Aquaculture: Consenting Task Group minutes - November 2022

Minutes from the meeting held 29 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

Other organisation

  • Professor Dickon Howell, Howell Marine Consulting (Chair)

  • Simon Pallant, Shetland Islands Council

  • Iain McDiarmid, Heads of Planning Representative, Shetland Islands Council

  • Mark Harvey, Highland Council

  • Alex Adrian, Crown Estate Scotland

  • Michael Montague, Scottish Environment Protection Agency

  • Peter Pollard, Scottish Environment Protection Agency

  • Professor Russel Griggs, Independent

  • John Webster, British Trout Association

  • Dave Cockerill, Bakkafrost

  • Douglas Hunter, Mowi

  • Anne Anderson, Scottish Sea Farms

Scottish Government

  • Malcolm Pentland, Deputy Director, Seafood Trade, Aquaculture and Recreational Fisheries

  • Jill Barber, Head of Aquaculture Development

  • Jamie Barnes, Aquaculture Planning and Consenting Policy Manager

  • Charles Allan, Fish Health Inspectorate Group Leader

  • Iain Laing, Improvement Adviser

  • Ruairidh Anderson, Senior Policy Manager, Planning

  • Anni Makela, Marine Licensing Group Leader

  • Zoe Crutchfield, Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team Head


  • Oliver Robinson, British Trout Association

  • Alice Hall / Emma Harding, Deputy Director, Environmental Quality and Resilience, Scottish Government

  • Lorraine Gormley, Water Environment Team Leader, Scottish Government

  • Bill Ellis, Aquaculture Consenting Improvement Lead, Scottish Government

  • Aleksander Jasinski, Aquaculture Planning Policy Support Officer, Scottish Government

Secretariat provided by Scottish Government officials.

Items and actions

Actions agreed

  • success criteria to be established, led by Scottish Government
  • Scottish Government to lead plan development, with contribution from key players, consider steering group and report back to Consenting Task Group
  • papers to be circulated in advance in line with ToR

Welcome, introductions, and apologies

Introductions were made by Dickon Howell and Malcolm Pentland and apologies noted above.

Minute and actions of previous meeting


Update from the second Scottish Aquaculture Council meeting on 15 November 2022

An update on Scottish Aquaculture Council meeting two was provided. The Scottish Aquaculture Council discussed the consenting workshop report and the terms of reference for the Consenting Task Group. It was clarified that the regulatory review report makes recommendations around improved and coordinated process, rather than advocating for legislative change. It recommends trialling new ways of working and there was support at the Scottish Aquaculture Council to move to a trial as quickly as possible, with oversight of the Consenting Task Group. 

The intention of the regulatory review report was described. The process should be about early engagement and bringing everyone around the table at the beginning of development proposals, providing the community an opportunity to input their views. There was a discussion on the role/voice of community in the planning process and the current processes in place for communities to make representations on applications for consents. 

Draft proposed model of a new streamlined consenting process (paper CTG-01(03))

A high-level trial was tabled, showing a coordinated and parallel processing of applications through the planning and Controlled Activity Regulations process, starting from pre-application. It was suggested that the process should involve the community and Crown Estate Scotland, as well as the planning authority and Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Some members commented that the proposal missed the full picture, and that further work was required. There was a discussion on differing views on what good looks like. It was agreed that a set of success criteria must be established to work towards and to evaluate success. 

Action: Success criteria to be established, led by Scottish Government. 

Members queried who is to lead on the proposed model. The requirement for a framework to coordinate the process was discussed. The 2010 ‘Working Arrangements’ document was raised and whether this process would add to those arrangements. A query was raised on exploring shared service approaches, where the lead authority takes on the responsibility of another. The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 was raised and ability to merge licences. Scottish Government officials clarified that Ministers seek to trial a new process first, within existing legislation. 

There was a discussion on identifying environmental capacity. Offshore consenting (3 – 12 nm) was raised and planning for the future. Scottish Environment Protection Agency highlighted that they already use a Project Manager approach and could collaborate with their counterpart in the relevant local planning authorities. The two big consenting decisions are made by Scottish Environment Protection Agency and local authorities. 

The Chair highlighted experience in developing the coastal concordat for England and the development of a framework which agrees how everyone involved will act and behave. The Chair confirmed that issues of who should run the process should be considered by the Consenting Task Group and that to operationalise the trial, roles and responsibilities must be drawn up, including mapping of the technical expertise required at each stage.

The need for a framework to support the proposed model was supported by local authorities. It was suggested that the model should lead to an improvement in pre-application and full application processes. Resource was raised as a matter of consideration. Standardised EIA and HRA was raised and testing new ways of working. It was suggested that front loading is already done, but that it requires coordination and that the proposed model will be a learning process. It was noted that front loading applications already requires the submission of a large amount of information. 

The ‘Marine Scotland Consenting and Licensing Guidance for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy Applications’ document was raised as a good model for aquaculture consenting to follow. The Independent advisor agreed that it would be a good model to look to, but that it would not be a direct read across and supported that any trial of any proposed new model would need to be managed via a framework. 

There was a discussion on sectoral marine planning, and it was noted that there is a sectoral planning process for offshore wind, agreed by Scottish Ministers, which took 3 to 4 years. This includes a mechanism where Scottish Ministers make decisions on supply chain development and fees for the process is in the £100,000’s. Time and cost were noted. 

Scottish Government officials confirmed that spatial planning for aquaculture is a priority and that there was more work to do, with current priority to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency sea lice risk assessment framework and managing the interactions between wild and farmed fish. The intention to develop a new National Marine Plan, and further develop Regional Marine Plans was noted. It was suggested that improved spatial planning can have the same effect as a sector plan, but that a sector plan for aquaculture could be explored further. 

The desire for a single management process or organisation to realise the success of the proposed new model was expressed. The independent advisor agreed but suggested that there is no need to create a new body for this to work as a trial and to learn from where there is a single coordinating process. The Consenting Task Groupshould try new things and see what works. This sort of system works well, where you have the right people round the table at each stage of the application and it is managed. 

Next steps: Taking an application through the proposed approach

Scottish Environment Protection Agency agreed to taking forward the proposed new model, but that a management framework should be defined beforehand. A local authority highlighted they were eager to take forward the proposed new model and suggested working with a particular case study example would be a useful way forward. 

The Chair summarised the discussion. A project plan should be developed, mapping out work to be done to explore the process; resources; roles and responsibilities and the group or persons accountable for delivery, to sit alongside the criteria for success. The requirement for a steering group for the plan, with the Scottish Government, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and The Highland Council as regulatory leads, was discussed. The sector requested all of their representatives be included. 

Action: Scottish Government to lead plan development, with contribution from key players, consider steering group and report back to Consenting Task Group. 

A request was made that all papers for all future meetings be shared as early as possible. 

Action: Papers to be circulated in advance in line with ToR. 

Any other business


Next meeting

Scottish Government will identify a date in late January/early February for the next meeting of the group, in advance of the next meeting of the Scottish Aquaculture Council on 22 February.

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