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A new plan to support the development of the Blue Economy in the Pentland Firth, supported by Heriot-Watt's International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT), has won the prestigious award for ‘Excellence in Plan Making Practice' at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Excellence in Planning 2017 Awards.

Multiple and sometimes competing demands mean that planning how the marine commons can be used and utilised is vital.

Dr Kate Johnson

The pilot marine spatial plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW) was launched in 2009 and published in 2016, with ICIT involved throughout.

The area was chosen because of the high level of wave and tidal energy activity in a relatively pristine but busy marine area with a high level of community engagement. 

As Dr Kate Johnson, Assistant Professor of Marine Planning at ICIT, and who led ICIT research for the project, points out, the Award is a high level recognition of the importance and value of what is a relatively new discipline.

“Planning a marine commons, in contrast to private space on land, requires a whole new approach to plan making. Given the largely open access areas with no property rights and common pool resources, the oceans and seas were long thought to be unplannable.

“Now new technologies and techniques are bringing previously unavailable maritime resources within reach and ambition is growing throughout the world for an expanded Blue Economy - renewable energy (wind, wave and tide), offshore aquaculture, biotechnologies and seabed mining join the traditional activities of fisheries, shipping, offshore oil and tourism.

“These multiple and sometimes competing demands mean that planning how the marine commons can be used and utilised is vital. Scotland is leading the way with a new marine act creating a legal requirement for plans.

“ICIT is located at the global heart of marine renewable energy development in Stromness in the Orkney Islands. The PFOW plan was designed to test the policy and regulatory framework, and this Award underlines how well a properly structured plan can support the Blue Economy. We are delighted to have played a part in its success.”

The RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence are the most established and respected awards in the planning industry. They highlight exceptional examples of planning and celebrate the contribution that planners and planning make to society.