The award-winning Place Standard tool

The award-winning Place Standard tool

A new way to evaluate systematically what a “good place” means and a first attempt to create an integrated planning framework to guide marine development and protect the quality of the marine environment around Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters have been recognised at prestigious planning awards.

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan, led by Marine Scotland and supported by Orkney Islands Council and the Highland Council, has won in the Excellence in Plan-Making Practice category in the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2017.

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area has been to chosen to develop a pilot spatial plan because of its high level of wave and tidal resources, which has recently led to the world’s first commercial lease agreements for the development of wave and tidal power to be issued.

The plan will support a new statutory marine planning system in Scotland to manage the increasing, and often conflicting, demands on Scottish seas and coastal areas.

It puts information on the variety of marine activities and their potential interactions with other sectors such as biodiversity, tourism and energy in one document and aims to streamline the process of preparing and determining marine planning applications.

The plan also takes on the challenge of linking marine planning with land use planning activities, and establish an integrated approach to the use, development and protection of resources across the land/ sea interface.

Nick Raynsford, former planning and housing minister and chair of the judging panel, said: “This plan, a first of its kind for the UK, should be held up as best practice for other councils struggling to integrate land and marine planning into a single plan. It is an interesting and imaginative approach to marine planning and given Britain’s maritime heritage, it’s surprising there aren’t more plans like this one.”

Meanwhile the Excellence in Planning for Wellbeing category gong was awarded to the Scottish Government, NHS Health Scotland and Architecture & Design Scotland for their Place Standard tool.

The tool allows users to consider the physical and social aspects of a place, with a focus on promoting positive health outcomes. It uses 14 questions and the responses are converted into an easily understandable graphic which plots the assets of a place, such as access to services and facilities, safety, and neighbourliness

The tool has already been successfully put to the test by communities in Auchencairn, Greenock and Kirkcaldy to assess the quality of their local public spaces.

Nick Raynsford added: “The Place Standard tool is innovative and flexible, and can be applied across the planning system, as well as being accessible to communities. The tool uses a broad definition of well-being which considers everything from buildings and streets to human relationships and social contact. It effectively reveals which aspects of well-being need to be targeted to improve people’s lives.”

Running for over 40 years, the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence celebrate exceptional examples of planning and the contribution planners make to society. This year saw a nearly 40% increase in entrants and the judges shortlisted 90 finalists across 13 categories.