Key Issues Summary
- There are a large number of coastal designations, many with marine components.
- Sensitivity of coastal landscapes and communities to visual impacts from coastal and marine development as a result of their high landscape and seascape quality, natural character and wildness.
- Potential for cumulative impacts of onshore and offshore development on landscape and seascape character and scenic value.
- Pressures from coastal erosion due to the expected effects of climate change.
National Marine Baseline
1.8.1 Over 12% by area of Scotland has been classified as a National Scenic Area ( NSA) and national parks have been established in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs. Scotland contains 40 NSAs, a designation given to identify areas of outstanding scenery and locations considered to represent Scotland's finest landscapes. Of these, some 27 are located within or adjacent to coastal areas and include views of transitional or coastal waters. As shown in Figure B1.8.1, these areas are predominantly located on the west coast and amongst the Northern and Western Isles.
1.8.2 The coast also provides the landscape setting for Scotland's World Heritage Sites at St Kilda and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. Several sites located in Northern Ireland ( i.e. Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site) and England ( i.e. Frontiers of the Roman Empire and Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site) have also been designated by the responsible authorities in those parts of the UK. World Heritage Status covers both landscape and historic environment attributes, and many of these sites also have coastal elements.
1.8.3 A number of local authorities have identified local landscape designations. Many of these local designations lie in coastal locations in the Northern and Western Isles, and along the south-western, western, north-western and northern coastlines of the Scottish mainland.
1.8.4 Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) have identified areas of 'relative wildness' in Scotland through a process involving the consideration of the perceived naturalness of the land cover, the ruggedness of the terrain, remoteness from public roads or ferries, and the visible lack of buildings, roads, pylons and other modern artefacts. While the maps, shown in Figures B1.8.2 and B1.8.3, do not include offshore areas, they illustrate the core areas of wild land and provide an overview of the high level of wildness attributed to coastal areas on Scotland's north-west coast and in the Western Isles in particular. The relationship between these landscapes and the offshore environment is relevant to this assessment.
Figure B1.8.1: National Scenic Areas of Scotland 
Figure B1.8.2: Core Areas of Wild Land in Scotland 2013 
Figure B1.8.3: Map of Relative Wildness in Scotland 
1.8.5 Two sites within Scotland have become members of the European Geoparks Network and the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network: The North West Highlands Geopark; and Geopark Shetland. Although not specifically a landscape designation, these sites have been recognised for their internationally significant geodiversity, with both sites having coastal and/or landscape elements  .
1.8.6 The main sources of pressure on Scotland's landscapes and seascapes are from coastal and marine development and the anticipated effects of climate change. Coastal and offshore development, including increases in renewable developments and aquaculture in coastal and offshore waters, may exert pressures on valued coastal landscapes and seascapes.
1.8.7 Changes to coastal processes, specifically changes to coastal erosion and accretion processes, has the potential to alter these coastal landscapes and seascapes. While currently identified as an issue along sections of Scotland's coastline, the potential for erosion is expected to increase in the future with additional pressures resulting from rising sea levels and storminess associated with climate change considered likely to exacerbate existing processes  .
1.8.8 While there is only one NSA within the North East region relating to the coast (the Dornoch Firth NSA), it is not located near the plan option areas located off the north eastern tip of the mainland and to the east of Aberdeen.
1.8.9 SNH identified 42 landscape character areas in Aberdeenshire in their Landscape Character Assessments undertaken in the late 1990s, classifying the different landscapes found in Aberdeenshire  . However, the recently adopted Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan ( LDP) does not identify local landscape designations  . Instead, it intends producing further planning advice on landscape character areas which will highlight areas of increased landscape sensitivity, reflecting those areas formerly designated as Areas of Landscape Significance ( ALS) in the Aberdeenshire Local Plan (shown in Figure B1.8.4).
1.8.10 As such, there is currently no detailed information on the landscape qualities of the landscape character areas beyond these previous assessments. However, based on the extent of the ALS previously identified, this is likely to include large areas of coastal landscape, and as such, any development proposals within these plan option areas would need to take into account potential impacts on the special qualities identified in these areas.
Landscape designations. North East area
1.8.11 Seven NSAs have been identified in Shetland with a predominantly coastal character: Fair Isle, Foula, South West Mainland, Muckle Roe, Esha Ness, Fethaland and Herma Ness. These areas are valued for a diverse range of features including the variety of Shetland's extensive coastline including coastal stacks, promontories, cliffs and beaches; coastal views, both close and distant; coastal settlements; hidden coastlines; the effects of wind and shelter; a sense of remoteness; viewing the northern lights; and distinctive cultural landmarks, amongst others  .
