Offshore Wind SEA Consultation Events - Islay - 20 January 2011
Clarity was sought on the involvement of SEPA and SNH in the selection of the short term options. Marine Scotland believed that neither had been involved in the site selection, however clarification has since been provided that The Crown Estate Commissioners ( TCE) did discuss the selection of the 10 sites with SNH before making an announcement on the Exclusivity Agreements. Marine Scotland, (previously the Scottish Government Marine Directorate, the Fisheries Research Services and the Fisheries Protection Agency) was not involved in this process.
Further explanation was provided on the inclusion of medium term options in the draft plan, particularly options that could impact upon a National Scenic Area. It was explained that medium term options are areas of search for future development, they will be revisited in the SEA/Plan review process and could change as further knowledge and policies develop. In addition development applications will require environmental impact assessment. Inclusion in the Plan does not necessarily equate to consent at the project level. Licensing will still need to be undertaken and the SEA, Habitats Regulations Appraisal and Socio-economic Assessment findings will identify issues that the developer will need to consider at the licensing stage.
Licensing and Master Planning
Clarification on the licensing processes was welcomed by attendees particularly how permissions for the terrestrial components of the project will be handled. It was explained that as far as possible the Marine Scotland Licensing Operations team will provide a "one stop shop" to streamline the consenting process to ensure all contacts are through one body as far as possible and information can be made available from a single contact point.
It was noted that consent for terrestrial aspects may be considered by the local planning authority, in this case Argyll and Bute Council, but that where Section 36 is used for terrestrial aspects of a marine development, the planning authority could force a local public enquiry. Attendees considered it should be within Marine Scotland's remit to grant licences to include onshore aspects of development. It was explained that this would require a change in primary legislation and changes to Section 36 of the Electricity Act would require proposals to go through the UK Parliamentary process.
It was explained that the 'masterplanning' approach being developed for Tiree is being taken forward in the light of community interest in the development process to address community concern about a lack of information on the development and hence a wish for greater engagement. Opinion was expressed that the Islay community would want to be involved in a similar process. However attendees considered that effective engagement would be difficult if the position of current position of lack of information, including visualisations, was maintained by the developer. It was felt that different site options would have different impacts on the community and without knowing what these options might be it would be hard to discuss this further. It was suggested that the variation in developer engagement may be due to the developers being at a different stages in the process. The community felt that on their part they had tried to engage and were proposing to use the findings of the Argyll Renewables Communities ( ARC)'study to facilitate this further. There was a concern that Argyll and Bute Council lack the necessary resource to take forward a 'masterplan' project. Assurance was given that consideration is being given to resourcing and that Argyll and Bute Council is leading on and engaging proactively in the Tiree 'masterplan' process. .
The role of TCE in a 'masterplan' approach and incorporation of the ARC study was questioned. As commercial agents it was considered that the TCE has a vested interest and should be involved in the process. It would be expected that further studies will be commissioned and Marine Scotland and the TCE could help facilitate resources for these with other interested groups. Attendees asked for further clarification of whether Argyll and Bute Council is a statutory consultee and if this extended to the Islay Energy Trust. It was clarified that the identification of Statutory Consultees depends upon the regulations, however under marine licensing the planning authority is a Consultee and the Trust can be included in Marine Scotland's list of consultees under licensing procedures.
Attendees asked if the proposal to undertake a review of the Plan every two years would involve consultation. It was explained that this would depend on the outcomes of the review process and the level of proposed change to the Plan and/or the outputs from the associated assessment and monitoring work undertaken.
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Clarification on the SEA process and how this was undertaken was sought. It was explained that the SEA is a high level strategic assessment of the draft Plan but that the options had been defined spatially to allow for a fuller understanding of the issues and opportunities and more robust assessment of the issues would be required at the project level by the developer which again would require public consultation.
It was confirmed that archaeology and coastal historic buildings had been taken into account in the SEA but that further work will be required within the strategic review process and at the project level for each proposed development.
Responses to Consultation Report
Concern was raised that the analysis showing numbers of consultation responses may be misleading and overlook the strength of views expressed. Assurance was given that the Consultation Analysis 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 was 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.
Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA) and Socio-economic strategy
It was hoped that the HRA would be completed in the next 2/3 weeks and the Socio- economic Assessment completed towards the end of February. These will both be published ahead of the Post-adoption Statement and finalised Plan and it is intended the Plan will be adopted before the pre-election period begins.
Clarification was sought on the proposed publication of the Plan and possible changes in Government administration. It was explained that the findings of the consultation will be incorporated into the information provided to Scottish Ministers making the decisions on the content of the Plan. Assurance was given that any change in the Plan will result in the need to consider undertaking another SEA or SEA review. This is a legal requirement.
It was considered that the Socio-economic assessment would not reflect the importance of procurement as this could have significant impact in terms of jobs and the economy of the Island. It was also suggested that the importance of maximising economic development opportunities may not be properly captured. The possible disparity between national and local/regional benefit should be considered. It was agreed that early sight of the draft Socio-economic Assessment would be provided if possible.
It was asked if the 40% resource potential figure noted on a presentation slide could be broken down into regions. This was not possible to do at the event but energy colleagues would be consulted on this.
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. This was stressed to be of particular importance as some community members felt that developers were not encouraged to consider community benefits.
The attendees encouraged the Scottish Government to produce minutes of all of the workshops as soon as possible and suggested For Argyll would be a useful means of making these available.
The community extended thanks to the Scottish Government for organising and attending consultation event.