SpatialNorth: Large-Scale Regional Planning


The Centre for Mountain Studies was the regional lead partner in the implementation of SpatialNorth in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, a 30-month project funded primarily by the European Commission's Northern Periphery Programme (Interreg IIIB). The project ran from 2005 to 2007.

The project also involved partners from three other regions with similar characteristics:

  • Västernorrland (Sweden, Lead Partner)
  • North Karelia (Finland)
  • East Iceland

In each region, partners assessed current levels of policy coordination and evaluated a number of current policy development case studies to identify good practice.

Lessons learned were shared across the partnership through meetings, study tours and conferences, and the project outcome was the production of a comprehensive one-stop shop of invaluable information for all planners, policy makers and politicians involved in spatial planning from the local level to the national across the northern periphery.

CMS undertook a number of case studies evaluations of plan/policy development in Scotland.

  • Atlantic Coast (Wester Ross) Project - the development of an Integrated Coastal Management Plan by Highland Council;
  • Wester Ross Local Plan - focusing on stakeholder participation;
  • Lewis wind farms - focusing on stakeholder participation;
  • Argyll and Bute Local Transport Strategy - the development of the strategy;
  • Sutherland Local Plan review - focusing on stakeholder participation.


The following research areas were also looked at:

  • Plan alignment from the EU to the local level - plan definition and production of tables and flow charts;
  • Use of ‘Plan alignment tools’ for developing plans in the Highlands and Islands;
  • The development and use of visions in strategic spatial plans;
  • The use of targets and performance monitoring in strategic plans;
  • The use of spatial data and geographic information systems (GIS) in the Highlands and Islands.


The project culminated with a large international three-day conference held at the Newton Hotel in Nairn on 13 to 15 November 2007. This event, organised and hosted by CMS, brought together over 70 planners and policy makers from across Northern Europe, and as far as Canada, to listen and discuss different regional spatial planning experiences, disseminate project findings and launch the new toolbox website.

Effective sustainable development, particularly for remote rural areas with dispersed populations, requires a coordinated approach to strategic spatial policy making at all levels of government. This project has made a valuable contribution to the much needed body of knowledge and good practice examples on this important subject.