planning Circular 1/2015 entitled “The relationship between the statutory land use planning system and marine planning and licensing” gives guidance about how the two systems should work together.

The State of the East Coast Review (SEaCoR) Project:

The SEaCoR Project will collate, analyse and publish the combined knowledge of numerous organisations across the public, private and third sectors covering all aspects of the coast (Social, Economic and Environmental in their widest contexts), and will form the basis for the future development of regional and local plans and projects to promote the sustainable use of the east coast of Scotland.

Four coastal partnerships (Forth Estuary, Tay Estuary, East Grampian and the Moray Firth) have come together to update and expand on previous studies. SEaCoR is being delivered in two phases, firstly discovery and data gathering from as wide a collection of stakeholders as feasible; and secondly an interpretative phase, to present and publish the metadata as a comprehensive ‘State of the East Coast’ online report. This work will contribute towards a more comprehensive knowledge base.

A SEaCoR Project Manager has been appointed by the Forth Estuary Forum to oversee the project:

Anna Lamaj


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