1.8.12 A review of local landscape designations undertaken in 2011 found that a total of 82 Local Protection Areas ( LPAs) were identified under the Shetland Local Plan ranging in size from less than one hectare to around 350 hectares in area. These areas had been designated for a range of reasons including landscape, biodiversity, archaeology, and protection of agricultural land  .
1.8.13 The Proposed Shetland LDP details 17 proposed Local Landscape Areas  . These areas have largely been recognised for their coastal elements, some with open and dramatic seascapes, and many with a rich variety of coastlines consisting of rugged coastlines, rocky headlands, tall cliffs, and sheltered sandy beaches and bays. Others have been designated for inland features such as rolling coastal hills or rugged moorland hills, with some identifying settlement areas and remoteness as key qualities of these areas. While all of these areas have coastal elements, eleven are located in the vicinity of the plan option areas including:
- Walls and Vaila, Culswick and Westerwick, Papa Stour and Sandness, and Scat Ness and Sumburgh Head in proximity to wave energy plan option areas;
- Lunna Ness and Lunning, West Sandwick to Gloup Holm, Haroldswick and Skaw, Gloup Voe and Bluemull Sound, and Scat Ness and Sumburgh Head in proximity to tidal energy plan option areas; and
- No Ness and Mousa, Aith Ness and Noss, Gletness and Skellister, and Scat Ness and Sumburgh Head in proximity to offshore wind plan option areas.
1.8.14 Geopark Shetland became a member of the European and UNESCO Global Geoparks Networks in 2009 . Although not specifically a landscape designation, it recognises the significant role that the geology of the islands play in the landscape experience, which is often evident at the coast.
1.8.15 The plan option areas are focused on the south west and south east Shetland seaboards, and hence any development proposals would need to take into account potential impacts on the special qualities of these areas.
1.8.16 Just one NSA has been designated on Orkney, the Hoy and the West Mainland NSA, and this area contains large sections of coastline. The special qualities identified by SNH for this area include its archaeological landscape setting demonstrated by its World Heritage Status; the layering of geology, topography, archaeology and land use; the presence of sandstone and flagstone; amongst others  . The area's coastal scenery and the contrasts between different land uses ( i.e. fertile farmland, unimproved moorland and townscapes) were also identified as contributing to the setting of the area.
1.8.17 The Orkney Islands Council has identified 38 Local Landscape Areas  , including four located in the East Mainland, nine in the Southern Isles, ten in the West Mainland, and 15 in the Northern Isles. These areas were developed to support policies within the Orkney LDP and are set out in Supplementary Guidance  . The areas highlight the key characteristics of the Orkney landscape with a strong coastal presence, particularly along the west coast, and include a wide range of landscapes including coastal areas made up of rugged cliffs, beaches, enclosed bays, and isolated coasts; lowland marginal areas consisting of agricultural land and wetlands, amongst others; and rolling upland areas consisting of rolling heath and moorland hills and montane habitats. Many of these areas play important roles in supporting Orkney's coastal biodiversity interests, particularly coastal areas that support important bird populations  .
1.8.18 The plan option areas for offshore wind and wave energy are focused on the western and northern Orkney seaboards. The plan option areas for tidal energy are located to the north and south of the Orkney Isles, and within the Stronsay and Westray Firths. As such, any development proposals would need to take into account the potential for impacts on the special landscape and seascape qualities in these areas.
1.8.19 The Kyle of Tongue NSA is located along the northern coast of the Scottish mainland, immediately south of the proposed area of search for wave energy  . However, there are five Special Landscape Areas ( SLAs) identified by the Highland Council on the north coast of the Scottish mainland that may also be of relevance to the plan option areas  .
1.8.20 The three eastern most SLAs (Oldshoremore, Cape Wrath and Durness; Eriboll East and Whiten Head; and Farr Bay, Strathy and Portskerra) and the Kyle of Tongue NSA cover much of the remote coastline between Cape Wrath to Portskerra. This area has varying seaward views which include westward views to the open Atlantic and northward views over the Pentland Firth. The landscape is noted for its largely remote and varied coastlines, with important features such as rugged rocky coastline, rocky headlands and sandy bays that contrast with the green landscapes located further inland. As such, much of this area is valued for its sense of remoteness and isolation  .
