Offshore Wind SEA Consultation Events - Wigtown - 26 January 2011
Influence of consultation on decision making.
Many of the attendees considered that that earlier notification of the Consultation Analysis prior to the meeting would have been beneficial as many attendees had not had an opportunity to read this. The original consultation process was also considered to have been too short. Attendees wished it to be noted that it was difficult for second home owners and those on holiday away from the area to provide responses within the timescales required and suggested that more time would be required for people in those situations to respond.
Attendees were informed that a link to the Consultation Analysis report had been issued to all respondents to the summer consultation. Further views were welcomed and late responses would be accepted if the deadline of 31 January 2011 could not be met. It was requested that Marine Scotland be informed of any intent to provide further comment. An addendum to the analysis report will be published, taking these further views into account.
It was suggested by some attendees that there could be a referendum on whether local residents wanted this development. It was considered by attendees that there is a need for "proper" consultation.
Very strong feelings were expressed by attendees that development was not wanted by the communities around the Solway Firth and they did not want the Wigtown Bay option to progress. Attendees also wished it to be noted that this extended to all the Solway sites - both short and medium term options. Meetings had been held locally where all attendees agreed that they were collectively against all the Solway sites with general agreement that they were both inappropriate and unacceptable. Though there was general support for renewables, attendees considered the whole community believed it was clear that this offshore wind developments were the wrong proposal in the wrong location. An attendee considered that if the Wigtown Bay option was not removed from the draft Plan, then the consultation process had not been meaningful and they would be approaching Dumfries and Galloway Council to raise a judicial review.
Clarification was sought from members of the audience on why responses from some organisations such as Keep Wigtown Bay Natural, were not available to be viewed on the Scottish Government website. There was also concern raised that personal details, including addresses and signatures, had been included on the responses that had been published and this could possibly lead to identity theft. The community were informed that all responses where permission to publish had been granted were now online, those previous unavailability had been due to a technical error. An apology was given for the release of private personal details and a commitment was given by officials that this would be rectified immediately.
N.B. Officials have checked all responses and republished amended versions to remove personal details where necessary.
An attendee raised some specific points on the summary document and the consultation process. These are listed below:
- Page 46 (3.110) Respondees were very critical of the proposed developments. These were not published on the Marine Scotland website till 12 weeks after they were submitted.
- Details from p90 (4.15) should also be included on p48 re the recommendation of a minimum exclusion zone of 8 km from the coast.
- Keep Wigtown Bay Natural also has a paper petition which has over 2,000 signatures and has been registered with the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee.
- Keep Wigtown Bay Natural held an independent survey over a bank holiday which found that 4 out of 5 respondents would be deterred from coming back to visit the area if development went ahead. This was noted and would be consider in the Socio-economic assessment.
Officials clarified that all Scottish Ministers are seen to have a role in the decision making process for the Plan for offshore wind energy.
It was raised by an attendee that Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) took a regional approach as opposed to site specific so not to pre-judge the site specific environmental issues. Questions were raised on the difference between regional and site specific. Officials confirmed that further work would be required on a site specific basis under Environmental Regulations prior to any development being licensed.
An attendee considered that there was no consideration of the effects of storm, sediment and tidal stream, particularly in reference to Wigtown Bay. Officials confirmed this has been covered in the SEA but not specifically in relation to Wigtown Bay.
It was also suggested by attendees that the development will cause silt effects and will have an effect on sea life and recreational diving.
Attendees strongly opposed the proposed options in the Solway and asked for clarification on the site selection process. It was explained that 25 medium term options were identified through marine planning and were Government led. The 9 short term options had been presented to the Scottish Government through an exclusivity agreement process between The Crown Estate ( TCE) and developers. Attendees were informed that inclusion of regional development in the Plan does not equate to consenting/licensing to allow a project to be implemented. If an option remains within the Plan there will still be a requirement for statutory licensing/consenting process(es) to be undertaken.
Clarification was sought by the community on how transparent the tendering process had been when the developers had entered into the exclusivity agreements. It was clarified that the Scottish Government was not involved in the tendering process, this was the responsibility of TCE. Details of the tendering process are protected by commercial confidentiality, however, attendees considered there should be greater transparency on this.
