4 The Findings of the SEA
4.1.1 The 2019 Updated Environmental Report details the conclusions and recommendations of the assessment on the plan to classify additional SPAs in the Scottish marine environment. The key themes drawn from the assessment are discussed below:
- The SEA findings concluded that the increased protection that will result from the initial classification of the pSPAs will provide environmentalbenefits for the overarching topic 'biodiversity, flora and fauna' and contribute to the achievement of the SEA objectives. Classification of the sites will provide a statutory requirement to assess the impacts of plans and projects which have the potential to negatively impact pSPA features. The classification will further support developers to undertake more effective Habitats Regulations Appraisals (HRAs) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) that consider appropriate mitigation where necessary and therefore potentially reduce pressures associated with the regulated activity under assessment. Alternatively, in some cases, developers may look to site their projects some distance from the pSPAs to avoid undertaking further assessment and mitigation. This in turn would result in reduced harmful activities and potential environmental benefits within the pSPAs.
- No significant adverse environmental effects were identified and therefore no mitigation or monitoring measures were proposed as part of the assessment process.
- The manner in which the sites are managed in the future to ensure that the conservation objectives are achieved has the potential to result in significant environmental effects. If recommended options for management are implemented, specifically those that target activities and pressures that currently, or might in the future, occur within the pSPAs, these have the potential to result in beneficial environmental effects to both designated and non-designated features within the pSPA. In turn, these may also result in the potential for marginal spillover benefits beyond pSPA site boundaries. The implementation of recommended options for management may, however, also result in the potential displacement of an activity and its associated pressures and adverse effects outwith the boundaries of the pSPA. They could also result in increased levels of non-targeted activities within pSPAs.
- The range and scale of management measures that might be implemented are not currently known and therefore it is not possible to assess the significance of any environmental effects with any level of certainty. Should any specific management measures be subsequently required to meet the objectives of the pSPAs, these will be subject to further consideration under the 2005 Act, involving a separate SEA and public consultation. Should significant adverse effects be identified as a result of any future proposed management measures, there will be a need to consider appropriate mitigation measures and monitoring proposals.
- The classification and management of pSPAs would work cumulatively together with the wider MPA network and existing protection measures to further benefit the overarching topic 'biodiversity, flora and fauna' in Scottish waters and contribute to the achievement of SEA objectives. There will be beneficial cumulative effects as a greater proportion of birds will be protected across their range which in turn will provide greater resilience to human pressures. There may also be significant cumulative benefits for birds that move between SPAs as the pSPAs have the potential to improve the potential connectivity between protected areas for these features. There is also the potential for the classification and management of pSPAs to improve the connectivity of habitats across protected sites through the larval dispersal of benthic species.
- There is the potential for activities currently occurring in the pSPAs to be displaced to other areas, where such activities are not specifically managed. This could lead to negative environmental effects on these areas. For regulated activities, such as renewable energy or aquaculture developments, environmental assessments would be required before an activity could take place, thus limiting the potential for significant cumulative adverse effects to occur. A more detailed assessment of cumulative effects from the displacement of unregulated activities, such as fishing, will need to be undertaken should any specific management measures be subsequently required to meet the objectives of the pSPAs in future.
4.1.2 A key outcome from the SEA process was the reaffirmation that the classification of pSPAs offers an opportunity to protect species and habitats and provide wider environmental benefits. These principles are embedded in the plan to classify pSPAs and is a key requirement to fulfil a number of environmental and conservation objectives (Section 3).
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