Publication - Impact assessment

Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters- Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Report and Appendix A

Published: 25 Jul 2013
Part of:
Marine and fisheries

This Environmental Report documents the results of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which is an assessment of the effects of the plans on relevant environmental receptors. In

this assessment the effects of the plan on the following have been

145 page PDF

2.1 MB

145 page PDF

2.1 MB

Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters- Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Report and Appendix A
4 Context and Legislation

145 page PDF

2.1 MB

4 Context and Legislation

4.1 Background and Scottish Marine Context

4.1.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires responsible authorities to identify the policy context in which a plan is brought forward and the environmental protection objectives relevant to the plan that is being assessed.

4.1.2 The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 [12] and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 [13] provide the context for marine planning of Scotland's waters out to 200 nautical miles and give new marine conservation responsibilities. From 6 April 2011, under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 the Scottish Government is responsible for the new marine licensing system for activities carried out in the Scottish inshore region of UK waters from 0-12 nautical miles (nm). Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, they are also the licensing and enforcement authority for the Scottish offshore region from 12-200nm (other than reserved matters).

4.1.3 Additionally the measures contained within the Directive 2000/60/ EC on establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, or the Water Framework Directive ( WFD), are implemented to 3 nautical miles.

Figure 4.1: Inshore and offshore limits of Scottish territorial waters

Figure 4.1: Inshore and offshore limits of Scottish territorial waters

4.1.4 The Marine (Scotland) Act created a new legislative and management framework for the marine environment to manage the competing demands of the use of the sea whilst protecting the marine environment. It provides for the preparation and adoption of a National Marine Plan and for the delegation of marine planning functions to a regional level.

4.1.5 The NMP is currently in preparation and is available for consultation alongside this document. The NMP sets out the strategic objectives for the Scottish marine area including important marine activities such as aquaculture, conservation, recreation and tourism ports, harbours and shipping, alongside renewable energy. It therefore provides the over-arching policy framework for the review of Blue Seas Green Energy as well as the Sectoral Marine Plans for wave and tidal energy in Scotland's Territorial Waters.

4.1.6 The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 also sets out a new regime for marine licensing which will simplifies the existing regulations. This new licensing regime, which came into force in April 2011, covers all anticipated activities in the marine environment which currently require licensing (apart from aquaculture within 3 nautical miles which local authorities have the power to regulate). Marine plans, as defined in the Act, will be material considerations within decisions made on licensing.

4.1.7 Scotland has made international commitments to establish an ecologically coherent network of MPAs using powers established within the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. Consultation on the draft MPAs is also being undertaken alongside this document.

4.1.8 Existing protected areas ( SACs, SPAs, Ramsar sites, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI)) will make a significant contribution to the MPA network. Three different types of MPAs will be set up: Nature Conservation MPAs, Demonstration and Research MPAs and Historic MPAs. The MPAs will protect important marine habitats and wildlife, geology and geomorphology, as well as features of cultural importance such as shipwrecks and submerged landscapes.

4.2 The Plan Context

Key Plans and Legislation

4.2.1 There are a significant number of policy and legislative drivers at national, European and international levels which apply to the various sectors that make use of the marine environment (including the offshore renewable energy sector).

4.2.2 The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea ( UNCLOS) defines the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans; establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of natural resources [14] . The framework emphasises the need to balance competing interests and objectives within the marine environment.

4.2.3 Key European marine legislation includes the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD) [15] and the European Integrated Maritime Policy [16] . The former requires member states to " take necessary measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status in the marine environment by the year 2020 at the latest" and extends the requirements of the WFD into seas beyond 1nm. The latter aims to deliver a sustainable development approach for Europe's oceans and seas.

4.2.4 At the UK level, 'Our Seas - A Shared Resource [17] ' sets out high level objectives for the UK marine environment. These include; achieving a sustainable marine economy; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; living within environmental limits; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly. Renewable energy is strongly supported by the strategy.

4.2.5 The Scottish Government has committed to achieving the EU 2020 renewables target, i.e. 20% of EU's energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. As stated in the Electricity Generation Policy Statement ( EGPS), Scottish Ministers aim for renewable sources to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's gross annual electricity consumption by 2020, with an interim milestone of 31% by 2011 [18] .

