9 Findings of the Assessment and Overall Effects of the Pilot Plan
9.1.1 This section of the Report sets out the findings of the second tier of assessment and builds upon the analysis of the individual policies detailed in the previous section ( Section 8). It explores the likelihood of significant socio-economic and environmental effects in the context of the draft Pilot Plan and its collective group of policies by considering the assessment objectives and the key SA questions listed in Table 6.1.
9.1.2 The 2005 Act requires that the cumulative environmental effects of the draft Pilot Plan are identified and evaluated. This tier of assessment also draws on the relationships between the draft Pilot Plan and other Directives, PPS, legislation and existing mechanisms (e.g. consenting processes); many of which also consider and address issues raised in the assessment, and are likely to work alongside and/or be complemented by the draft Pilot Plan upon its adoption. As such, this section of the SA and the summary provided in Section 10 discuss the potential for cumulative and in-combination effects in accordance with the 2005 Act.
1(a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to meeting the aspirations and goals of the EU and Scottish Biodiversity Strategies, and the core aims of protection and enhancement of biodiversity and natural heritage?
9.2.1 The ambitions and policies of the draft Pilot Plan are closely aligned with those of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (e.g. contributing to preserving the value of natural capital in the PFOW area, contributing to stronger sustainable economic growth, improving health and quality of life, and supporting ambitions that Scotland’s marine and coastal environments are clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse, amongst others) and those of the EU Convention on Biological Diversity (i.e. mainstreaming biodiversity, promoting sustainable use, safeguarding ecosystems, amongst others). Through the development of policies to promote sustainable development ambitions and guide stakeholders in opportunities for benefits in the future, the draft Pilot Plan seeks to contribute towards meeting these ambitions, and with them, those of the overarching Aichi targets and the EU Strategy. Promoting the preservation of habitat and biodiversity features, both designated and undesignated, through the development of biodiversity policies (General Policies 4A – 4C) and overarching policy for safeguarding of the marine ecosystem (General policy 1C) is also likely to contribute to these ambitions by contributing to the protection and enhancement of biodiversity and natural heritage.
9.2.2 However, the SA found that stakeholder engagement is likely to be a key factor in the delivery of any such outcomes, particularly in guiding future developers and marine users in seeking opportunities for protection and enhancement of the natural environment. For example, ambitions for promoting the enhancement of biodiversity, and improving the ecological status of coastal water bodies and the environmental status of marine waters in the PFOW area, will likely require the ‘buy in’ of coastal and marine stakeholders to realise any potential significant benefits.
1(b) Will the development of these policies:
- Help to preserve, and where possible, enhance biodiversity, habitat and geodiversity features in coastal and marine areas in the PFOW?
- Generate significant impacts on key marine, coastal and terrestrial habitats and species, or on the networks of designated biodiversity sites within the UK?
9.2.3 In general terms, the SA noted that increased development and use of the PFOW area in the future has the potential to have environmental effects. Together, the sustainability ambitions set out in the draft Pilot Plan and the development of its general policies for biodiversity and geodiversity have the potential for positive effects for both topic areas described in Question 1(b).
9.2.4 The SA considered that the safeguarding ambitions outlined in the general policies and the sustainability themes running through the draft Pilot Plan are likely to aid in reducing the potential for adverse effects associated with development and marine use in the future. Increased awareness of existing requirements for developers and marine users, further promotion of the consideration of relevant issues in the development process, and setting out regional ambitions for the preservation of biodiversity and geodiversity features through the Pilot Plan will provide a regional focus for the ambitions set out in wider policy (e.g. in the NMP). The inclusion of regional information on key issues in the accompanying RLG and this SA, including recognising potentially sensitive sites (e.g. protected habitats including SACs, SPAs, draft marine SPAs, MPAs) and species of interest or concern in the PFOW is also likely to improve awareness of potential issues amongst stakeholders and consenting authorities (e.g. seabirds, seals, cetaceans).
