How to Conceal a 395-acre Oil Handling Terminal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Examining the evolution of Occidental Petroleum’s oil handling terminal on the island of Flotta in Scottish Orkney (1972-1978) reveals how a new planning procedure was invented to justify a controversial industrial development in a seemingly undisturbed scenic landscape. One of the UK’s first Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) was undertaken with a specific focus on visual amenity. To reduce the visual impact of the 395-acre facility in the island’s flat moor landscape, techniques of computerized visual analysis were developed. The article thus traces the invention of a new digital technology designed to simulate human visual perception by replacing the observing subject with a “seeing” algorithm. The significance of its use in the terminal project is the advent of one of Britain's most widely used tools for planning and development control: Visual Impact Analysis (VIA). Ultimately the article argues that the VIA of the proposed terminal on Flotta served as the official justification for a planning decision that had already been granted.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
Publication statusUnpublished - Jun 2018
EventScience and Democracy Network (SDN): Annual Meeting - The Technical University of Munich, School of Management & Munich Center for Technology in Society, Munich, Germany
Duration: 27 Jun 201830 Jun 2018


ConferenceScience and Democracy Network (SDN)
Internet address


  • EIA
  • Visual Impact Analysis (VIA)
  • environmental design


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