Offshore Wind SEA Consultation Events - Tiree - 13 January 2011
Influence of consultation on decision making
Clarification was sought on the process that would be undertaken if a significant issue was identified as missing in the summary report of consultation responses. The community were informed that this would take the form of an appendix or annex to the summary which would be made available on the web and incorporated into the information provided to Scottish Ministers making the decisions on the content of the plan. It is the intention that the plan will be adopted before the pre election period begins.
Concern was raised that the analysis showing numbers of consultation responses may be misleading and overlook the strength of views expressed. It was felt that the proportion of respondents would be a better measure, and that the Argyll Array would have the same or a larger impact ratio as other developments. Assurance was given that the summary had sought to reflect both quantitatively and qualitatively the views expressed in order to fully capture the community's feelings. It was also noted that Consultation Analysis Report was currently open for comment with an anticipated closing date of 31 January 2011. It was requested that Marine Scotland be informed if respondents intended to make further comment but were unable to meet this deadline as late responses will be accepted. The community requested that draft of the minutes of the night's proceedings be issued prior to the close of this deadline.
Ongoing consultation on 'Securing the Benefits', (available on Marine Scotland website) was highlighted and it was noted that responses are invited before 18 February 2011. Late responses will be accepted providing they are notified.
The community noted that national bodies responded to the consultation, but felt that more local consultation with tourism providers, e.g. the water sports industry, would have been beneficial. It would have been useful if national bodies, e.g. the Royal Yachting Association Scotland had contacted local people and businesses in order to provide a community based response.
The sources of information presented on income and employment from offshore renewables were discussed. It was felt that manufacturing input is largely under foreign ownership and that Scotland needs to develop its manufacturing capacity to realise these potential benefits.
Concern was raised with regards to the list of residual effects included in the presentation as it was felt that infra noise was a significant issue which was not noted.
It was felt that greater consideration should be given within the assessment to the proposal by SNH and the Scottish Government 5 years ago of the area being designated a possible marine park.
It was felt that the term 'offshore' needs to be defined, as there is some confusion between the terms 'offshore' and 'inshore'. It was explained that the terminology has its origins in the oil and gas industry, where 'offshore' is used for development below the low water mark and 'onshore' for development above. The community believe that it needs to be fully understood in terms of proximity to shore.
Some participants felt mitigation should take the form of avoidance in the first instance, in line with the mitigation hierarchy.
Site Selection and other marine plans
Clarification was sought by the community on the decision process leading to the exclusion from the draft plan of some of the medium and short term options. The Scottish Government clarified that 5 medium term options had been excluded as a result of international designation status of World Heritage Sites and likelihood of munitions. A short term site option had been excluded due to licensing.
The community sought clarification on when the National Marine Plan consultation will be taken forward by Marine Scotland. It was explained that this was proposed to come forward during the first quarter of the year.
Further explanation was sought on the SEA process and its influence on site selection. It was explained that medium term options are areas of search for future development to allow for more specific proposals within them and will require further assessment through the 2 year SEA and Plan review process. Inclusion of regional development in the Plan does not equate to consent for a project. The Strategic Plan process is an additional step and does not detract from the need to cover project issues within licence applications. There will still need to be a statutory licensing process and the findings of the strategic assessment and consultation work will be used to indentify issues that any potential developer will need to consider within their project application.
Relationship with developer
The community raised the issue of financing of short term sites, and the impact this may have on projects. It was noted that developers are looking at the best areas to invest and where projects are deemed financially viable they are more likely to be taken forward.
Consultees voiced a concern about a lack of information from the prospective developer being available at this stage, including the absence of visualisations. It was felt that other prospective developers had engaged with other communities more effectively and had provided visual montages showing the development from a range of view points. They wished this to be noted and highlighted to the decision makers. There was a view that the information day held previously by the prospective developer was inadequate. They would welcome "meaningful and substantive information days" and also sought the opportunity for more effective dialogue.
The community were concerned with an apparently premature assumption from the prospective developer stating that the project would be going ahead, and sought clarification on this. It was clarified that at this time the draft plan for offshore wind is being finalised and all available information is being put to Ministers who are the decision makers in this process. It was reiterated that they will not be making a decision about individual sites but on the high level plan and that inclusion of sites or areas does not imply development consent. Further work is required before decisions are possible made at the project level.
Some members of the community felt that the developer could be holding back information. Assurance was given that the work of the prospective developer does not affect the work of Marine Scotland. It was also suggested that the developer was at a different stage in the process than other developers and effective engagement in the masterplanning process will provide an opportunity for this issue to be discussed.