1.8.21 The two SLAs designated at Dunnet Head and Duncansby Head in the northern-most part of the Scottish mainland are located immediately south of the area of search for tidal energy within the Pentland Firth. Both are noted for the extensive seaward views they offer and the landscapes they contain, particularly Duncansby Head with its complex landscape of cliffs, stacks, geos, arches, caves and wave cut platforms. These areas are known to be sensitive to development which would impinge on the views from the headland, or affect the perception of scale of the cliff landscape  .
1.8.22 The plan option areas are focused in the Pentland Firth and off the north coast of the Scottish mainland, and any development proposals would need to take into account the potential for impacts on these designated areas.
Landscape designations. North area
North West Mainland
1.8.23 Some 10 coastal NSAs are located in the North West region, with local landscape designations also extending large sections of the coastline, with two identified near to the plan option areas.
1.8.24 The first, the Assynt - Coigach NSA, extends from the mouth of Loch Broom, near Ullapool to Badcall Bay near Scourie, reaching inland to Ledmore and the peak of Ben More Assynt. The area is valued for its remoteness amongst a diverse coastline, long sea lochs, and unique and towering mountains and contrasting with lowlands comprising hills, moorland and peaty hollows. The special qualities of this area include a wide variety of rocky topography; small settlements nestled within a wider landscape of mountain peaks, wild moorlands and rocky seascapes; extensive cnocan landscapes; and extensive tracts of wild and native woodland, amongst others  .
1.8.25 The second, the North-West Sutherland NSA, extends from the north of Scourie Bay to the head of Loch Laxford, reaching inland to the peaks of Ben Stack, Arkle and Foinaven. The special qualities of the NSA, as identified by SNH, reflect the geology of the area. In general terms, the profiles of these peaks provide a backdrop for the area against which the indented shoreline and cnochan coastline lay. Most of the land in this part of Scotland is uninhabited and uncultivated, possessing a wild and secluded feel  .
1.8.26 Of the local landscape designations, the Oldshoremore, Cape Wrath and Durness SLA covers the north west tip of the Scottish Mainland coastline. It is a section of remote coastline that, like the nearby NSAs, is home to a remote and varied coastline of sheltered sandy bays to rugged cliffs, and is regarded for its remoteness  . This area is likely to be the closest to the area of search for offshore wind ( OWNW1) located at the North Minch.
1.8.27 Two NSAs are located in the Western Isles in the North West region, and both are located in close proximity to the plan option areas for potential offshore developments. There are no local landscape designations in Eilean Siar.
1.8.28 The South Uist Machair NSA extends over the eastern coastal edge of South Uist, and is an area of distinctive flat scenery located between the mountains and the sea. Westward views across the blackland, machair and seashore are horizontal and flat, accentuated by the open sea beyond. At the shoreline, the white shell-sand beaches located along the coastline contribute to the remoteness of the area. This NSA is located to the north east of plan option areas for offshore wind and wave energy  .
1.8.29 The South Lewis, Harris and North Uist NSA include the upland landscape of southern Lewis and Harris, and the fragmented coast of North Uist. The special qualities of the landscape include the variety of scenery and diverse seascapes, which have a close relationship with the land. North Harris has the highest peaks in the Outer Hebrides that lend it a wild and mountainous character, and affording clear day views spanning to Cape Wrath on the mainland to the east, and to St Kilda to the west. The variation in landscape is demonstrated by the presence of white sandy machair-backed beaches on the west coast, separated by rocky headlands, and the scattering of islands in locations such as the Sound of Harris adding to the value of the diverse seascape. The size of the NSA is large, and as such, many of the qualities attributed to the area are location specific and dependent on prevailing weather conditions. In general, the area is valued for its diverse scenery, its varying landscape formations, and its wildness and remoteness. This NSA is located to the immediately east of an area of search for wave energy ( WNW1) spanning along the north west coast of Harris and Lewis  .
1.8.30 The North West Highlands Geopark is located in the far north of the Scottish mainland, starting at the Summer Isles in Wester Ross, continuing northwards through west Sutherland to the north coast of the Scottish mainland, and eastwards beyond Loch Eriboll to the Moine. The Geopark includes Coigach, Assynt, Eddrachilles and Cape Wrath, and although it is not specifically a landscape designation, the designation reflects the significant role the geology of the area plays in its landscape  .
1.8.31 The plan option areas are focused on Scottish waters to the north west of the mainland at the North Minch (offshore wind energy area OWNW1), and to the west of Eilean Siar (wave energy WNW1).