9.2.5 In some instances, this may aid in the early identification of potential constraints and could help to guide development and marine users to areas of lesser constraint (e.g. shifting proposed development away from important seabird feeding areas and seal haul out sites, undertaking construction works out with breeding season for sensitive species). Further, the promotion of early engagement with stakeholders could aid in the early identification of potential issues via monitoring and the development of appropriate mitigation for potential adverse impacts. In all, the potential for improved and more consistent consideration of biodiversity and geodiversity in the development and consenting processes was identified, and the potential for the Pilot Plan to help in reducing the risk of adverse effects of development or marine use on the natural environment.
9.2.6 The SA noted that current consenting processes are likely to remain the primary mechanism for the consideration of development proposals, and the identification, and where appropriate, mitigation of any potential adverse effects on both designated biodiversity features and wider biodiversity. As a consequence, the consideration of the draft Pilot Plan and its supporting documents (i.e. the SEA and RLG) as material considerations for these processes have the potential to help inform these decision-making processes. While the Pilot Plan outlined ambitions for enhancement in addition to environmental protection, the likelihood of realising this ambition will likely depend on achieving the ‘buy in’ of developers, marine users and planning and consenting authorities operating within existing legislation and processes. As a consequence, the SA identified engagement with these stakeholders in seeking the potential for benefits and contributions to protection and enhancement measures as a key aim of the Consultation, and also an ambition of engagement for upcoming regional marine planning.
1(c) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to the management of invasive non-native species?
9.2.7 The inclusion of a specific policy in the draft Pilot Plan for the management of invasive non-native species has the potential to improve awareness of existing and predicted pressures associated with the potential introduction and spread of these species amongst a wide range of coastal and marine users in the Pilot Plan area. The SA identified this to be an opportunity for reducing the potential risk that the introduction and/or spreading of invasive non-native species could pose, and as a consequence, the potential for a reduction in the risk of associated impacts on the unique and valued marine biodiversity and ecosystems in the PFOW. The potential for secondary benefits including helping to protect marine industries dependent on biodiversity in the area were also identified (e.g. commercial and recreational fishing, wildlife tourism).
9.2.8 While some sectors and regional authorities in the PFOW area have developed Codes of Practice and Control Agreements to manage potential biosecurity issues (e.g. shipping and aquaculture sectors, Scapa Flow Ballast Water Management Policy), there is the potential for greater consideration and management of these risks amongst a wide range of marine stakeholders. The assessment considered that the inclusion of this policy in the draft Pilot Plan to be an opportunity for engaging with stakeholders and working towards consistent use of biosecurity measures across all marine sectors in the PFOW, and the potential for particular benefits through engaging with those sectors without measures currently in place.
2(a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation?
9.2.9 The inclusion of policies General Policies 3 (Climate Change) and 5B (Coastal Processes and Flooding) in the draft Pilot Plan will provide additional guidance for developers and marine users on the consideration of climate change issues in the region, and help to set out expectations for their consideration in the development process. With the support and ‘buy in’ of stakeholders including future developers, the potential for overall positive effects in promoting sustainability amongst all marine sectors and coastal communities was identified. The SA identified opportunities for ‘future-proofing’ coastal and marine infrastructure against the predicted effects of climate change (e.g. sea level rises, exacerbated effects of extreme waves and storm surges), and the avoidance of potential flooding and erosion risks in coastal areas associated with future developments through adoption of the policies of the draft Pilot Plan (e.g. appropriate design and siting of infrastructure, installation of flood prevention/coastal stability measures).
9.2.10 The promotion of sustainable development in the offshore renewables sector is also likely to contribute towards Scotland’s low carbon energy generation ambitions and contribute to meeting Scotland’s GHG emission reduction targets. There is the potential for renewables development in the PFOW area to significantly contribute to adaptation to climate change at the regional and national levels through contributing to the decarbonisation of energy generation in Scotland. Similarly, the promotion of ambitions for the minimisation of GHG emissions amongst marine users outlined in the draft Pilot Plan, including the promotion of overarching ambitions and targets at the regional level, also has the potential for positive effects.
