Habitats Regulations Appraisal of Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Appropriate Assessment
In May 2010, a Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy ( OWE) in Scottish Territorial Waters was published by Marine Scotland (2010a). The purpose of this Draft Plan is to consider the potential of Scottish Territorial Waters to accommodate OWE developments from a national perspective. It makes proposals and defines potential areas as short, medium and long-term options for OWE generation.
A Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) of the Draft OWE Plan (Marine Scotland, 2010b) identified the potential for a likely significant effect on sites designated for their nature conservation interest at a European Level ("European sites"). Accordingly, a Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA) of the Draft OWE Plan was required under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations, which implement the EC Birds and Habitats Directives in the UK.
As Competent Authority, Marine Scotland contracted ABPMer to undertake screening, scoping appraisal and produce a Habitats Regulations Appraisal. This information has been reviewed and summarised to produce an Appropriate Assessment, as a result, this has informed this final stage appropriate assessment ( AA) in fulfilment of obligations under these Regulations. Prior to publication of the Plan, one of the short term options for development - Bell Rock - was withdrawn by the respective developer, and three additional sites - Kintyre, Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay - have also been withdrawn following the assessment of the evidence base supporting the Plan. However, the withdrawal of the four sites, Bell Rock, Kintyre, Solway Firth and Wigtown Bay do not alter the findings of the HRA Information Review. Marine Scotland has therefore concluded that, on the basis of the application of appropriate mitigation measures, there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of a European/Ramsar site arising from the Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment
17 March 2011
The Plan for Offshore Wind Energy ( OWE) in Scottish Territorial Waters identified short, medium and long term option areas for offshore wind development. The locations of the proposed 6 short-term and 25 medium-term option areas are shown in Figure 1. It has been determined that the long-term options do not need to be addressed at this stage because they are currently too broad in scale and scope to require or allow an HRA to be undertaken.
Figure 1: Short (outlined in blue) and Medium (green areas) Term Options included in The Draft Plan for offshore wind energy in Scottish Territorial Waters (Scottish Government, 2010a). The short and medium term options are partitioned into regions and numbered as in the Plan.
The HRA has been carried out in accordance with the 13-step process for Plan-level HRAs described in guidance prepared for Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH, David Tyldesley and Associates, 2010), and outlined in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Structure of the SNH Plan-level HRA process (David Tyldesley and Associates, 2010)
A series of documents has been prepared to meet requirements of the HRA process. These are summarised in Table 1 below, together with their relationships to the Stages in the HRA process. The first key documents are the two pre-screening studies undertaken to identify the possible impacts of the short-term options (Halcrow, 2010) and the medium-term options ( ABPmer, 2010a). These were followed by a working paper ( ABPmer, 2010b) which set out the proposed approach for the screening of issues and assessment stages (for both the short and medium term options). By reviewing these methods, this working paper met the discretionary requirements for Stage 4 of the HRA process and formed the focus for early consultations with key stakeholders including SNH.
The third key document is the Appropriate Assessment Information Review which sets out the findings of the screening and assessment work (for both the short and medium term options). This assessment work constitutes Stages 4 to 10 of the Plan-level HRA process and includes
- Revisiting Stages 4 and 5 followed by Stages 6 and 7 of the HRA (Pre-screening and re-screening having applied initial mitigation measures):
- Stages 8 and 9 of the HRA (Assessment and Application of Additional Mitigation), covering the following grouped-feature categories: Habitats Birds; Marine Mammals, Fish and Otter.
- Stage 10 of the HRA (draft HRA Record): This report presents a draft record of the HRA to inform consultation.
The HRA process for the Draft OWE Plan was overseen by a Project Steering Group ( PSG). The PSG included representatives of the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise ( SE), Highlands and Islands Enterprise ( HIE), Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), Joint Nature Conservation Committee ( JNCC), The Crown Estate ( TCE), Scottish Renewables, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society ( WDCS), Scottish Environment Link and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ( RSPB). This ensured that the project fully met the requirements of these bodies and therefore that the Appropriate Assessment Information Review ( ABPmer 2011) incorporated the consultation and revision requirements of Stages 11 - 13 of the HRA process.
Table 1 Documents prepared in fulfilment of the requirements of the Plan-level HRA process.
Content of document
Stages 1-3, and 5
Pre-screening study to identify the possible impacts of the short-term options and the medium-term options
Pre-screening study to identify the possible impacts of the medium-term options
Proposed approach to the screening of issues and assessment stages for both the short and medium term options
Stages 6 - 9
Re-screening and Appropriate Assessment Information Includes a revisit of Stages 4 and 5 and completion of Stages 6 - 9
Draft record of the HRA to inform consultations
Stages 11 - 13
Consultations with Scottish Natural Heritage and other key stakeholders, review of amendments and modification of HRA record
In order to achieve the necessary level of certainty that there will be no adverse effect on site integrity (as required by the Habitats Regulations), 'additional mitigation measures' have been identified where proposed initial mitigation measures were not sufficient to ensure that there would be no likely significant effect, and no adverse effect on the integrity of European/Ramsar sites, via all impact pathways. These mitigation measures are outlined in ABPmer (2011) and associated Tables and Appendices and build upon the initial and generic measures which are set out in the Draft OWE Plan and the Draft Plan SEA (Marine Scotland, 2010a,b) but revise and update these measures and add extra detail and actions where required to address gaps identified during the assessment work.
One of the two central principles of these additional measures is that there needs to be a clear process for the implementation of the Plan. In particular, the process needs to involve a phased and iterative approach to offshore wind farm deployment linked to ongoing monitoring with the findings from such monitoring feeding back into the next phases of work. To ensure that such a process is adopted the Scottish Government has undertaken to revisit the OWESEA and review the OWE Plan every 2 years.
Another central principle of the additional mitigation measures is that, as a matter of law, a project will be required to undergo project-level Appropriate Assessment wherever the possibility of likely significant effect on a European/Ramsar site cannot be excluded. Each individual project will need to review the baseline conditions and undertake work in a manner that does not have an adverse effect on site integrity. However, this Plan-level AA gives direction to these future project level AAs by identifying measures that should be required at that stage to avoid an adverse effect on the integrity of European/Ramsar sites. Equally, as described above, the project-level assessments and the associated monitoring review work will be linked to (and will inform) regular reviews of the Plan as part of the Iterative Plan Review sequence that will be pursued.
Based on the findings of this review, and considering particularly the manner in which the Plan is to be implemented (based on the application of the mitigation measures identified), this Appropriate Assessment has concluded that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of a European/Ramsar site arising from the Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters.
ABPmer, 2010a. Habitats Regulations Appraisal of Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Pre-Screening Review of the Medium Term Options. ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd, Report No. R.1722a.
ABPmer, 2010b. Habitats Regulations Appraisal of Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Proposed Approach for the Screening and Assessment of the Short and Medium Term Options. ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd, Report No. R.1722b.
ABPmer, 2011. ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd, Report No. R.1722c
David Tyldesley and Associates, 2010. Habitats Regulations Appraisals of Plans: Guidance for plan-making bodies in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage, Inverness, 54pp.
Halcrow, 2010. The Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters. Pre-Screening for Appropriate Assessment. June 2010.
Marine Scotland, 2010a. Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters. Published by Marine Scotland, May 2010.
Marine Scotland, 2010b. Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) of Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Volume 1: Environmental Report. Published by Marine Scotland, May 2010
All the above documents are available on the Marine Scotland website, with the exception of David Tyldesley and Associates (2010) which is available on the Scottish Natural Heritage website.