Thursday, September 17, 2015

New Research on Marine Planning and Interactive Touch Tables

The implementation of marine spatial planning (MSP) has tended to follow the traditional approaches inherent within terrestrial planning processes. However MSP is radically different on several accounts - new data, occurring over larger spatial units, a fluid 3D planning environment where activities shift in space and over time and a common pool resource with a lack of defined property or access rights. 
Despite these dimensions, the demand for use of the marine environment and coastal areas has never been greater. With ambitious targets for the development of marine renewable energy, marine protected areas and interactions between traditional and new marine industries and activities, marine planning has risen to the top of the policy agenda. Combining data capture and effective engagement is particularly important for coastal stakeholders where data is poorly spatially resolved and questions over effective engagement are raised. 
A recent project, ‘Supporting Marine Spatial Planning with Local Socio-Economic Data (MSP-LED)’ funded by the Scottish Government’s Centre for Expertise in Water (CREW) developed a method for local scale data collection and stakeholder engagement, which was tested through a series of regional workshops to support planning activities. The approach pioneered the use of digital interactive touch tables, both as a means of capturing local scale data and engaging marine stakeholders in dialogue and negotiation over the future use of the marine environment. Key outcomes include: 
• Using a digital touch table to gather, visualize, and discuss local information about marine activities with stakeholders is a promising method for decision-making in marine spatial planning. 
• Mapping local recreational and tourism activity highlights the complexity, importance, and social and economic significance of this sector 
• Clear communication with sectors over the value and use of collected data is critical from the outset. Not all sectors agree or are forthright about mapping spatial activity. 
• Different sectors have very different needs in terms of data. Spatial activities vary according to sector needs, local conditions and engagement with decision makers.
• Finding trade-offs in the marine environment is as much a function of trust and mutual understanding as of spatial allocation and technical approaches. 
• Participatory approaches as explored by this project engage users in joint fact finding and data collection, pointing to new means of exploring data at different scales, and to the potential for conflict resolution or co-location of marine activities. 
• Digital technologies that visualize spatial data can ‘refresh’ stakeholder consultation processes and promote policy learning and hands-on interaction; they are dynamic in real time, with natural user interfaces, scaling of maps, and a range of useful layers (e.g. bathymetric data, or protected areas sites).

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