9.2.11 However, the ’buy in’ of marine users and sectoral industry groups was identified as a likely key factor in the degree to which these ambitions will contribute to emissions reductions and in meeting these targets.
2(b) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies generate significant direct, indirect or secondary impacts that may exacerbate or contribute to the anticipated effects of climate change?
9.2.12 The potential for largely positive indirect or secondary environmental effects for a number of topic areas was identified in the SA. The draft Pilot Plan and the process for the development of the upcoming Regional Marine Plans is likely to provide opportunities for engagement with developers and marine users in working towards improving the protection of coastal ecosystems and reducing the potential for adverse impacts from development and future marine use on them. In particular, the potential for improved protection of habitats known to be vulnerable to coastal erosion (e.g. parts of Sanday, mainland Orkney, Shapinsay, Hoy, South Ronaldsay, Loch Eriboll, Kyle of Tongue), reduced coastal erosion/accretion at the local level, improved protection for cultural heritage in the coastal environment, and reduced turbidity in coastal areas, were identified.
9.2.13 In some instances, the potential for mixed effects was also noted; primarily as a consequence of inappropriate design and siting of development and/or marine use (e.g. shifting or creation of coastal erosion/accretion issues in nearby areas as a consequence of development works, changes to coastal processes and sediment dynamics). However, it is considered that current planning and consenting processes (i.e. Marine Licensing, Town and Country planning where applicable) are likely to remain the primary mechanisms for the consideration of development proposals. It is via these existing processes that the identification, and where appropriate, mitigation of any potential adverse effects on coastal and marine habitats will continue to be addressed. The SA considered that through these processes, alongside an increased awareness of potential issues and areas of particular concern through the publication of the Pilot Plan, its RLG and this SA, there is the potential opportunity to reduce the risk of adverse effects on coastal ecosystems as a consequence of such development/marine use. The inclusion of general policies such as General Policies 1C (Safeguarding the Marine Ecosystem) and 5B (Coastal Processes and Flooding) are also likely to advocate the consideration of potential impacts on socio-economic and environmental receptors, including the potential for adverse impacts on coastal ecosystems and communities.
9.2.14 As discussed in the previous question, the potential for increased GHG emissions was identified as a potential outcome of increased development within the PFOW area. However, it is considered that with the ’buy in’ of marine users and developers, the inclusion of an aspiration in the Pilot Plan for the minimisation of GHG emissions could help to make a positive contribution in minimising any increases in emissions as a consequence of increased use of the PFOW. However, it is not known at present whether there is the potential for reductions in GHG emissions, as this is likely to be dependent on the scale of future development and future demand for marine space in the PFOW area.
9.2.15 It is also considered unlikely that the Pilot Plan will significantly change the current predicted effects of climate change in regional or global context.
Cultural Heritage and the Historic Environment
3(a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to protecting the historic environment and its setting in both the marine environment and for terrestrial features with coastal components, including both known and unknown features?
9.2.16 The preservation of the historic environment and its setting in the PFOW area is currently governed by a suite of existing legislation and guidance, and is a consideration of current marine and terrestrial consenting processes. The development of the draft Pilot Plan and accompanying RLG seeks to provide support to these processes as material considerations, particularly through the inclusion of policies such as General Policies 1A (Sustainable Development) and 6 (Cultural Heritage). Together, these policies have the potential to contribute to the protection of the historic environment by raising awareness of the potential for interactions with known heritage assets at the regional level, and should also the potential for new discoveries within the coastal and marine areas in the PFOW. Coupled with the overarching sustainable development ambitions of the draft Pilot Plan, this approach is likely to be positive and should aid potential developers and consenting bodies in the early consideration of the potential for adverse effects on such features in the development process.
