Marine licensing and consenting: offshore renewable energy projects

Guidance for offshore renewable energy projects on marine licensing and consenting requirements that are administered by the Marine Directorate – Licensing Operations Team (MD-LOT) on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

Pre-application engagement

Statutory Pre-application Consultation requirements are set out in The Marine Licensing (Pre-application Consultation) (Scotland) Regulations 2013. They require prospective applicants for certain licensable marine activities (between 0-12 nm) to notify  stakeholders and hold an event at least six weeks prior to, and not more than a year before, application. These timescales however do not provide a prospective applicant with enough time to fully consider stakeholder input and incorporate this into project design and mitigation in the case of large offshore renewable energy projects.

We advise that prospective applicants begin engagement with a comprehensive range of relevant stakeholders early enough for their advice to be given and any matters raised to have been properly considered. For example stakeholder advice should be considered in any assessment (including reaching agreements on matters which could be scoped out of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in scoping reports), project design and mitigation measures. Therefore, engagement should take place during a prospective applicant’s development of an Environmental Impact Assessment scoping report. This process will also help a prospective applicant to address foreseen difficulties and agree proposals for mitigation before the submission of an application. This initial engagement will most likely be required at a much earlier stage than the statutory period for pre-application consultation set out in the 2013 Regulations.

Prospective applicants are advised to:

  • identify the relevant stakeholders and make contact with them early in the project design. This early engagement should include taking the advice of the stakeholders on which aspects of the project they want to engage on and when is best to do so
  • ensure that stakeholders are afforded an opportunity to clarify the information and data that they require and their preferred means of providing feedback (this may differ for different stakeholders)
  • ensure that stakeholders are updated on how advice has helped inform design solutions or mitigation, including any reasons why  it did not affect a design or mitigation change

Engagement - good practice examples

The following are examples of advised good practice. The examples are not intended to be exhaustive and further pre-application engagement with other bodies and organisations is likely to be required.

Example 1: commercial fisheries


There is benefit from clear engagement with the commercial fishing sector when prospective applicants are making very early decisions about cable route choice and any other wind farm project parameters. It is expected that applications will include an evidenced description of how commercial fishing engagement was carried out and how representations at the early pre-application stage have been considered in design decisions, such as cable route choice. Prospective applicants are encouraged to engage with fishers at the very start of a project's design and certainly before surveys of cable routes are commissioned. This will enable fishers to outline any key areas to be considered in constraints mapping as part of an applicant’s assessment of cable route options, turbine locations and inter-array cabling before costly surveys are commissioned and undertaken. This engagement will also help identify any requirement for fisheries mitigation and fisheries monitoring.

Relevant fisheries guidance

Example 2: NatureScot


NatureScot provides expert advice to applicants and regulators on a number of environmental receptors. NatureScot’s pre-application engagement with prospective applicants provides an opportunity to resolve potential problems early and help speed up decision-making.  Early pre-application engagement with NatureScot is a routine practice in order to understand the likely survey requirements, data requirements and tools and assessment methods that an applicant will need to use in developing the application.  This is supplemented by NatureScot’s Advice on marine renewables development | NatureScot and prospective applicants should familiarise themselves with NatureScot’s guidance to better inform any discussion. The applicability of any advice given will be dependent on the amount of project detail that a prospective applicant can provide in these discussions.

Discussion with environmental Non-Governmental Organisations at an early stage is also advised.

Example 3: navigation stakeholders


Early pre-application engagement should be carried out with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) and other navigation stakeholders. This enables advice to be given on the EIA including any impact on navigational safety and emergency response e.g. Navigational Risk Assessment, risk mitigation measures, Marine Pollution Contingency Plan. Such engagement should occur before the prospective applicant submits a request for an EIA scoping opinion.

Early engagement with the MCA and relevant navigation stakeholders means that they can provide applicants with the relevant and most up to date guidance and help with early identification of potential areas of concern that may require attention. It can also help to ensure that proposed data collection (e.g. traffic surveys), impact assessments and mitigation measures are appropriate.

Relevant navigation guidance


Example 4: Historic Environment Scotland


Early pre-application engagement with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) enables advice to be given on the Environmental Impact Assessment. HES can also provide advice on the Written Scheme of Investigation and Protocol for Archaeological Discoveries, which are both required as part of the marine licence application for the construction of a wind farm.

Early engagement with HES means that it can provide applicants with the relevant and most up to date guidance and help with early identification of potential areas of concern which may require attention. It can also help to ensure that proposed data collection, impact assessments and mitigation measures are appropriate.

Historic environment policy and guidance

Example 5: other stakeholders


Other bodies and organisations will also need to be approached. Prior to the prospective applicant concluding its scoping report, it is advised, as a minimum to make early contact with any local authorities which may be impacted by the project, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Defence and NATS.


Contact information for MD-LOT

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