Landscape designations. North West area
1.8.32 There are eight NSAs within the western region that have a strong coastal relationship. However, many of these areas are closely enclosed by the surrounding landforms, such that views of the plan option areas are likely to be limited in many instances. In addition the Northern Irish coastline closest to the Mull of Kintyre contains the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ( AONB), and the Antrim Coast and Glens AONB.
1.8.33 Loch na Keal, Isle of Mull NSA includes the surrounding slopes above of Loch na Keal, and the islands within the bay comprising Ulva, Gometra, Staffa and the Treshnish Isles. This NSA is valued for its highly distinctive seaways and shores surrounding the sea loch, and the influence of these islands on the landscape. The terraced hills provide a dramatic coast of basalt terraces and cliffs, while the sea loch affords views of a seascape including islands and islet groups. The distinctive character of the islands provides location specific qualities, for example, at Staffa and Fingal's Cave, the Treshnish Isles and the Dutchman's Cap  . This area is located to the north east and east of two plan option areas for wave energy ( WW2 and WW3).
1.8.34 Local landscape designations also extend over much of the coastal area of South Ayrshire, and the peninsulas of Argyll and Bute. These designations, called Areas of Panoramic Quality ( APQs), are set out in the Argyll and Bute Local Plan  , and include a number of areas that may be relevant to the plan option areas. As for other NSAs in this region, many of these areas are closely enclosed by the surrounding landforms, and views of the plan option areas are likely to be limited in many instances. It is noted that although these areas are marked on the proposals maps in the Local Plan, they do not have any supporting information on their justification or key characteristics. However, many of these areas have coastal elements, and as such, the APQs located at the southern tip of Kintyre, in large parts of Islay, and in large areas of western Mull have been identified in proximity to plan option areas for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.
1.8.35 The plan option areas located to the south west and west of Tiree ( OWW2 and WW3), south west of Mull ( WW1, WW2 and OWW1), west and north west of Islay ( OWW1, WW1 and TW1), and south west of the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula ( TW2) are located in the vicinity of these designated areas. As such, development proposals would need to take into account potential impacts on the quality of these valued areas.
Landscape designations. West area
1.8.36 There are three NSAs within Dumfries and Galloway that have a strong coastal relationship with the Solway Firth (Fleet Valley, East Stewartry Coast and Nith Estuary). However, none of these areas are located in direct sight of the plan option areas located to the south of the mainland between Mull of Galloway and Burrowhead. Coastal sections of the Strangford and Lecale AONB, and the Moorne and Slieve Croob AONB in Northern Ireland and the Solway AONB in England could be considerations for development in the South West.
1.8.37 Local landscape designations extend over much of the coastal area in this region. Five Regional Scenic Areas ( RSA) were identified in a technical paper accompanying the Dumfries and Galloway Proposed LDP  with a coastal element. Of these, three are considered potentially relevant to the plan option areas for offshore wind and tidal energy.
1.8.38 The Rhins Coast RSA includes the rocky coastlines of the Rhins peninsula, and includes the whole of the narrow peninsula leading to the Mull of Galloway. The coast is characterised by steep cliffs of varying height, raised beaches, rocky foreshores, and small rocky and sandy bays connected by a ribbon of low lying land with scattered farmsteads and occasional coastal villages. Whilst popular with tourists, the coastlines are relatively inaccessible and sparsely populated, approached at intervals by networks of narrow lanes and from occasional coastal villages connected by major roads. Inland views of the coast tend to be limited in the undulating topography  .
1.8.39 The Mochrum Lochs RSA is located on the north west side of Luce Bay, and is the smallest of the region's RSAs. The Mochrum Lochs are a combination of inland scattered lochs amidst an undulating topography and the coastal expression of this distinctive moorland landscape. The landscape has an open, exposed, wild feel with a distinctive character, although relatively small in extent and more limited in its coastal aspect  .
1.8.40 The Machars Coast RSA includes the rocky coastline around the head of the Machars peninsula which has a strong visual relationship with the sea. The landscape comprises smooth undulating hills and valleys and improved pasture, with rocky and knolly areas. The coastline comprises steep, low, grassy cliffs, raised beaches and rocky foreshores with occasional sandy coves, and the landscape is sparsely populated and the coastline relatively inaccessible. As on the Rhins, the coastal influence is lost behind intervening horizons within around a kilometre of the shore  .
1.8.41 Given the locations of the plan option areas to the south of Luce Bay, any development proposals at these locations would need to take into account potential impacts on the quality of these designated areas.
Landscape designations. South West area