The community emphasised the strong feeling that all sites identified in the area, both short term options and medium term options, were inappropriate and should not progress and asked that this be conveyed to Ministers. It was also considered by attendees that designations such as SSSI, NSA and RSA had not influenced the site selection process.
The ongoing consultation on "Securing the Benefits of Scotland's Next Energy Revolution" ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/11/26094907/0) was highlighted. It was noted that the deadline for responses is 18 February 2011 but late responses would be accepted providing Marine Scotland is notified.
It was suggested by attendees that if large onshore development such as the proposed Castlewigg Farm development goes ahead, then the argument for the Solway development is moot.
Clarification was sought on all aspects of licensing, including permissions for the terrestrial aspects of the project, in particular how this would affect requesting a Public Local Inquiry as it was noted that there is not the same appeal process for onshore and offshore developments.
For offshore applications, it was confirmed that Scottish Ministers have the right to call a Public Local Inquiry ( PLI). Planning authorities are consultees in the process and do not have the power to do this, although they can object to an application. If a planning authority objects to a Section 36 application, handling depends on whether the application is for a wholly offshore development or for an offshore development with an onshore element. If the application contains an onshore element, and the planning authority lodges an objection, then this would likely trigger a PLI into the onshore element only (unless Scottish Ministers direct otherwise). Where a Section 36 application covers a wholly offshore development, a planning authority objection would not automatically trigger a PLI. However, Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team would take such an objection seriously when preparing advice to Ministers. Ministers would then give careful consideration to this objection, along with all other material considerations, with a view to determining whether a PLI should be held.
It was asked if there was an opportunity for developers to appeal the decision if a licence was refused, and if a developer has a lease and a licence and wished to add further devices not already covered what the process would be. Attendees were informed that there would be an opportunity for a developer to appeal refusal to grant a marine licence but not a s36 consent. For any additional devices a developer would most likely need to apply for a further section 36 consent, such decisions are considered on a case by case basis. Marine Scotland Licensing Operations team will then consider the environmental impact of any additional licence applications.
A question was raised that if a site which had been excluded from the Plan could this be reinstated through the two year review process. It was clarified by officials that there would have to be a very good reason to reinstate an area which had already been excluded.
An attendee asked if the licensing process will have sufficient authority, noting that at Robin Rigg no radar monitoring equipment had been installed on the site, despite this having been a condition of licensing. If a Section 36 permission and Marine Licence is granted to allow a development proposal to go ahead then appropriate conditions will be put in place and enforced by Marine Scotland. N.B. It has been subsequently clarified that while bird monitoring was a licensing condition for Robin Rigg, it was not stipulated how this was to be undertaken.
It was also clarified that TCE do not have the right of veto on licences. Decisions on licences rest with the Scottish Ministers.
It was confirmed that the land-based planning authority will be a consultee in the Marine licensing process. The local authority is a key member of the Facilitators Group, which is convened by Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team to consider, for example, development applications which are not straight forward.
It was suggested by many of the attendees that there needed to be clarity on the meaning of "offshore". It was noted that this was a concern which had been raised in other areas and that the terminology is technical, originating from the oil and gas industry. Attendees were informed that for the purposes of the national level Offshore Wind Plan all sites were considered to be offshore, but that the SEA has identified visual impact (arising from proximity to the coast) as an issue of concern and this would be conveyed to decision makers.
There was a strong belief in the community that proximity to the shore of the proposed development and the resulting visual impact was a key concern. It was noted by a member of the audience that he had read several documents on offshore wind which stated development should be 8 miles from the shore and that there were medium term options in the draft Plan within this limit. The community suggested that 8-13 km was a more reasonable distance from the shore. A Danish study was cited as having stated that a distance of 22-44 km was required to strike a balance between energy needs and visual impact.
A question was raised from an attendee on the economic benefits of wind farms. It was considered that wind farms were heavily subsidised with a member of the audience quoting that £200,000 per day subsidy and £200,000 for electricity would be paid to the developer for the Wigtown Bay option. Officials were asked how much public money is used to subsidise wind farm development. This issue was believed to be pertinent by attendees given that an eye witness had reported that over the previous 9 weeks none of the turbines at Robin Rigg had been turning. Attendees were informed that figures for the Ofgem ROC (Renewables Obligations Certificate) system were not to hand but DECC or Ofgem would have further details on this.
