Offshore wind energy - draft sectoral marine plan: strategic environmental assessment

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) identifies the likely significant environmental impacts of plans and policies and proposed reasonable alternatives to them.

Appendix A Review of Environmental Protection Objectives

The following sections provide an overview of the existing environmental protection objectives of relevance to the Draft Plan.

A.1 Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna Policy

At an international level, the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic is an important driver in the protection and conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, including the establishment of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in the North East Atlantic[254]. The OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats[255] identifies species and habitats that are considered to be priorities for protection.

At the European level, the Natura 2000[256] network is the primary vehicle for meeting the aims of the Habitats (92/43/EEC)[257] and Birds (2009/147/EC)[258] Directives. Both Directives focus on the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity, with an emphasis on protecting rare and endangered wild species and natural habitats of European significance. The Natura 2000 network comprises terrestrial and marine SPAs and SAC. Many terrestrial sites are also underpinned by the SSSI designation[259].

At the national level, the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010[260] and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009[261] gave Scottish Ministers powers to designate MPAs in Scottish territorial and offshore waters, respectively.

The 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity[262] is Scotland's response to the international UN Aichi Targets for 2020[263] and the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020[264]. The 2020 Challenge supplements the 2004 Scottish Biodiversity Strategy[265] and together they comprise the overall Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Key aims include preserving and restoring the health of Scotland's ecosystems at a catchment-scale and promoting climate change resilience.

A Strategy for Marine Nature Conservation in Scotland's Seas is the main tool for enacting the principles of the 2020 Challenge within the marine environment[266]. It supports the development of an ecologically coherent network of MPAs in support of strategic aims such as meeting GES under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and satisfying the requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directives[267]. It also proposed the Priority Marine Features (PMFs) system to guide the identification of MPAs and provide focus for marine planning and other activities.

A.2 Population and Human Health Policy

Directive 2012/18/EU (the Seveso III Directive) strengthens preceding legislation aimed at reducing the incidence of major industrial accidents as well as pre-emptively mitigating their environmental effects, with an emphasis on limiting consequences to human health[268]. The Directive is implemented in the UK through the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015[269].

The Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC safeguards public health by imposing minimum water quality standards on both terrestrial and maritime bathing waters[270]. Member States have a responsibility to monitor concentrations of certain bacteria and to inform the public about water quality and beach management.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 introduced a new right of responsible access covering Scottish onshore, inland water, and coastal environments[271]. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 received royal assent on 22 April 2016, making minor amendments to the previous Act.

There are also measures in place to protect against human exposure to noise pollution and disturbance from vibration. These are entrenched in both the Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC)[272] at the European level and the Environmental Protection Act 1990[273] and Environmental Noise (Scotland) Regulations 2006[274] at the UK and national levels, respectively.

A.3 Soil (Marine Geology and Coastal Processes) Policy

EU Directive 2014/89/EU (the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive) consolidated and expanded upon the fundamental aspects of the Council Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management of 2002 and the Protocol to the Barcelona Convention on Integrated Coastal Zone Management of 2010[275], obligating Member States to develop coastal management strategies. It aims to coordinate the development and delivery of policies across a wide spectrum of both marine and terrestrial activities, including offshore wind energy, in a way that is mindful of the natural limits of the coastal environment[276].

In Scotland, Integrated Coastal Zone Management is achieved via the work of seven Local Coastal Partnerships[277]. In addition, Marine Scotland Science is responsible for monitoring, research, and regulation of certain coastal activities.

At present, there is no legislative or policy tool developed specifically for the protection of soil[278]. However, designations and their associated management agreements and operations often extend protection to soil as a means of enhancing the biodiversity, geodiversity, landform value, and cultural resources of the site[279]. For example, marine geology forms part of the basis for the designation of MPAs within Scottish waters[280]. Specifically, MPAs strive to protect rare and representative marine species, habitats, and geodiversity, the latter defined as the variety of landforms and natural processes that underpin the marine landscape.

The Scottish Soil Framework places the sustainable management of soils within the context of the economic, social, and environmental needs of Scotland[281]. The Framework identifies 13 key soil outcomes such as protecting soil biodiversity, reducing and remediating soil erosion, and tackling GHG emissions. The Framework also notes the effects that rising sea levels and associated seasonal incursion by seawater could have on coastal soils

A.4 Water Policy

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) regulates accidental and operational releases of pollutants into the marine environment by the shipping industry, including oil and other chemicals[282].

The EU's Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) (WFD) was introduced as a more comprehensive approach to managing and protecting Europe's water bodies which in Scotland includes rivers, lochs, transitional waters, coastal waters, and groundwater resources[283]. It sets out a goal of bringing all European waters to 'good' chemical and ecological status. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive extends the requirements of the WFD into seas beyond 1 NM.

Scotland fulfils its water protection obligations under the WFD primarily through the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003[284], which defines the establishment of RBMPs[285], and the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011[286]. Other relevant legislation includes the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012, which applies specifically to pollution originating from industry discharges[287].

The EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EC)[288] is implemented at the national level through the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009[289]. The Directive mandates the creation of flood risk management plans for all inland and coastal areas at risk of flooding, integrating their development and deployment with existing RBMPs. Flood risk management plans are designed to minimise negative effects due to flooding on a range of receptors, including human health, the environment, and cultural heritage.

A.5 Climatic Factors Policy

In November 2016, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement came into force[290]. The Paris Agreement is the first legally binding global climate deal and sets out aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C as well as pursue further efforts to limit it to 1.5°C[291]. A further long-term goal is to achieve net-zero levels of global greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of this century. The Agreement also covers a range of other issues such as mitigation through reducing emissions, adaptation, and loss and damage[292].

