Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan. Strategic Environmental Assessment Post-Adoption Statement.

Strategic Environmental Assessment Post-Adoption Statement.

6 The Pilot Plan and the Consideration of Alternatives

6.1 Requirements

6.1.1 The 2005 Act requires that the potential for significant environmental effects of the reasonable alternatives to the draft Pilot Plan are assessed as part of the SEA process.

6.2 The Reasonable Alternatives

Development of Alternatives

6.2.1 As detailed in the Environmental Report, four options were identified early in the plan-making process. As the development of the Pilot Plan and its SEA progressed, and with the input of stakeholders via engagement processes and several stages of public consultation, these options also evolved.

6.2.2 In accordance with the requirement of the 2005 Act, the SA explored the implications and likelihood of environmental effects of several possible alternatives to the approach set out in the draft Pilot Plan. However, it also considered the potential for socio-economic and environmental effects of adopting a range of alternatives to aspects of the Plan; many of which were incorporated into its development as the process evolved.

6.2.3 The four broad reasonable alternatives identified in the development of the draft Pilot Plan were:

  • Do not develop a Pilot Plan - this alternative considered not preparing a Pilot Plan but rather proceeding directly with the development of the Orkney and North Coast Regional Marine Plans under the 2010 Act. It also included an option involving to the potential development of separate Pilot Plans for the Orkney and North Coast regions to inform the development of these regional plans.
  • Consider adopting a 'zoned approach' in the development of a Pilot Plan - this alternative involved looking at the concept of zoning marine areas for different types of marine uses and/or development.
  • Limiting the scope of the Pilot Plan to outlining existing requirements for developers and marine users - this alternative involved restricting the scope of the Plan to setting out the current requirements for future developers and marine users only. For example, this alternative involved referring to the requirements of current consenting processes, and awareness of obligations under the SEA and HRA Directives, amongst others, without explicitly linking these to wider ambitions.
  • Adopting a 'staged approach' to inform the future development of Regional Marine Plans for the PFOW area - this was identified as the preferred alternative for the draft Pilot Plan and involved building upon the intent of the previous alternatives to inform and guide decision-making in the PFOW area and complement current mechanisms for managing development in and use of the marine environment. It was considered that it would provide an overview of existing ambitions and policies and promote ambitions for the sustainable development and consideration of socio-economic and environmental factors in the future management of the PFOW area.

Engagement with stakeholders

6.2.4 As the Pilot Plan and its policies developed, the feedback of stakeholders and respondents through the consultation process were important in gauging interest in the Pilot Plan itself amongst coastal and marine users, and in helping to guide its development. In this process, particular focus was given to ensuring that the Pilot Plan and its associated documents ( i.e. SA, Socio-economic Baseline Review, RLG) were accessible, relevant and useful for marine users, developers and decision-makers alike, and also aligned with overarching and related policy.

6.2.5 The General and Sectoral Policies set out in the Pilot Plan were initially identified through a process of stakeholder engagement undertaken as part of the PIOP consultation. From these discussions, the application of alternative priorities was a key focal point and a range of other alternatives were identified during these periods of consultation. Subsequent engagement and consultations also helped to refine these policies and alternatives further.

6.2.6 These alternatives included broad suggestions such as providing additional focus on the co-existence of marine users, having a 'balanced approach' with no one type of development having priority over another, focusing on designing development around the considerations for other marine users, and greater engagement between developers and stakeholders, amongst others. However, several specific alternatives were also identified in relation to specific policies contained within the Pilot Plan. For example, some raised concerns that some stakeholders have not received due consideration in development in the PFOW area previously ( e.g. surfers along the north Caithness and Sutherland coast, amongst others), whilst others expressed a desire for a presumption in favour of certain types of development or activity, many of which cited the financial benefits of some sectors as reasons behind this.

6.2.7 Many of these suggestions were considered and included in the development of the Pilot Plan, and as discussed in the SA Report, were assessed as part of the SA process.

6.3 Selection of the Pilot Plan and its Policies

6.3.1 The SA explored the implications of the reasonable alternatives for the development of the Pilot Plan, and compared this against that of adopting the draft Pilot Plan and its policies.

6.3.2 Prior to inception, it was felt that the development of a Pilot Plan for the PFOW area could provide a range of benefits ahead of the development of statutory Regional Plans for the North Coast and Orkney regions. The opportunity to taking a shared approach in managing coastal and marine use of the PFOW area was considered a key benefit, particularly given the socio-economic and environmental importance of the area and its surrounding waters to many industries, communities and individuals in both regions.

6.3.3 As demonstrated in the SA, the promotion of co-existence, shared use, sustainable use of natural resources, and protection of the coastal and marine environments on which many sectors and communities depend, were considered to be key factors in making this the preferred alternative. It was seen as a means of establishing a sound and common foundation for the upcoming statutory plans, and provide for a joint socio-economic and environmental baseline upon which to build future work. Providing a transparent framework to actively engage with stakeholders and the wider public through direct discussion and formal consultation on marine planning issues, and the opportunity to learn lessons from the pilot process were also seen as potential benefits; particularly as many of the sectors and industries that operate in both Orkney and along Scotland's North Coast.

6.3.4 In contrast, it was considered that if a Pilot Plan were not prepared or developing separate Pilot Plans for the Orkney and North Coast regions, many of these opportunities and benefits could be missed. Of particular note, the collation of baseline information for separate Pilot Plans would likely be less efficient and 'joined up' than the preparation of a single Pilot Plan covering both regions. A similar view was taken on developing a Pilot Plan with a limited scope. However, it was also noted that setting out existing requirements for developers and marine users was taken forward and included in the Pilot Plan and its general and sectoral policies.

6.3.5 Taking a 'zoned approach' in the development of the Pilot Plan was discussed at an early stage in the process, and as demonstrated by discussion in a number of consultation responses, this continued to be a topic of discussion as the Plan evolved. It was considered that at present, there was insufficient appetite amongst marine users and developers for zoning areas for types of development or activities, and further, the majority of stakeholders felt that this was not currently achievable. However, as noted in the SA, there is the potential for greater spatial data in regional marine planning in the PFOW area. Further, the use of methods such as constraints mapping could be utilised in the development of future plans. The staged approach taken forward in the development of the Pilot Plan indicates that steps are being taken in this direction. The development of the two Regional Marine Plans will build upon the Pilot Plan and expand on the data collected in its development. With further knowledge and data on the many socio-economic and environmental issues in the PFOW, it is anticipated that these plans will continue to explore the potential for adoption of a greater spatial focus.


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