How we did it: Conducting a survey for a marine plan

An online mapping tool contributed to the success of this award-winning Scottish marine survey, David Dewar reports.

Survey team: (left to right) LUC’s associate planner Steven Orr, principal GIS consultant Edith Lendak, environmental planner Melissa McGinley and planning director Nick James
Survey team: (left to right) LUC’s associate planner Steven Orr, principal GIS consultant Edith Lendak, environmental planner Melissa McGinley and planning director Nick James

PROJECT: Scottish Marine Recreation and Tourism Survey

ORGANISATIONS INVOLVED: LUC, Marine Scotland, Clyde Marine Planning Partnership, Brand New Media, Aquatera, Scottish Coastal Forum, the Crown Estate

Spatial marine plans aim to manage development and activities on the UK coastline and seas in a sustainable way. Their preparation by the UK government and devolved administrations is required under UK law. Plans for Scotland’s 11 marine regions are to be drawn up by marine planning partnerships, made up of local authorities and interested organisations such as fishing and environmental groups. Plans for the Clyde and Shetland regions are already being prepared.

Earlier this month, Scottish marine planning received recognition when the creators of key evidence for the country’s emerging spatial documents won a Scottish Government award for quality in planning. The country-wide Scottish Marine Recreation and Tourism Survey provides much-needed information about the pattern of coastal and marine-based recreation and tourism activities across the country, says LUC, the planning consultancy that carried it out. It was also the largest study of its kind, they add.

LUC was commissioned by Marine Scotland, a Scottish government agency, to conduct the survey. ?Nick James, director at LUC, says Scotland’s national marine plan, published in 2015, identified a large data gap when it came to recreation and tourism. "There was only piecemeal information," he says, while Marine Scotland had "good information on things like shipping, offshore renewables, nature conservation and fisheries".

According to LUC, the study aimed to provide a detailed picture of recreation activities across the Scottish coast, from walking to bird watching to sailing and kayaking, showing where people go, what they do and how much they spend. "This type of plan is entirely new and it needed information which has never previously been collected in this way," adds James.

One of the key debates at the outset was over how best to obtain information on such activities. "What Marine Scotland really wanted was the spatial information – where people go for the different activities," says James. LUC considered various methods – from sending people out to beaches with clipboards to a random survey of the entire population. But the project team decided that the most effective method would be to carry out a web-based survey. "We decided to go fully online for the survey, which we would be able to disseminate via social media and through the stakeholders involved," says James. The survey asked participants about any activities undertaken in the past year with detailed questions about their one or two most important pursuits.

The firm knew it wanted to create some form of interactive map that would allow people "to record where they had been and allow them to provide information on as many activities that they took part in" but was unsure about the particular software to capture it, says James. The team worked with external web designers to devise what he calls a "cutting-edge" mapping tool, which LUC has since used in terrestrial planning studies.

LUC was also keen to make sure the survey generated enough responses. "We wanted to design the survey to make it as easy to use as possible. We also needed to do a fair amount of preparation ahead of the survey being launched to promote it – through Twitter, Facebook and contacts in the industry," he says. Sarah Brown, survey project manager at the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership and leader of the Marine Scotland team that worked on the survey, says partner organisations like Scottish Canals, Visit Scotland, Sport Scotland and Sail Scotland had a "vested interest in making sure the data was recorded properly" and promoted it through their memberships and contacts networks.

Carried out between August and October 2015, it gathered data on 23 different types of recreational and tourism activity. It involved 2,100 people and 137 clubs, and captured a total of 52,000 mapped locations of activities. According to LUC, the survey illustrated the financial importance of coastal recreation and tourism by revealing that spending on such activities contributes up to £3.7 billion a year to the Scottish economy. There was also a separate survey of coastal businesses, to which 279 firms responded. The data collected provided "an embarrassment of riches" for the Scottish government, says Brown.

James says marine planners can use the survey results to guide their policies on issues including required shoreline infrastructure or the interaction of different uses, such as the level of sailing activities in areas where offshore wind farms are proposed. "For example, identifying where there is a need for additional car parking or slipways, or where ?we should allow additional development to support recreation activities," he suggests.

As well as "providing a missing part of the jigsaw" for marine planners, the survey data has also provided valuable information beyond planning. "Local businesses can understand more fully what people are doing and where they are going," says James.


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