3. Draft Environmental Report and Scoping Responses
3.1.1 This section gives a brief summary of the work carried out so far in relation to the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.
3.1.2 The Working Group produced a combined Screening and Scoping report, which was submitted to the Scottish Government's Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) Gateway on 14 January 2013. This report was provided to the Consultation Authorities (Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Historic Scotland) for a statutory five week consultation period.
3.1.3 The Consultation Authorities indicated that there is a likelihood of significant environmental effects arising from the pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan. All of the Consultation Authorities provided additional information and advice as to the scope and level of detail to be included in the Environmental Report.
3.1.4 The Screening and Scoping report was also sent out to the list of stakeholders on the database maintained by the Working Group ( Annex 1) to invite comments on this report. This was a non-statutory consultation that ran alongside the statutory consultation.
3.1.5 Owing to a problem with the mailbox to which stakeholders were requested to send comments many of the responses were not received until several weeks after the end of the consultation period on 18 February 2013. Once this problem was discovered an e-mail was sent explaining the situation to all the stakeholders that had responded. This was then followed up by phone calls to those stakeholders for whom contact details were available.
3.1.6 It was explained that although the responses were found too late to be taken into account in the draft Environmental Report they have all been read and will be used to inform the final drafting of the Environmental Report. A summary of the responses received from both the Consultation Authorities and the stakeholders is provided below.
3.1.7 After the consultation on the Screening and Scoping report Marine Scotland determined that the provisions proposed for inclusion in the pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan are likely to have significant environmental effects when considered in relation to many of the criteria set out in Schedule 2 of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. A Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) is therefore required. This determination was published in the The Orcadian and the John O'Groat Journal and the Consultation Authorities notified.
3.1.8 The next stage of the process was the draft Environmental Report, which was published on the Scottish Government consultation website on 17 th June 2013 along with the Planning Issues and Options Consultation Paper. Responses to the consultation were requested by 26 th July 2013.
3.1.9 All the Consultation Authorities sent in a response to the draft Environmental Report as did three other respondents. These responses are also summarised below.
3.2 Screening and Scoping Report
3.2.1 All three Consultation Authorities (Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Historic Scotland) and 12 stakeholders sent in responses to the Screening and Scoping Report. The responses from the Consultation Authorities and the stakeholders are analysed separately.
3.2.2 The 12 stakeholders that sent in a response were:
- NATS (National Air Traffic Services) Safeguarding.
- The Directors of Gills Harbour Ltd.
- Orkney Fisheries Association.
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- The Crown Estate.
- Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology ( ORCA) Marine.
- Birsay Community Council.
- International Container Hubs Ltd. ( ICHL).
- Scotland Tran Serv.
- Aquamarine Power.
- Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
3.3 Consultation Authority Responses to Screening and Scoping Report
3.3.1 Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) provided some specific comments both in the covering letter and in Annexes and also provided some preliminary advice regarding Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA).
3.3.2 The covering letter noted that if the specific comments were taken into account then SNH were broadly content that the level of detail proposed for the Environmental Report was appropriate.
3.3.3 The specific comments included a requirement for more information on key aspects, advice on the development and assessment of options, inclusion and referencing of relevant previous work, inconsistencies in the choice and naming of SEA topics, a strong recommendation for more detailed SEA Criteria and a preference for the Environmental Report to be published as a stand alone document rather than as part of a wider Sustainability Appraisal.
3.3.4 The Annexes provided more detailed comments in relation to specific sections of the Screening and Scoping report with advice and recommendations for how the SEA could be progressed. Annex B provided preliminary advice on Habitats Regulations Appraisal and raised the importance of issues such as connectivity to Natura sites and the ongoing work on Special Protection Areas.
3.3.5 The Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) were also content with the scope and level of detailed proposed for the Environmental Report subject their comments being taken into account.
3.3.6 SEPA provided detailed comments in relation to specific sections of the Screening and Scoping report. The majority of these were in relation to the methodology for assessing environmental effects and provided advice on how this could be carried out.
3.3.7 There was a request that enough information to clearly justify the reasons for each of the assessments was provided and that the assumptions being made were clearly set out.
3.3.8 Clarity regarding how proposed mitigation measures will be achieved and by whom was also requested and suggestions made as to how this could be undertaken.
3.3.9 The Annex to SEPA's letter also provided a list of relevant information sources, a request for consideration of a monitoring approach and information to clarify the text in the sections relating to water.
3.3.10 Historic Scotland ( HC) provided brief comments that supported the method for assessment and noted the importance of Orkney in relation to archaeological potential. Information regarding the evidence gathering to provide heritage data as part of Project Adair was provided.