9.2.17 The accompanying RLG will provide a further information source and guidance on key areas of cultural and historic value and concern within the region (i.e. Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS, designated wreck sites located in Scapa Flow, Scheduled Monuments and Listed Buildings in coastal areas, Military Remains). The development of the RLG has the potential to alert developers and consenting bodies to potential issues from the outset, and in some instances, may help to steer development into areas with lesser potential for adverse effects. It could also help to guide them towards exploring alternative design options or other options for mitigation at an early stage.
3(b) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies generate significant impacts on cultural heritage and the historic environment in the PFOW coastal and marine regions?
9.2.18 The draft Pilot Plan and its policies have the potential to make a positive contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage and the historic environment in the PFOW area. The inclusion of a policy specifically relating to cultural heritage (i.e. General Policy 6) will build upon the ambitions expressed in wider Scottish policy (i.e. NMP, SPP and Local Development Plans ( LDPs)) and international conventions. The inclusion of information on historic features in the accompanying RLG also has the potential to increase awareness of cultural heritage issues in the PFOW and could promote greater consistency in the consideration of potential heritage impacts in the development and consenting processes.
9.2.19 The sustainability focus set out in the draft Pilot Plan and many of its policies has the potential to improve awareness and identify opportunities to enhance the management of any potential significant impacts from developments and marine/coastal use in the future. Given the many recognised historic and heritage features in the PFOW area, and the many undiscovered sites awaiting discovery in its coastal and marine areas, there is the potential for significant positive effects in aiding the identification and preservation of these features into the future.
9.2.20 Given the strong links between visual amenity and the setting of historic features, the potential for significant positive secondary or indirect effects was also identified in the SA; particularly in relation to landscape/seascape. Similar opportunities for benefits for communities, population and human health (e.g. enjoyment of heritage assets, preservation of sense of place, improved transparency and engagement in the development process) and coastal and marine sectors based around the cultural heritage and history in the PFOW area (e.g. cultural heritage tourism, coastal and marine recreation activities) were also identified.
Landscape and Seascape
4(a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to the preservation of recognised and protected areas (i.e. NSAs) and other levels of recognition (i.e. the identification of areas of wild land, national nature reserves, landscapes that contribute to sense of place more generally, and areas that would benefit from enhancement, amongst others)?
9.2.21 The preservation of Scotland’s landscapes and seascapes, including the recognition of areas for their landscape value (i.e. NSAs, areas of wild land, National Parks, WHS, SLAs) is currently governed by a suite of existing legislation, Scottish policies and international conventions (e.g. European Landscape Convention, Historic Environment (Amendment) Scotland Act 2011, National Planning Framework 3 ( NPF3), SPP, NMP, LDPs). The potential for visual impacts to landscape and seascape is also a consideration of current terrestrial and marine consenting processes. The draft Pilot Plan and its policies have been developed, in part, to support these existing processes and to set out expectations for the consideration of these issues in the future use of the PFOW area.
9.2.22 As a consequence, through the inclusion of policies such as General Policies 1A (Sustainable Development), 4D (Landscape and Seascape) and 4E (Geodiversity) in particular, there is the potential for the Pilot Plan to make a positive contribution to the protection of landscape and seascape. The SA noted this to be an opportunity to raise awareness of the potential for visual interactions associated with development and a wide range of marine uses, and also to promote their consideration by developers, consenting authorities and other stakeholders within the PFOW coastal and marine areas.
9.2.23 The accompanying RLG and this SA will also provide an additional information source for potential developers and marine users, and offer guidance on identifying recognised areas of visual value and potential areas of concern within the PFOW area (e.g. West Mainland and Hoy NSA, SLAs along the north Caithness and Sutherland coast). This has the potential to aid in identifying areas of possible constraint in relation to visual impacts, and in some instances, may help to steer developers away from recognised and protected areas and towards areas with lesser potential for adverse visual effects.
