Landmark arrangement empowers Orkney communities to manage seabed

Landmark arrangement empowers Orkney communities to manage seabed

11 April 2023

Orkney Island Council and Crown Estate Scotland have unveiled further details of a ground-breaking project aimed at giving Orkney islanders greater say in decisions about the use of the seabed around them.

The arrangement involves both organisations working closely to evaluate new applications for agreements on the seabed surrounding Orkney, ensuring key decisions are informed by the priorities of those who live and work nearby.

This pilot programme is part of a long-term commitment by Crown Estate Scotland to ensure communities have a greater say in managing the land and property that makes up the Scottish Crown Estate.

Today’s announcement follows establishment in March 2021 of the Orkney Islands Local Marine Asset Management Pilot Programme.

Commencement of the operational phase will allow local priorities, knowledge, and Orkney-specific feedback to inform the new applications process in a partnership funded by Crown Estate Scotland.

Whilst Crown Estate Scotland remains the primary contact for tenants and reserves authority for decisions about assets that it manages on behalf of Scottish Ministers, the new Orkney-specific model will ensure that local issues and sensitivities are heard and factored into final decisions where they relate to the Scottish Crown Estate.

Applications will be checked by Orkney Islands Council’s dedicated team against key strategic documents, including the Orkney Islands Council Plan, the Local Development plan, the National Marine Plan, Pilot Pentland Firth Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan and developing Orkney Regional Marine Plan and the National Islands Plan. 

The new practices relate only to new applications and renewals for seabed agreements, with no impact on existing agreements. A fundamental driver is that Orkney Islands Council will work in tandem with existing Crown Estate Scotland procedures to minimise administration.

Findings and experiences from the operational, or demonstration phase of the Pilot will help inform any future proposals for local management projects elsewhere in Scotland. 

Orkney Islands Council Leader, Councillor James Stockan, commented: “This project has been a number of years in the planning and has seen extensive collaboration between Orkney Islands Council and Crown Estate Scotland to get to this point.

“As islanders, the seas around our communities carry a substantial impact on us and our daily lives. It is therefore important that we have an opportunity to have our say on what happens to that seabed.

“Our communities are best placed to understand how developments will impact our islands and this new process is a positive step in facilitating the input of local people to decision-making, whilst continuing our constructive relationship with Crown Estate Scotland.” 

Amanda Bryan, Chair of Crown Estate Scotland, said: “We understand that those who live and work within a community are uniquely connected to it, and that is why Crown Estate Scotland is determined to support people across the country in having a greater say in local decision making.

“Responsible management of our Blue Economy is vital to our future prosperity, and we hope this new arrangement will encourage appropriate developments to support economic growth, assist tourism and leisure, and protect marine ecosystems. Our work with colleagues in Orkney Islands Council has been extensive, and we believe this new partnership will help all those who call Orkney home.” 

Enquiries can be made to seabed.assets@orkney.gov.uk

More details about seabed agreements in the Orkney Marine Region can be found here and information on Crown Estate Scotland’s local management plans can be found here.

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