3.3.11 In addition HC provided a note that diving and recreational use could increase understanding and enjoyment of the historic environment and could be included as an objective.
3.4 Stakeholder Responses to Screening and Scoping Report
3.4.1 The responses from the stakeholders varied in the amount of detail that they provided. Some provided generic information and others provided a response on specific details.
3.4.2 NATS Safeguarding provided a standard response in relation to wind turbines and wind farm developments and explained the process of the NATS self-assessment and pre-planning assessment.
3.4.3 The directors of Gills Harbour Ltd. provided a detailed overview of the history and background to Gills Harbour as well as information about on-going work. No specific comments were provided in relation to the Screening and Scoping reports.
3.4.4 Orkney Fisheries Association noted that the document was biased towards renewable developments and this needed to be changed to reflect the fact that the Plan is for all users. The response emphasised the fact that fishing is a traditional activity that uses the sea in a different manner to other users and this needs to be taken into account. The importance of protecting the environment in order that fishing can continue to operate as a food producer was noted as was the mobile nature of fishing.
3.4.5 The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ( RSPB) welcomed the preparation of the Plan to ensure the sustainable management of the marine environment where there is a significant scale of renewable energy development. The importance of Caithness and Orkney for seabird colonies and the associated protection they are afforded was noted. The information in Scotland's Marine Atlas should be taken into account. The RSPB also provided comments in relation to specific parts of the Screening and Scoping report.
3.4.6 The Crown Estate provided some background comments on their role in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters and noted it was important that the SEA and the Plan facilitate the development of wave and tidal technologies while giving due consideration of environmental factors and other users of the sea. The Crown Estate provided some suggested wording to clarify the fact the Plan is a tool to strategically plan the future use of the marine environment and also requested clarification on the status of the Plan and how the 12 existing Crown Estate lease sites for wave and tidal energy development will be considered in the SEA process and the Plan itself. The Crown Estate felt the proposed methodology for the SEA assessment process required clarification and noted that the socio-economic benefits to the local economy from marine renewables should be included. The importance of interaction with previous and on-going work relevant to this area was highlighted and some suggestions made regarding what should be included.
3.4.7 ORCA Marine are a historic environment consultancy in Orkney and provided information on previous relevant work they had carried out and suggested this be included in the list of Stage 2 studies. It was also noted that the 2009 Marine Spatial Planning Framework and Regional Locational Guidance did not include all relevant data sources and that the Plan should improve on this. The impact that marine developments have on land should also be taken into account e.g. making landfall, extensions to harbours etc. and coastal heritage assets should be included in the Plan.
3.4.8 Birsay Community Council sent a short response to say that they would be involved in many aspects covered by the Plan and would expect to be kept informed.
3.4.9 A response from International Container Hub Ltd. did not provide specific detail on the Screening and Scoping report but noted that development of the industrial zone from Lyness in Hoy to the Boatyard in Burray is the key to a sustainable future in Orkney. The respondent was of the view that these developments would leave the rest of Orkney as it is wished it would be and that the Orkney economy should not be ignored.
3.4.10 SportScotland provided some background information to sport and recreation interests and highlighted the importance of considering all activities and engaging with a wide range of groups and organisations. The wide range of impacts on recreation were also noted as was a concern that these issues might not be fully addressed. Specific comments in relation to the Screening and Scoping report were also provided.
3.4.11 Scotland TranServ sent a short note to acknowledge that infrastructure had been scoped in and that they would expect this to include consideration of any potential construction or operation related impact on the trunk road network.
3.4.12 Aquamarine Power raised two key points to be considered. These were that the SEA should recognise that the marine renewables industry is in its infancy and should focus on the first phase of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters wave and tidal arrays. The second point was a request for clarification as to why the socio-economic assessment would be outside the SEA. It was noted that the potential benefits from the wave and tidal developments would be better captured within the SEA rather than in a separate study. The importance of recognising potential positive impacts was noted and some examples given. The inclusion of landscape/seascape in the same category as geology and coastal processes was questioned. It was also noted that as marine renewables is a new industry assessment of emissions will be difficult during the prototype phase. As there are significant differences in the technologies these should not be assessed as a generic group.
3.4.13 Whale and Dolphin Conservation provided both general and specific comments. The general comments supported the proposed development of the Plan and noted that there are many knowledge gaps regarding whales and dolphins in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters. The requirement for pre-construction baseline and local scale studies was noted as was the need for broader studies to understand any combined impacts and on-going monitoring during development. The impact that noise pollution could have was noted. The specific comments were in relation to wording in relation to the context of the Plan and the need to consider maintaining environmental protection objectives. Other comments were in relation to mitigation and suggestions as to how this could be developed strategically, the inclusion of information from the Ministry of Defence and suggestions as to where more detail could be provided e.g. the scientific and other evidence to support the content of the proposed assessment matrix.