The Committee for Climate Change has recently published a report, recommending new emissions targets for Scotland and the UK as a whole. In this context there is a recommendation to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Achievement of this will require the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland, of which offshore wind is likely to form a significant contribution.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 provides the statutory framework for GHG emissions reductions in Scotland. It sets a target for a reduction in emissions of the basket of Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gases (GHGs)[293] of 80% by 2050 as compared to the 1990/1995 baseline levels, alongside an interim target of a 42% reduction by 2020. The CCC Report recommended a net-zero date of 2045 for Scotland, reflecting Scotland's greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole. In line with this advice, amendments were lodged to the Climate Change Bill, which raised the ambition of the 2030 and 2040 targets for emissions reductions to 70% and 90% respectively. The newly passed Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 implements some of the most stringent statutory targets in the world, with the aim of ending our contribution to climate change, definitively, within a generation. Future iterations of the Plan may need to plan accordingly to support these aspirations.

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 specifies a duty for Ministers and the public sector to manage and progress actions within the marine environment in a way 'best calculated to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of that function'[294]. Scotland's National Marine Plan[295] considers climate change in terms of how actions undertaken within the Plan can help to mitigate GHG emissions, in addition to how these actions need to be adapted to take into account the effects of climate change. The Plan also stipulates that the development and use of the marine environment should not have a significant affect the national status of PMFs. Many of these are known for their role in carbon sequestration, including within MPAs.

Scotland's Climate Change Adaption Programme[296] is a direct requirement of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, replacing the Climate Change Adaptation Framework[297] and accompanying Sector Action Plans[298]. Among its proposals and policies for meeting adaptation objectives are actions around conserving marine carbon stores and conducting additional research into the role of blue carbon ecosystems in carbon sequestration[299]. The role of marine planning and MPAs in protecting these ecosystems is also noted[300].

A.6 Cultural Heritage Policy

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage obligates signatories to take steps to preserve their underwater heritage both within territorial waters and as well as throughout their Exclusive Economic Zone[301]. Article 5 refers to activities that could incidentally affect underwater cultural heritage, such as offshore wind energy generation.

The Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee Code of Practice for Seabed Developers is a voluntary code of practice[302]. It provides a framework that seabed developers can follow to ensure their activities are sympathetic to archaeological resources. Further sources of guidance include those that set out protocols to deal with the marine historic environment developed specifically for the offshore renewable energy sector[303].

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 included an article on the establishment of historic Marine Protected Areas to safeguard a wide range of heritage assets at the coast edge, on the foreshore, and out to sea, including the remains of ships and aircraft lost at sea; harbours, lighthouses, and other structures relating to transport and trade by sea; and the remains of human settlements at the coastal fringe. They extend and replace the protection previously afforded to underwater heritage by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973[304].

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 provides for the protection of archaeological heritage, including the scheduling of 'monuments'[305]. The Act is primarily intended for terrestrial locations but includes provision to designate submarine sites. The 1979 Act was modified by the Historic Environment (Amendment) Scotland Act 2011[306].

Our Place in Time – The Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland, published in 2014, lays out a 10-year vision for Scotland's historic environment[307]. The vision is founded upon the fundamental aims of understanding, protecting, and valuing our historic environment, ensuring it continues to benefit Scotland's wellbeing through its cultural, social, environmental, and economic contributions.

The Strategy and the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland[308] set out an overarching framework for historic environment policy in Scotland. Other relevant policies include the National Planning Framework177[309] and Scottish Planning Policy178[310]

A.7 Landscape, Seascape and Visual Amenity Policy

The European Landscape Convention strives to promote landscape protection, management, and planning as well as achieve a more concerted approach to addressing landscape issues at the European scale[311]. The Convention presents a highly inclusive definition of landscape, specifying that protection and enhancement activities should apply equally to both 'outstanding' as well as less remarkable or degraded landscapes. This definition encompasses natural, rural, urban, and peri-urban landscapes across land, marine, and inland water environments.

At a national level, the role of Scotland's natural heritage and landscapes in informing land use planning is set out in Scottish Planning Policy[312]. Additionally, National Planning Framework 3 acknowledges the multiple benefits we derive from landscapes, such as improved human health and wellbeing as well as contributions to our quality of life[313]. The vulnerability of landscapes to climate change is also noted.

SNH's Landscape Policy Framework strives to 'safeguard and enhance the distinct identity, the diverse character, and the special qualities of Scotland's landscapes as a whole'[314]. Both Scottish Planning Policy and National Planning Framework 3 give significant protection to wild land areas [315]. The National Marine Plan also sets out the consideration of wild land in addition to largely undeveloped coasts, noting that development should be considered in line with Scottish Planning Policy when planning for and taking decisions, which may affect such areas.

SNH has also produced guidance on 'Siting and Designing Wind Farms in the Landscape' that includes a section on coastal landscapes and the potential effect offshore wind farms may have on inland and offshore land and seascape character and views, including views from boats and ferries[316]. It also states that existing landmarks like historical or navigational features (such as lighthouses), distinctive coastal landforms, coastal settlements, and areas valued for recreation should be avoided when selecting locations for wind energy development. Additional advice is provided by their 'Offshore Renewables – guidance on assessing the impact on coastal landscape and seascape' publication[317].

It is recognised that individual regions or council areas are likely to have differing policies on the management of landscape and seascape, and therefore the level of constraint may differ dependent on the regional policy.



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