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Landmark agreement will involve Orkney Communities in managing seabed

Crown Estate Scotland and Orkney Islands Council have today announced the signing of a landmark partnership which paves the way for more direct local input on how seabed around Orkney is used.

The new arrangement will see both organisations working more closely together, managing leases and tenancies on the seabed and parts of the foreshore surrounding Orkney - which form part of the Scottish Crown Estate - to ensure that decisions are informed by the local democratic process.

The agreement is part of a long-term commitment by Crown Estate Scotland to involve communities more in managing land and property that makes up the Scottish Crown Estate.

The new way of working will start in 2021 and will be delivered over a period of three years. Crown Estate Scotland and Orkney Islands Council will work closely in the setup phase, providing opportunities for stakeholders to inform the operational arrangements for the pilot scheme.

The key elements of the agreement include:

  • Orkney Islands Council being actively involved in the process of agreeing seabed leases for certain sectors, involving local feedback
  • Crown Estate Scotland providing funds over three years to support a project officer to put the agreement in to practice
  • Crown Estate Scotland continuing to have ultimate responsibility as manager of the seabed, and working with Orkney Islands Council on the delivery and monitoring of this role
  • Crown Estate Scotland and Orkney Islands Council working closely in the setup phase to ensure existing tenants continue to be kept informed.
  • Crown Estate Scotland remaining the primary contact for tenants on the estate in relation to their live agreements.

Amanda Bryan, Chair of Crown Estate Scotland, said:

“This is the first such agreement that we have signed with a local authority, and it’s apt that it is with Orkney Islands Council given how closely we have collaborated with them in recent years.

“Seabed - and how it is managed - is critical to those that live and work on the islands across sectors such as renewable energy and aquaculture. We hope to enjoy greater collaboration with local authorities in future to help ensure local people have a say in how assets in their area are managed.”

Councillor Graham Sinclair, the Council’s Chair of Development and Infrastructure, said:

"The pilot scheme marks a major step forward for local community involvement in decisions on how the Orkney seabed should be used.

"The waters around our islands are a key resource for our community, so I am pleased that the Council will be working in partnership with Crown Estate Scotland to help realise greater social, economic and environmental benefits from our significant seabed assets.

"We have been working for a number of years to get to this stage. The pilot will hopefully pave the way for future devolution of asset management, unlocking significant potential for our community."