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SIC reaches next stage of Crown Estate pilot

SHETLAND Islands Council (SIC) is one of five organisations that have moved to the second stage of a pilot scheme which could give the local authority more control over how seabed and coastline around the isles is managed.

Sullom Voe Terminal. Photo: BPSullom Voe Terminal. Photo: BP

The council has reached the next stage of Crown Estate Scotland’s local pilots scheme, which enables community bodies and local authorities to “test new and innovative approaches to sustainable management” of crown estate run assets.

SIC development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said the council’s application for the pilot scheme related to the Sullom Voe harbour area.

Earlier this year councillors backed plans to create a masterplan which could potentially lift the blanket ban on aquaculture in the harbour area.

The Crown Estate pilot scheme received 13 applications for initial assessment, with Shetland Islands Council joined by the Orkney and Western Isles councils, Galson Estate Trust and the Tay and Earn Trust in reaching the next round.

Scottish Crown Estate, which manages land and property on behalf of Scottish ministers, covers assets including seabed out to 12 nautical miles, just under half of the country’s foreshore and around 37,000 ha of rural land across four estates.

These are home to moorings, pontoons, fish farms, agricultural farms and more, while it covers agreements with cables and pipeline operators in addition to rights to offshore renewable energy and gas and carbon dioxide storage out to 200 nautical miles.

Crown Estate Scotland receives rental income from salmon farms, for instance, and issues leases, licences and consents in areas like aquaculture, wave and tidal energy projects, ports and harbour developments and dredging.

But Cooper said the key theme is the council getting to work in partnership with the Crown Estate, rather than the local authority setting rental prices or taking income.

“The aquaculture industry is keen to get into Sullom Voe,” he said about the pilot scheme, “and we have to have a masterplan for Sullom Voe which takes account of all the possibilities dare I say west of Shetland, and the needs of the local economy.

“We need to work together to make sure that we’re all on the same page. It’s good that they’re actually going to engage with us.”

Crown Estate Scotland says all surplus revenue generated from rents and licences during the pilot period would be “surrendered to Crown Estate Scotland in order that it may comply with its legislative requirements”.

“It’s not about us actually getting control of the seabed and getting their rental income, it’s about actually us working together to ensure developments are coordinated between the various parties,” Cooper added.

Crown Estate Scotland’s corporate affairs manager John Long said “separate from the pilots scheme, in terms of any changes on a national level to how Crown Estate Scotland operates, our future responsibilities and duties will be laid out by the forthcoming Scottish Crown Estate Bill”.

Local pilots manager Tom Mallows said the standard of applications highlighted the “potential to test different ways of managing natural assets in ways that benefit and empower communities”.

“While we’re still in the early stages of the process, we’re really looking forward to working closely with these organisations to help them deliver on their ambitions, whether that’s through the local pilots scheme or other routes such as a lease or closer partnership working,” he said.

Six other organisations will also have further discussions with Crown Estate Scotland, including Findhorn Village Conservation Company, Mallaig Harbour Authority and Forth District Salmon Fisheries Board.