Marine spatial planning – balancing interests

Fundamental changes are underway in how planning with respect to the marine environment is undertaken in the UK and Europe. Whilst there is nothing inherently new or particularly complicated in working to integrate the interests of all marine resource users in appropriate spatial planning – from the interests of beachcomber to yachtsmen, merchant mariners to gravel extractors – working out ways of achieving equitable allocation of marine use to the different parties is not easy. New Marine Bills are under development at European Union level, and at UK and Scottish levels. But it is how practical decision-making at the local level is achieved that continues to confound economic and development planners.

After Nautilus staff contributed to the formulation of pilot projects to test the matching of decision-making processes to different types of allocation problem under the Scottish Sustainable Marine Environment Initiative (SSMEI), Crick Carleton, Managing Director of Nautilus Consultants, who had not been directly involved in the earlier work, was commissioned to advise the Berwickshire SSMEI Pilot project on how best to take forward matters with respect to fishing interests, in a time of considerable flux in the sector. Work focused on more clearly identifying how the sector could work towards balancing resource conservation and fleet profitability, on exploring how the logistical requirements of the industry (berths and moorings, loading and unloading, fish handling and processing, storage and transport) could be better integrated with local and regional interests in further developing visitor facilities, site-seeing, yachting and diving.

With substantial changes in the scale and preferences of coastal populations since these coastal towns and villages and their marine structures were first laid out, finding ways of getting people to talk out their differences, and ways for public bodies to support such processes, is the challenge facing industry, council and project staff. Our report to the project team profiled the current status of the sector and provided some suggestions as to how the project might take constructive dialogue forward.