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Planning tools

In a broad sense planning tools can be seen as any kind of ‘aid to planning’. These might includes tools to hold, manage and display data (including spatial and non-spatial data), tools to support stakeholder engagement, tools to develop and analyse options and tools to evaluate options and support plan-making decisions.

A variety of such tools are routinely used in terrestrial planning. Existing marine management also makes use of similar tools, many of which may be adapted for use in marine spatial planning. The particular characteristics of the marine environment have led to a strong demand for spatial analysis tools (to support the allocation of space within zoning plans) as well as impact assessment tools suitable for the assessment of cumulative effects. However the complexities of the marine environment mean that those cumulative effects tools that have been developed are often overly simplistic and reliant on generalised assumptions. Historically, the consideration of social impacts of marine policies has been relatively neglected.

The development of impact assessment and decision-support tools for marine planning needs to be done in an open and transparent way to engender support amongst stakeholders. Where tools are developed they must recognise the uncertainties inherent in the marine environment. The early focus should be on the development of simple tools that are readily understood.