The community were informed that under SEA requirements a monitoring strategy will be implemented with further assessment and research being undertaken. It was clarified that this work will be undertaken and reviewed every two years. Concern was expressed by Tiree consultees that other consultees (Scottish Power Renewables) had sought a longer (five year) review period in their consultation response.
Licensing and Master Planning
A summary of the purpose of the SEA Directive was provided. It is a strategic approach, a series of checks and balances for the environment, provides a high-level overview, therefore does not capture project level detail. It also does not grant planning permission or a marine licence. But it has a key role highlighting residual issues which can be picked up at the licensing stage, e.g. through project level EIA and therefore prospective developers will need to consider these issues. The community attendees were informed that no application of a licence has been submitted by the prospective developer. Full engagement with the masterplanning approach was reiterated as a means to engage with the developer to express their views and concerns.
The community attendees suggested that the licensing process should be set to include a series of criteria whereby the developer is awarded 'bonus points' for actively involving communities. It was also suggested that the prospective developer of the Argyll Array should hold monthly communication meetings, which are more thoroughly and promptly followed up.
The Scottish Government felt it was important for the community to be fully informed of the licensing process and were in touch with colleagues from the Marine Scotland Licensing team to facilitate a meeting with the community. This was welcomed by the community who would require further clarification on all aspects of licensing, including permissions for the terrestrial components of the project. They were informed that it is likely that terrestrial components will be considered by the local planning authority, in this case Argyll and Bute Council. Where Section 36 is used for terrestrial licensing, the planning authority could force a public local enquiry. However, the use of Section 36 could be limited, and the community felt that it was likely that the prospective developer of the Argyll Array were more likely to favour applying for onshore consent separately through the Planning authority. Again it was pointed out that the proposed masterplanning initiative being led by Argyll and Bute Council and supported by the developer and Marine Scotland should be used to deliver an integrated approach guaranteeing effective community engagement.
Currently Ministers are being advised on the strategic level plan, and the options which can be considered.
For project licensing, a separate Marine Scotland team will manage the process and ensure project specific EIA is undertaken, it will be their role to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers. It is still possible for developers to apply for licences even where sites are not included in the final Plan. The Plan has not covered site specific assessment. It covers high level issues and is more likely to provide a regional steer. Equally, developments in regions outlined in the plan are not guaranteed a licence for development. All applications will be considered by Marine Scotland with respect to the views expressed in Scottish Ministers' Plan and if considered appropriate a relevant application will be subject to the same licensing process. The Marine Renewables Licensing Manual was suggested as a useful source of further information on the process to be followed at the application stage.
Some of the community attendees were concerned that the master planning exercise is not transparent, only having been announced recently. People asked whether it was a 'Tiree only' exercise or whether it will also cover the Islay and Kintyre arrays. It was explained that the masterplanning was specifically designed for the Tiree array at present, but it is hoped that this approach could be adopted for Islay and Kintyre. The community asked for further clarification of whether Argyll and Bute Council is a statutory consultee, as a letter from SNH makes reference to them as such. It was clarified that Argyll and Bute Council are leading on the masterplanning process. It was noted that this is the beginning of the process and effective engagement will be required for an inclusive approach. The community would welcome finalised minutes of the masterplanning group's meeting, as well as clarification of who is represented. They emphasised the need for the community to be fully represented. It was pointed out that at present Lloyd Gudgeon is considered to be the Tiree Community representative in the masterplanning initiative, but we would need to meet with the community to discuss how we ensure that representation is guaranteed. A meeting is likely in late Spring/early Summer.
No Tiree Array asked for advice on how they could get the development moved from the present proposed site. It was noted that the EIA process of screening and scoping will go into further detail on the development. The masterplanning approach will include a fuller assessment of socio-economic and environmental issues for related onshore development options identified by the developer. All marine impacts will be considered in more detail through the licensing process. It was also requested that clarification be given on the status of Tiree as a consultee at the licensing stage.
Clarification was sought on how many times this approach to stakeholder engagement had been undertaken. It was explained that the SEA Team within the Scottish Government have undertaken many SEAs and that the consultation on this SEA and Plan significantly exceeds the minimum requirements. The proposed masterplanning approach has not been undertaken for this type of development before, but Argyll and Bute Council have prior experience more generally of masterplanning with developers and communities. It was emphasised that one of the aims of the masterplan approach is to meet the request previously conveyed in the consultation process by the Tiree community for earlier engagement.
Responses to Consultation Report
The Consultation Analysis report provides a summary of responses. Individual responses are available on the Scottish Government website, excepting those which have been withheld for reasons of confidentiality. Requests to view responses that are not automatically published could be made on an ad hoc basis through channels such as Freedom of Information.
Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA)
Concerns were raised with regards the sources of the data being used to inform the HRA and subsequent impact assessments, particularly its integrity if it has been collected by the prospective developer. It was explained that like SEA, this is a high level assessment looking at the overall effects of the draft plan and that data sources utilised are held by organisations such as SNH who have the wealth of information required at this level. This information and any gaps identified will feed into the monitoring, research and assessment strategy which will be put in place within the SEA review process. Where site specific information is needed to inform subsequent site level impact assessments these will be led by the prospective developer. The quality of data used will be assessed through the licensing process.
The HRA will recommend mitigation, which at this stage will be high level strategic measures. These recommendations will be used to inform subsequent planning stages and site specific HRA. It was clarified that licensing mitigation includes measures to reduce/avoid impacts, and could include turbine positioning.
Community members were concerned that the guidance on noise is 13 years out of date. It was noted that the HRA can make recommendations for new data/information where this is deemed necessary.
It was confirmed that the HRA covered both short and medium term options, whereas the socio-economic assessment applies only to the short term options, as the socio-economic data is more uncertain over the medium term.
Concerns were raised on the impacts on porpoises which have been sighted around the island. It was explained that HRA only looks at designated sites and species, so migratory species such as porpoises are protected by other legislation and not covered by the strategic HRA. The SEA has taken account of the effects on porpoises and the licensing for individual site proposals will also take account of this. The community were encouraged to contact SNH with regards to clarification on this issue, and any other species issues that may be present on or around Tiree that needs protection under the Habitats Directive.
The community raised potential effects on crustaceans and fish, and wanted further clarification how they will be considered and protected, unless they are in a specific guideline. It was outlined that the species list used in the HRA is relatively short, limited to species which are most threatened, whereas habitat lists are more extensive and also take account of fish and crustaceans living on or in a habitat, e.g. cold water reef. Therefore, species that are linked to protected habitats under the Habitats Directive will also be afforded some protection.
It was clarified that proposed Special Protection Areas ( SPA) are included in the impact assessments.
The community raised a concern that 'people' are missed from the assessment, commenting that this is a serious shortcoming. The impacts on people should be captured in the same way that, for example, oil companies carry out this work. It was highlighted that the work is being steered by findings from the initial consultation and that specific details and effects will be captured at site level.
It was clarified that the Consultation Analysis covers people and socio-economic assessment includes an assessment of impacts on small firms, making use of existing consultation responses and national databases. The community were concerned that the data used may not cover all issues, and may not capture self employment and micro-businesses. They felt that surveys of businesses' views should be carried out on Tiree for a more accurate picture. It was explained that socio-economic assessment is strategic high level assessment capturing national and regional issues and therefore does not capture local level detail. The master planning process will provide a significant opportunity to get local level details, these issues would also be captured at a finer grain again through project- EIA.
It was clarified that tourism was included in the assessment but that the environmental cost to tourism businesses was not described quantitatively but qualitatively as it is very difficult to accurately monetise this at a regional or national level. Public health impacts are also included and covered in a qualitative approach, e.g. changes to way of life, and includes a qualitative description of impacts.
Comments on Plan and SEA
Consultation Analysis Report provides a summary of the consultation, including both written responses and consultation events. Any final comments on the Consultation Report are invited by the 31 st January 2011. We are seeking to ensure its findings are correct and reflect the opinions and concerns of the community.
The community questioned on what basis the following statement was made, 'Several of the sites could have significant effects on areas of high landscape or seascape character: Solway Firth, Wigtown Bay, Kintyre, Islay and the Argyll Array. This is not viewed as being of sufficient concern at this stage to result in the removal of any sites from the Draft Plan…' It was clarified that there are for example many developments in or near to National Scenic Areas and the SEA flagged visual impact as a residual issue which cannot be ignored, but at this stage it is believed the prospective developer could play a role in addressing this at the project level. The community would welcome more information from the prospective developer on this issue, and felt that having this information would have a significant effect on the views of the community.
The community were informed that the published plan and SEA post-adoption statement is not likely to make a presumption of a development at the site level. The plan will outline residual effects, whilst the SEA post-adoption statement will address are issues that have been raised through the SEA and the consultation. The SEA has taken account of the European Landscape Convention.
The community attendess noted that the SEA was completed in May 2010, and was followed by consultations and additional assessments and questioned whether this was the best process. It was explained that these various assessments fit together: SEA establishes part of the picture, with consultation adding value to the process, whilst Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA) and socio-economic assessment provide further detail on specific issues and has been informed by the consultation process.
The community attendees extended their thanks to the Scottish Government for organising and attending the consultation event.