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Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Analysis of Consultation Responses

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Background

1. In May 2010, the Scottish Government published a Draft Plan for Offshore Wind in Scottish Territorial Waters for public consultation. The Draft Plan set out aspirations for developing this sector, recognising the potential for offshore wind to make a significant contribution to targets for renewable energy generation as part of Scotland's wider commitment to climate change mitigation.

2. In accordance with the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005, a Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) was undertaken alongside the development of the Draft Plan. The findings of the assessment were set out in the Environmental Report, and public opinions on it, together with the Draft Plan, were invited.

3. The purpose of the consultation on the Draft Plan and its SEA was to encourage wide debate on the overall approach to offshore wind in Scotland. This report sets out the findings from this consultation process.

4. A total of 855 responses to the consultation were received, of which 118 were from organisations and the remainder (737) were from individuals. The level of detail and issues covered by the responses varied, from detailed concerns about specific developments, to broader perspectives on the Draft Plan as a whole and its SEA. Whilst not all consultees agreed with the approach to the Plan or some of its content, and others had considerable concerns about impacts on specific sectors such as fishing or navigation, the consultation process has ensured that these views have been expressed and can now be taken into account as the Plan is finalised.

Key Findings

5. There was a general view across the different types of consultees that the Draft Plan and its SEA provided an important first step in the process of strategically planning offshore wind development in Scotland. However, some concerns were expressed about the scale and pace of change it implies, and the balance that is being struck between environmental, social and economic concerns. Many people called for much more detailed assessment of the positive and negative social and economic implications of the Plan. This work is in progress.

6. The findings also show that there is extensive and direct regional and local opposition to the Solway, Wigtown and Kintyre short term options. Most of these concerns arise from the visual impacts from the developments, their size and proximity to the coast, and their perceived implications for local tourism sectors. There are also some more regional and local level concerns over the proposals for Tiree (Argyll Array) and Islay. In the case of Tiree, issue also relate to the impact on the island's culture and population, its fragile environment and infrastructure.

7. In contrast, there is support for the Draft Plan and its SEA from other regions, including the North and East. In the Western Isles and Orkney, respondents including the local Councils are seeking to progress more development in the short term than is currently proposed in the plan.

8. The fishing industry is concerned over the scale of short (2010-20) and potential medium (2020-30) term development and the related exclusion and displacement the industry will face especially if important spawning, nursery and fishing take zones are impacted. A combination of exclusion and hence increased local competition arising from displaced fishing activity were also raised as concerns.

9. The Shipping and Ports and Harbours sectors expressed concerns over the scale and position of developments off the Forth and Tay and within the Solway, and about large medium term options which have the potential to restrict access to the Minch and therefore require further consideration. The aviation industry is concerned that coastal airports may be affected especially for sites off the Forth and Tay, Tiree and Machrihanish.

10. Scottish Natural Heritage, some local authorities (Dumfries and Galloway Council and Argyll and Bute Council) the RSPB and Scottish Environment Link have raised concerns about the scale and location of proposed developments and in particular the overall environmental impacts of the Draft Plan as a whole, including some specific elements. The progression of a Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA) is expected to address many of these issues.

11. The offshore wind energy industry has generally welcomed the draft Plan and its SEA as an important first step in the process. However, it suggested that a regional, rather than site specific, approach would be more appropriate, to ensure that the SEA does not pre-judge environmental impact assessment ( EIA) and mitigation that could be better addressed at a project level.

Next steps

12. A Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA) is currently underway, with the report due by the end of January 2011. In addition, the socio-economic assessment has now been commissioned, and will report within a similar timeframe. These two studies are of critical importance, and will be considered alongside consultee views on the draft Plan and its SEA.

13. All of the views expressed by consultees are being taken into account in finalising the Plan. It is considered important that the dialogue on offshore wind continues over the coming months. As a result, the Scottish Government will be undertaking further consultation events in early 2011 to:

  • Provide feedback on the consultation analysis;
  • Ensure that its assessment of consultee views is accurate and identify any further issues of relevance to the Plan;
  • Explore the approach to finalising the Plan with consultees, to explore and test views on key decisions about its content.

14. The Final Plan and its accompanying post-adoption SEA statement will be published in March 2011.