3.5 Draft Environmental Report
3.5.1 Feedback on the draft Environmental Report ( ER) was received from six respondents. All three Consultation Authorities i.e. Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Historic Scotland, provided a response. The other three responses were received from the Pentland Firth Yacht Club, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and The Crown Estate.
3.5.2 As discussed above a number of comments received at the Scoping stage were not received in time to allow them to be addressed in the draft ER. These comments will therefore be addressed in the final ER, if they have not already been considered.
3.6 Consultation Authority Responses to Draft Environmental Report
3.6.1 The Consultation Authorities welcomed the opportunity to comment on the draft ER. However, their responses indicated that they were not clear that this was a draft and not the final Environmental Report. A meeting arranged with the Consultation Authorities and the Working Group along with a representative of the Scottish Government Environmental Assessment Team in August 2013 discussed this lack of clarity and also provided an opportunity for the Consultation Authorities to outline what they expected from the final Environmental Report.
3.6.2 The main issue raised was that the assessment methodology had been altered in light of comments received from the Consultation Authorities at the scoping stage, in line with the evolving nature of an ER. The Consultation Authorities expressed concern that these changes meant that the assessment methodology and scoring system was not clear and this made it difficult for them to comment on the conclusions of the assessment.
3.6.3 The respondents felt this had led to a lack of consistency with the Planning Issues and Options Consultation Paper. It is worth noting the draft ER was trying to assess the impacts of a marine plan that has not been drafted at this stage; it was based on the general policy areas that were proposed for inclusion in the draft Plan. This was discussed at the meeting in August 2013 and once it had been clarified that this was a draft ER the Consultation Authorities were able to provide advice on how they felt the work should progress and indicated their willingness to assist with this.
3.6.4 The specific comments from the Consultation Authorities required more detail on how assessment scores on the impacts of the various sectors, e.g. renewables, aquaculture, ports and harbours, on the SEA objectives, had been reached. Further comments were provided on the proposed alternative approaches, assessment of cross cutting policies and mitigation measures with suggestions for how the information could be improved. There will be on-going discussions with the Consultation Authorities to inform both subsequent iterations of the ER and the drafting of the Plan.
3.7 Stakeholder Responses to Draft Environmental Report
3.7.1 The Pentland Firth Yacht Club ( PFYC) sent in comments in relation to the key policy assessment questions contained within the draft ER. The main points made were that the Plan should be developed and that they were not unsupportive of developments taking place as long as existing uses were taken into account.
3.7.2 PFYC also made some specific comments regarding aggregate extraction and sea dumping [of dredged material], artificial structures along the coastline, the protection of fish and commercial fishing under controlled circumstances and the impact of the aquaculture industry on safe navigation and anchorages. Overall, the PFYC had concerns about the long term cumulative effects and felt development needed to ensure there was no irrevocable damage to the marine environment.
3.7.3 The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ( RSPB) noted that users of the marine environment should include those who seek, and have aspirations for, the protection, enhancement and sustainable management of the area's natural resource. This would include environmental non-governmental organisations.
3.7.4 The RSPB also made some specific comments regarding the terminology used in relation to sustainable economic growth suggesting this phrase should be removed and replaced with "economic growth" or "sustainable growth". Suggestions regarding responding to gaps in relation to biodiversity knowledge were also provided as were some suggestions for additions to specific sections.
3.7.5 The Crown Estate provided some general comments on the draft ER one of which stated it was not easy to find on the Scottish Government website. This was raised during the consultation period and changes were made to the web links to make it easier to find. The remainder of the comments were in relation to the requirement for consistency between the purpose of the Plan and the objectives of the Plan and some updated references for some sections. It was noted that it was difficult to accurately assess the environmental impacts of the Plan in any detail as the proposed policies, at this stage, were not finalised.
- A summary of all Screening and Scoping responses is provided here, including those that arrived too late to be taken into account during the drafting of the ER owing to a mailbox issue.
- The Consultation Authorities were not clear this was a draft ER and therefore had concerns regarding the assessment methodology.
- Once the draft status was clarified it was agreed the Consultation Authorities would provide input to improving the methodology for the final ER.
- Three stakeholders also provided comments in relation to the key policy assessment questions or specific sections.
- All this feedback will inform the final ER.