9.2.24 As a material consideration in the current consenting process, these documents could also assist developers and consenting bodies in identifying potential interactions between landscape/seascape and the setting of cultural heritage assets. This could be of particular benefit in locations such as West Mainland Orkney and Hoy where the two are known to be closely related.
4(b) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies generate adverse impacts on landscape, seascape and visual amenity?
9.2.25 The draft Pilot Plan has the potential for positive effects for visual amenity by building upon the ambitions and requirements expressed in overarching and wider policy (i.e. NMP, LDPs). Through the focus on sustainability set out in its general policies, the draft Pilot Plan will likely provide support for developers and consenting bodies in the management of potential visual impacts from development and use of the PFOW marine and coastal area. Similarly, the provision of data in the accompanying RLG should provide additional information for developers, marine users and consenting authorities. With their ‘buy in’, the SA identified the potential for the Pilot Plan to contribute to achieving greater consistency in the consideration of visual impacts in the existing development and consenting processes.
9.2.26 Other policies in the Draft Plan are also likely to contribute to the consideration of the landscape/seascape value in the region, albeit from a different perspective. For example, General Policy GEN 2 (Wellbeing and Quality of Life of Coastal Communities) advocates the consideration of the local community interests and promotes the consideration of potential impacts at the project and community level. Given the close relationship between communities and the surrounding environment across the PFOW, the assessment identified the potential for additional influence in the consideration of visual issues from the perspective of communities (e.g. the role that landscape/seascape and cultural heritage can play in the enjoyment and use of coastal and marine areas, preservation of sense of place, improved transparency in development process). Given the many recognised landscape/seascape and areas within the PFOW area, and as many are also recognised for their cultural importance (e.g. west Mainland Orkney and Northern Hoy), the potential for significant positive effects for cultural heritage was also identified as a likely positive outcome. As a consequence, the potential for a range of benefits through the promotion of early and effective engagement with local communities in the draft Pilot Plan was identified. This is discussed further in Question 5.
9.2.27 The potential for positive effects for coastal and marine sectors with strong links to landscape/seascape was also noted in the assessment (e.g. the recreation and tourism sector) and the potential enjoyment of coastal recreation sites.
Communities, Population and Human Health
5(a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to the delivery of sustainable economic development including employment benefits and opportunities for local communities?
9.2.28 The focus on sustainable development at the heart of the draft Pilot Plan, and support for the promotion of wellbeing and quality of life and sustainable economic benefits for coastal communities largely reflects wider Scottish ambitions outlined in the overarching NMP and in wider Scottish and regional policy (e.g. Government Economic Strategy, the emergence of Community Planning Partnerships in Orkney and the North Coast regions, amongst others). The Pilot Plan is expected to translate these aspirations to the PFOW area and through informing the development of the Orkney and North Coast Regional Marine Plans, help to contribute to their overall ambitions.
9.2.29 The potential for overall positive effects was identified in the SA through promoting support for sustainable growth and development in the region, focusing on supporting local sustainable industries and delivering benefits for local communities. Together, the draft Pilot Plan and its general and sectoral policies provide a framework for safeguarding the marine environment, and with it, the resources that support many of these industries and communities. This could also contribute to the safeguarding of existing employment opportunities in sectors reliant on these resources (e.g. fishing, aquaculture, coastal and marine recreation and tourism), and highlight a need to balance this with promoting the development of new and sustainable opportunities in the future. The potential for further strengthening of these ambitions ties in with the inclusion of support for the improving the wellbeing and quality of life in local communities in the draft Pilot Plan.
9.2.30 The SA also identified that while further development in the PFOW area will likely continue to provide economic and employment opportunities, the area-wide focus on sustainable development has the potential to lead to the growth of some sectors at the expense of others. As a consequence, the potential for associated adverse impacts on communities was also noted, highlighting a need for flexibility and adaptability in both communities themselves and in wider development within the PFOW area to ensure that any such impacts are minimised. This is discussed further in Question 8.
