National Spatial Strategy in Oman

Oman works on the national spatial strategy

A significant project that will have a huge impact on the future spatial development of the Sultanate

After fast social-economic progress, the time has come for a more guided comprehensive spatial development for the Sultanate. Oman is on the crossing now facing big challenges. For example, where is the best suitable space for the expected growing population and further diversified economic activities? How can all kinds of infrastructure, such as roads, public transport, electricity, water and sewage, more effectively be integrated into new urban developments? What kind of vulnerable areas need better protection? How to anticipate on climate change and what is needed to deal successfully with the coming post-oil era? And how can Oman combine all its ambitions and challenges in a sustainable way? It is becoming clear that the sense of urgency is high to find adequate answers on these challenges in a fast changing world.

First time in history

The Supreme Council for Planning (SCP) is setting up in a participatory way a solid framework for guiding the above, through the development of the Oman National Spatial Strategy (ONSS). This will be for the first time in the history of Oman. The ONSS will contain a national strategy on the desired key spatial developments till 2040 with elaborated regional strategies for all governorates. It will also include implementation programs and proposals for a legal planning framework, a new planning information system and capacity building programs.

Enhance prosperity with improving the environment

When completed, the ONSS will provide a comprehensive spatial framework for directing, organizing and implementing sustainable high quality urban and rural development in the Sultanate of Oman for the next 20 years. It is intended to provide incentives for enhancing socio-economic prosperity in combination with improving the environment for future generations. In short, a new solid framework for a national and regional land use strategy must ensure a more balanced sustainable socio-economic and spatial development in the Sultanate. It shall also provide guidance and directions for local structural and detailed plans to be developed later, as well as for the consecutive five-year national development plans.

Regional strategies as building blocks

As part of the ONSS, regional spatial strategies for each governorate in the Sultanate will be elaborated. Each regional spatial strategy shall comprise a single development plan with related regulatory instruments at the local level. The regional spatial strategies will be important building blocks of the ONSS, which aims to integrate them into one national strategy with one vision, regulatory instruments and tools for implementation.

The SCP started a few years ago with the preparation of this large and complex project. Many basic environmental, social and economic data are gathered during the first phases of the project; local and international consultants are recently hired and a Project Management Team is installed now within the SCP. The significance of this huge and complex project is evident. Oman needs to find a new sustainable answer on the call for further growth, development and protection, recording new trends and global challenges.

Link with the Vision 2040 project

The ONSS will be set up in close collaboration with the Vision 2040 project, which is also implemented from the SCP. Vision 2040 is the follow up of the national Vision 2020 and will formulate high level visionary ambitions for the future of the Sultanate on the important national themes; people and society, economic development and governance. The ONSS will give more specific answers on the spatial strategies to be followed: what to do and how to come to that?

The meaning in the daily life

The main subjects of the ONSS seem far away from the daily life of ordinary people. After all, it is about long-term spatial strategies, thematic policies and building guidelines. But on the contrary, the impact can be felt very close by. For example, provision of basic infrastructure like internal roads, tap water, electricity and sewage for new residential areas is an issue felt by many. In the future this should be well planned through an integrated developments of new residential areas.

Another topic is the concentration of jobs and all kinds of facilities in the Muscat Capital area that is causing several undesired social-economic inequalities in the Sultanate. To be sure of a job, many people are either having to commute on weekly basis or migrate to Muscat for work. the rest of the Besides the social inconveniences, this causes a lot of commuting traffic jams. The ONSS will address this issue through development of incentives for spatial-economic growth in other parts of the country in a well-balanced way, preferably based on local and regional assets and the specific skills of the population. This simply means more jobs and facilities (like health and educational services) nearby the traditional family roots.

The ONSS is also about the future quality of the urban and rural environment. Many cities and villages do not have a clear urban centres and are lacking good public space, like parks, squares, parking and walking space. After developing and implementing local spatial plans, based on the regional and national strategies, the urban environment will be more attractive for the residents.

Oman has many attractive unique rural landscapes. Many of them are vulnerable and need better protection and smart planned spatial developments of the villages and economic activities. If done in the right way, this will improve the lives of local people and attract more tourists.

The meaning for investors

For investors it is extremely important to know what the spatial policies are for the long term, both in the whole country and in the governorates. After all, investors will put their money in all kinds of real estates. Their return on investments and future value depend heavily on the right location and the expected developments in the neighborhood. A well guided spatial strategy is also of importance for offering sufficient space for the growth ambitions of the private sector and to attract new foreign business. This will contribute to a more competitive and attractive country.

Extensive transport survey

To make the right decisions about future roads, possible railroads, metro systems or other improved forms of public transport closely related to future urban developments, a National Transport Model will be set up as part of the ONSS. To gather the necessary data for that model an extensive transport survey will be done from mid-October till mid-December this year. Thousands of people will be asked to stop their car and answer all kinds of questions related to their origin and destination. Also thousands of people all over the country will be participating, through responding to household interviews, on their transport related behavior. For the first time in its history, Oman will have a smart evidence based tool to improve all future transport needs.

How the ONSS is developed?

The national and regional strategies will be developed, in close collaboration to each other and with involvement of all kinds of private and governmental stakeholders. The first step will involve an extensive data collection exercise on all kind of information related to social, economic and land use aspects. The stakeholders are intensively involved by highlighting their current issues and future solutions. The second step involves the development of a number of plausible national scenarios, based both on the regional key topics and international trends. After consultation with the stakeholders, the SCP will formulate the preferred spatial direction for the Sultanate. This will be the base for further elaboration of the specific strategies on regional and national levels. This in turn will be debated with both national and regional stakeholders and the final strategies will be approved by the SCP council, before being endorsed by Al-Shura and the Council of State.