Clarification was sought by attendees on whether TCE will get the money. Officials clarified that the Crown owns the seabed, which is then managed by TCE. It provides leases to developers - this money goes to TCE and on to HM Treasury.
Attendees asked who would benefit from the wind farm proposals and were informed that assessing the economic benefits would depend on several factors including development scale and supply chains. This is a very important issue but not one the socio-economic assessment could seek to answer at project level. The socio-economic assessment would be key in flagging up issues to Scottish Ministers to the extent that a strategic assessment could. Attendees asked that shareholding be taken into consideration in the socio-economic study along with tourism dis-benefits. It was also requested that figures should be presented as a percentage of the local economy and should consider more than just financial implications. Further clarification was sought as to whether the assessment took into consideration international studies undertaken with similar polices which have identified no economic benefits, in particular a Spanish study was mentioned. It was noted that this has and will continue to be looked at and it would be appreciated if a reference to this report could be provided.
Community attendees were concerned that in the Mull of Galloway area there is low employment with tourism, fishing and farming being the main industries that provide employment. It was strongly believed by attendees that the proposed development would not only remove tourism opportunities, therefore the jobs which rely on this, but reduce the potential retention of new residents. It was considered that today's tourists may be tomorrow's residents and migration into the area is a very important issue which will be adversely affected if the proposed development proceeds. It was also considered by attendees that the importance of tourism and the associated benefits and strength of feeling in the community of the potential impacts was not reflected accurately in the Consultation Analysis report - only two bullet points as opposed to five on the effect on land/seascape. Attendees were informed that land/seascape impact was the most common issue raised but appreciated that the natural beauty of area was intrinsic to the tourism industry and had sought to demonstrate this. It was noted however that attendees wanted a greater level of emphasis awarded to the effects on tourism.
The impacts on the local fishing industry of the proposal was also a key concern. Of particular note were options SW3 and SW5 with strong concerns being raised that development in these areas would seriously adversely affect the fishing industry in the Solway. Officials were informed that one of the medium term options ( SW3) goes from Burrow Head and is one of the main shipping routes in Scotland with 20-30 boats a day using this route. It was feared that jobs would end up being lost to Whitehaven which had all the facilities in place already and where access to the Bay is almost 24 hours a day. It was clarified that the Consultation Analysis report had noted impacts on fishing as an issue, this was on page 53, but the strength of feeling would be emphasised.
Attendees wished it noted that the local community is fearful that they will lose their lifestyle.
Marine Scotland was asked what consideration had been given to wave and tidal energy. It was stated by attendees that the Solway has one of the biggest tidal rise and fall but one of the lowest category of wind speeds. Attendees asked if TCE had considered other alternatives. Attendees believed this was not just a regional issue but a Scotland wide problem. It was also asked why the Scottish Government are pursuing this policy for offshore wind when scientists are not in agreement over whether climate change is man made or not. It was also noted that the strong tidal streams may prove detrimental to offshore wind development.
It was considered by many attendees that marine renewables should be equally considered and in a more joined up approach with offshore windfarms and it was asked that the Government should not just consider wind. It was posed that wind farms do not save CO2 and are at best carbon neutral. Officials noted that there is work ongoing on wave and tidal power - the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters have already had a leasing round and Regional Locational Guidance has been prepared to provide guidance to developers. It was asked by an attendee if two developers could apply for a licence for different devices on the same site. They were informed that any simultaneous development would be down to the leaseholder to decide as they would have to be prepared to share the lease.
Explanation on the HRA process was given by a representative of the consultants undertaking this commission. It was explained that HRA implements the Habitats and birds Directives. There are around 500 designated sites in Scotland as a whole, and around 360 sites have been covered by this appraisal. Environmental Non Government Organisations, such as RSPB; SNH, and groups from all key sectors have helped advise the consultants in the production of the HRA and Socio-economic Assessment.
It was asked by attendees what the process would be for commenting on both the HRA and the Socio-economic assessment. It was explained that all the assessment documents will be published on the Scottish Government website. It is proposed that there will be an ongoing review of all the assessments and any changes to the assessment findings or the Plan would be reported on a regular basis, proposed to be every two years. A member of the audience believed this was a breach of process and that the reports should be made publically available for consultation prior to publication. They considered this would be grounds for a judicial review and it was specifically requested that this point be brought to Ministers' attention.