4.3 The Relationship with Environmental Objectives of Related Plans, Programmes and Strategies

4.3.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires responsible authorities to identify the broader policy context and the environmental protection objectives relevant to the plan that is being assessed. Appendix A provides a detailed table of relevant Plans, Programmes and Strategies ( PPS) and the environmental objectives they contain. A summary of these objectives and themes is provided below.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

4.3.2 Biodiversity PPS range from broad commitments to protection and enhancement of key species and habitats to objectives that focus specifically on conserving marine ecosystems. In relation to the coastal environment this includes: planning for the protection of migratory species, including birds and fish stocks; protection of coastal wetland habitats; and management of alien species. The list of priority habitats and species is lengthy, with marine features accounting for a significant proportion of all protected habitats. Particular protection is afforded to migratory birds, cetaceans and sharks through international agreements.

4.3.3 There is strong emphasis on an 'ecosystems approach' to managing and restoring marine and coastal environments. Protected sites as part of the Natura 2000 network also form a key component of the protection of fauna and flora. European and Scottish policies reflect the objectives of an ecosystems approach, including how they work and the services they provide to people. An example of this in the context of the marine environment is protection of seals, sustainable management of fish stocks and the supporting habitats of both. Building resilience to climate change is also a cross cutting theme.

4.3.4 The marine environment supports sea fisheries, finfish and shellfish aquaculture. Managing fish stocks is a complex area which interacts with the biodiversity, flora and fauna policy framework. Conservation and the precautionary principle are the main elements behind the international policy framework. Within Scotland fishing practices are also regulated in relation to protection of the seabed and the need to manage conflict between different fishing practices. Aquaculture is also a highly regulated area reflecting the key issues of sea lice, and control and reduction of escapes. Shellfish are dependent on high water quality, and this is reflected in the need to protect and improve coastal waters for shellfish growing. The use of the marine environment for energy generation is also a key area where conflict needs to be managed between different users of the marine environment.

Population and Human Health

4.3.5 Relevant objectives that support population and human health include those which aim to control bathing water quality. Access legislation and guidance on recreational use are also relevant considerations. The main provisions relate to the control of pollution and waste disposal at sea. The right of responsible access includes coastal areas where there may be interaction between marine activities and recreational users. The social and economic impacts of development proposals will be considered in the socio-economic assessments of the plans, but reported within the overarching Sustainability Appraisal Report.

Water and the Marine Environment

4.3.6 Relevant water environment objectives cover both the offshore and inshore environment and aim to reduce pollution and improve the ecological status (including overall water quality) of water bodies, as well as controlling other operations such as engineering and coastal flood defences. Both the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive set environmental objectives for the marine environment.

4.3.7 A number of relevant PPS specifically relate to controlling pollution from ships and off shore activities, and also relate to the dumping of waste. There is a strong positive framework for improving water quality including coastal areas and designated bathing waters.

Climatic Factors

4.3.8 Climate related objectives include targets for the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions at the international and national levels, including both emission reduction and adaptation measures. The marine environment provides an important resource for achieving Scotland's renewable energy targets and energy development will have associated interactions with most aspects of the marine environment.

Marine Geology and Coastal Processes

4.3.9 There is a lack of specific policy protection for soils or sediments within the marine environment, although the Scottish Soil Framework does include coastal areas. Impacts of marine activities which have an onshore component should be recognised in relation to impacts on soils. Marine licensing under the Marine (Scotland) Act covers controls for dredging and disposal activities.

Historic Environment

4.3.10 There is an international and national framework for the protection of archaeological and historic features and objects. Objectives include commitments to protecting the historic environment whilst increasing understanding and awareness of its value. Key objectives relate to coastal and offshore designated and non-designated features, including archaeology and wrecks. Legislation now enables for the provision to designate Historic Marine Protection Areas to protect and enhance the most important marine features.

Landscape and Seascape

4.3.11 Objectives relating to landscapes and seascapes reflect the broader framework provided by the European Landscape Convention, which emphasises a broad and inclusive approach to landscape protection and enhancement encompassing the value of all landscapes, not only designated areas. The first iteration of the plan for offshore wind energy identified key challenges around this environmental receptor, given the potential visual prominence of large scale wind installations, particularly where they might be located in close proximity to the coast. The diversity and scenic value of coastal seascapes is included as a key theme in the recently updated Natural Heritage Futures series produced by SNH.