You may have heard a report on BBC Radio Orkney this morning (23 April) about our Harbours Masterplan document, which was agreed at last week’s Full Council meeting. The following provides more information on the document and clarifies some of the points made during the report.
What is the harbours masterplan document?
The masterplan document sets out where our harbour and pier operations are at present, where we would like to be in the future and the steps we believe we need to take to get us there.
It is therefore not intended to represent a project plan or a fully developed final business case. As such, it gives indicative costs of the envisaged projects - the only expenditure so far has been on the research, consultation and developmental work required to produce the document.
Having the masterplan document in place will now enable the council to react quickly and appropriately to opportunity, whilst at the same time acting as a showcase of our current marine offering to outside interests. This is a normal and recognised activity for ports across the UK to have in place, and essential for Orkney to ensure that we can continue to compete with other ports to secure business for Orkney.
More importantly, it will enable the Council to plan for the continuing success of the harbour as a net contributor to both the Council’s finances and local economy as markets change and oil dependency reduces.
Does this mean that we have now committed to spending £170m on improvements to the council's piers and harbours?
Again, no money is committed at this point in time. There will now be a period of further investigation and feasibility work before consideration of any direct investment that the Council may (or may not) wish to commit to the specific projects detailed in the plan. These will follow the normal full scrutiny of any capital project considered by the Council. Each individual project will have to be proven to be commercially viable before any final decision to progress any of them is made - including through full debate at the various Harbour Sub and Policy and Resources - then Full Council - stages.
Does the Council not have better things to do with its reserves at this time ?
The Master Plan has, and will, consider those projects which are commercially successful and therefore able to repay any of the investment envisaged. Projects which don't provide the evidence that they would achieve this will not be taken forward. The he aim is for our future harbours infrastructure to be properly developed to enable its net contribution to the Council’s finances to continue long in to the future.
Is it just about bringing more cruise ships to Orkney?
Absolutely not, the masterplan covers all areas of our harbour operations with a main focus on Scapa Flow and offshore developments. Cruise, which is already well developed and serviced is not a significant feature within the Master Plan. It’s a long term, strategic plan for our piers and harbours looking not only at core infrastructure to sustain imports, future internal ferry services, renewables projects and commerce - but also the continued prosperity of marine activity in Orkney for the next 40 years or more.
Are we pressing ahead with little or no public scrutiny or consultation?
The facts are that a draft of the masterplan was presented through the committee process for debate in March 2019, following by a detailed seminar to which all Members were invited. This was then subject to extensive consultation during 2019 - both with the general public and a long list of industry stakeholders - which is fully detailed in the 100+ page consultation report appended to the masterplan - and covered in the local press. The consultation process informed a final revised version of the Masterplan which was then reported in the normal way to the Harbours-sub Committee last month – a meeting which all Councillors, the public and the press were free to attend. Draft versions of the Harbours Masterplan and the Consultation Report have been available on our website www.orkneyharbours.com since the process began - with the final version being uploaded this week.