5(b) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to improving the wellbeing of local communities and the population in the PFOW, including the management of noise impacts and disturbance from coastal and marine activities?
9.2.31 The inclusion of General Policies 1B (Supporting Sustainable Social and Economic Benefits) and 2 (Wellbeing, Quality of Life and Amenity of Coastal Communities) has the potential to improve the consideration of community impacts in the PFOW area. With the ’buy in’ of prospective developers, marine users, consenting authorities and local communities themselves, the sustainability ambitions of the Pilot Plan have the potential to provide opportunities for engagement with local communities, including employment opportunities and improved involvement in decision-making.
9.2.32 The SA also noted the potential for improved awareness in the community and improved transparency in the consideration of community issues may be a significant outcome of the Pilot Plan and of the upcoming Regional Marine Plans. Helping to foster improved engagement amongst stakeholders in the future and starting the engagement process for the Regional Marine Plans was also identified as likely benefits, particularly if undertaken with those communities likely to have interactions with development of coastal/marine operations. The SA considered that this engagement, if taken forward into the regional marine planning and in the consideration of development or Marine License applications, could also contribute to the identification and realisation of further community benefits (e.g. synergistic benefits such as sharing of ports, harbours and boat ramps, employment opportunities, creation/improvement of coastal recreation facilities).
9.2.33 The inclusion of policies relating to landscape and seascape, the historic environment, geodiversity and the water environment also have the potential to contribute to the preservation of the natural environment. Together, they are aimed at safeguarding the marine ecosystem and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, and are likely to provide benefits for a wide range of marine sectors (i.e. fishing, wildlife recreation/tourism, amongst others). Indirectly, they have the potential for associated benefits for communities with strong links to these sectors, including helping to contribute to preserving the way of life in many parts of the PFOW (e.g. enjoyment of the natural environment, the preservation of history and cultural heritage, sense of place and visual amenity in the region).
9.2.34 While noise and disturbance from development is currently a consideration under existing consenting processes at the project level, the promotion of these considerations through their inclusion in the Pilot Plan (i.e. through General Policy 8A) has the potential for positive effects for both residents and communities in the PFOW area. The SA identified that while some activities have the potential for more effects than others (e.g. piling operations, onshore or coastal works such as port and harbour developments), any such impacts are likely to be development and location specific. Even so, the potential for greater and more consistent consideration of the disturbance impacts on human receptors from marine activities at the project level was identified as a likely benefit of the draft Pilot Plan.
9.2.35 Whilst disturbance issues are currently a consideration of consenting processes for terrestrial and marine development, the SA found that the potential for improved engagement between developers/ marine users and communities could aid in the early identification and resolution of any such issues.
5(c) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies generate significant impacts on the wellbeing and connectivity of local communities and the population in the PFOW, or generate other environmental effects?
5(d) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to the resilience and cohesion of coastal and island communities in the PFOW?
9.2.36 As discussed under Questions 5(a) and 5(b), the focus of the draft Pilot Plan in supporting sustainable development and economic benefits, the wellbeing and quality of life of coastal communities, and safeguarding of the marine environment, is likely to contribute positively to the contributing to the sustainability and resilience of communities in the PFOW area. Setting out support for sustainable development in the draft Pilot Plan, particularly for community involvement in the growth of marine industries, has the potential to contribute to improving wellbeing in these communities (e.g. employment opportunities, new or upgraded facilities and infrastructure, improved connectivity in servicing these sectors).
9.2.37 As noted in Question 5(a), the potential for adverse impacts on communities was also identified, particularly with the potential for growth of some industries at the expense of others. While these are likely to be largely influenced by market forces, it also highlights a need for flexibility and adaptability in communities themselves, and also in wider development and marine use within the PFOW area to ensure that any such impacts are minimised.
