Permitted development rights for fin fish and shellfish developments: consultation

Consultation on proposed amendments to permitted development rights (PDR) for fin fish and shellfish developments.

Annex B: Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

Title of Proposal

Amendments to Permitted Development Rights and Changes of Use to Finfish and Shellfish Developments.

Purpose and intended effect

  • Objectives

To streamline and improve the operation of current permitted development rights for fin fish and shellfish developments.

  • Background

The Scottish Government supports sustainable aquaculture development. Permitted development rights for fish farms were introduced by The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Fish Farming)(Scotland) Amendment Order 2012 and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development)(Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Order 2012. The consultation paper for the 2012 Order noted that there would be opportunity to review the operation of PDR in light of experience and to consider whether to relax the requirements for prior notification.

The Scottish Government committed to a review of PDR for fish farms which commenced in 2015.

  • Rationale for Government intervention

Fish farm development is regulated by legislation. Relaxations to the regulatory regime can only be made by amending the legislation.


  • Within Government

Consultation included Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage

  • Public Consultation

The consultation will be published by the Scottish Government but it will not be targeted at individuals or bodies representing community or personal attributes or beliefs. CoSLA and local authorities will individually be consulted, as will environmental NGOs

  • Business

Consultation took place with Trade Associations representing finfish and shellfish growers and prominent individual companies through the Ministerial Working Group for Sustainable Aquacultures Capacity Working Group.


1. Do nothing

The current legislation is not operating as expected. Providing prior notification for changes which are 'like for like' on a fish farm has proven costly and time consuming. It has also not been done on a consistent basis - for example current Regulations stipulate that an operator must prior notify to replace a fin fish cage with a cage of the same size, colour and design, and in the same location.

In addition, with expansion of shellfish farming in Scotland, it is considered that the legislation could further benefit shellfish farmers.

Keeping the status quo will keep an overly bureaucratic process and continue to disadvantage shellfish farmers.

2. Making the change

  • Sectors and groups affected

Marine and freshwater finfish farmers and shellfish farmers, local authorities as planning authorities.

  • Benefits

Currently, fish farm planning applications cost £183 for each 0.1 hectare of the surface area of the marine waters plus £63 for each for each 0.1 hectare of the sea bed enclosed by the mooring, subject to a maximum of £18,270. Extending permitted development rights to trestle shellfish farmers will mean that operators who already have planning permission and who wish to change their configuration or add extra equipment, will save both those monetary costs and the time involved (which can be anything from 2 months to 6 months for minor changes) in obtaining formal planning permission. That is, the operator will only need to give the planning authority prior notification in some instances, that they are doing so. Government agencies and regulators are statutory consultees to the planning process. They will benefit through not having to devote effort to minor developments. The current prior notification fee is £78.

Removal of prior notification in instances of 'like for like' changes, such as replacement of cage nets on fish farms, will reduce time spent on assessing changes of equipment which were already approved at the planning stage. Protection for Natura and European sites will remain.

Furthermore, addition of new classes for cage nets and moorings will account for common practice on fish farms.

  • Costs

There will be no new costs, only a reduction in current costs as outlined above. The requirement for prior notification will be relaxed, reducing the requirement to fill in and process forms.

Scottish Firms Impact Test

  • Competition Assessment

Those affected by the proposals are companies engaged in fish farming (either finfish or shellfish). The proposals do not alter the existing barriers to entry to the fish farming sector; what they do is reduce the regulatory overhead (including the finance and staffing overhead) involved in making changes to the equipment installed on a site. To the extent that the proposals affect competition they are likely to favour smaller operators in that the existing cost of making changes is disproportionately larger to them than to their national and multi-national competitors.

  • Test run of business forms

Not applicable.

Legal Aid Impact Test

The proposals do not create any new procedure or right of appeal to a court or tribunal, amend any existing procedures or rights of appeal or make any change of policy or practice which may lead people to consult a solicitor.

Enforcement, sanctions and monitoring

Monitoring and sanctions are in respect of unauthorised developments and other breaches of planning legislation. No changes are being made to existing controls, remedies and penalties.

Implementation and delivery plan

  • Post-implementation review

The proposals will be introduced by an amending Order made under sections 30 and 31 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1997 (as amended by the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006). The enforcing authority will be the local authority, as planning authority for the area. Planning authorities have been involved in the preliminary consultations giving rise to the proposals and are included again in the formal consultation process.

The proposals do not have to be managed post-implementation. Neither do they require an implementation plan (although permitted development guidance will be updated). Once the Order has been made fish farm operators will benefit from a more relaxed regulatory regime, which still protects the environment.

Summary and recommendation
  • Summary costs and benefits table
Option Total benefits per annum: economic, environmental, social Total costs per annum: economic, environmental, social policy and administrative
1 Economic - there are no economic benefits to maintaining the status quo;
Environmental -
the status quo delivers high and robust levels of environmental protection;
Social - high and robust levels of development control.
Economic - The shellfish industry has to pay fees amounting to £183 per 0.1ha of water surface area plus £63 per 0.1ha of seabed each time an operator wishes to alter the configuration or add extra equipment;
Environmental - none; the status quo delivers high and robust levels of environmental protection
Social - the regulatory cost of making minor changes to equipment, etc, is a potential deterrent to job creation.
2 Economic - reduced monetary cost to shellfish industry on trestle sites. Prior notification fee removed in some cases (£78).
Environmental -
high and robust levels of environmental protection are maintained;
Social -
more operational flexibility
Economic - No additional costs.
Environmental - none, pre-conditions attaching to changes ensure that existing levels of protection are maintained;
Social - none, pre-conditions attaching to changes ensure that existing levels of control are maintained.

Declaration and publication

I have read the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment and I am satisfied that (a) it represents a fair and reasonable view of the expected costs, benefits and impact of the policy, and (b) that the benefits justify the costs. I am satisfied that business impact has been assessed with the support of businesses in Scotland .

[ CabSec signature and date ]


Email: Jill Barber

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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