9.2.38 The aspirations expressed in the draft Pilot Plan for the sustainable use of natural resources may also yield positive effects in contributing to the long-term security of not just these resources, but also the communities and the marine sectors that rely on them. In particular, the preservation of the natural environment in the region and a reduction in the risk of adverse effects from future development and marine use could also help to maintain quality of life for those in areas which have close links to the natural environment (e.g. associated benefits through supporting the preservation of history and cultural heritage, security for sense of place, reduced risk of impacts to visual amenity, amongst others).
9.2.39 The inclusion of policies in the draft Pilot Plan to promote the safeguarding of existing shipping and ferry routes and maintaining safe navigation and access for accessing ports, harbours and anchoring sites has the potential to help maintain connectivity for communities across the PFOW area. Particular benefits were identified in maintaining important services between remote coastal and island communities, where there is a clear reliance on services such as inter-island ferries and airports to maintain connections to Mainland Orkney and Caithness.
6 (a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to meeting the water quality targets such as those set by the WFD, Scotland's RBMPs and Bathing Waters Directive, amongst others?
9.2.40 Setting out expectations for developers in the Pilot Plan and its policies, particularly in relation to maintaining water quality standards and the avoidance of deterioration of water quality, has the potential to contribute to wider overarching water quality objectives. With the ‘buy in’ of developers, marine users and consenting authorities, the SA identified an opportunity through the Pilot Plan in reducing the risk of adverse impacts on water quality in the future. Through the promotion of sustainable development, the Plan also seeks to provide opportunities for developers and marine users to maintaining good water quality, and to remove potential barriers to improving water quality and meeting water quality objectives; both of which may be affected through inappropriate development.
9.2.41 However, the likelihood of developers and marine users in contributing to improving the ecological status of coastal waters and environmental status of marine waters is currently unclear. The SA considered that the development process of the draft Pilot Plan presents an opportunity to engage further with developers and marine users on this issue. For example, the consultation process may help to open dialogue for working with stakeholders in identifying opportunities for improving water quality, and also in contributing to meeting the established objectives; and this could also be further explored in the development of the upcoming Regional Marine Plans.
6 (b) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies generate any significant environmental impacts on water quality in coastal and marine environments?
9.2.42 In general terms, increased development and use of coastal and marine areas in the PFOW area has the potential to create a range of significant effects on water quality, either temporarily (e.g. associated with construction and decommissioning operations, minor pollution events) or potentially permanent (e.g. cumulative effects of activities, major pollution events). The development of the draft Pilot Plan and its policies seek to reduce the potential for adverse impacts to water quality, primarily through setting out expectations for developers and marine users in relation to water quality, and promoting appropriate consideration of water quality by future users of the PFOW area.
9.2.43 The promotion of sustainable development in the draft Pilot Plan seeks to provide opportunities for developers and marine users to maintain good water quality. It should also aid in removing potential barriers to improving water quality, which may otherwise be affected through inappropriate development. While the draft Pilot Plan is non-statutory, it should also support the consideration of the potential for adverse water quality effects in the consenting process, and could help in improving the efficiency of existing consenting processes. In particular, the inclusion of provisions such as proposals being “accompanied by sufficient information to enable a full assessment of the likely effects, including cumulative effects, on the water environment” in General Policy 5A (Water Environment) has the potential for improving the consistency in how the water environment is considered and addressed by developers and other marine users in the relevant consenting processes.
9.2.44 The promotion of efficiency and shared/multiple use of marine space and infrastructure was identified as having the potential to reduce the risk of adverse effects in the future. For example, the avoidance of adverse effects through sharing the use of port and harbour infrastructure, expansion of existing facilities in preference to the construction of new sites, and a reduced risk of pollution events from collisions (e.g. ensuring safe navigation, access to ports and harbours) were identified as positive effects. However, it is noted that this is likely to depend on a range of factors, including the type of development, siting, proximity to other activities or developments, amongst others.
9.2.45 With the ‘buy in’ and support of stakeholders, the potential for secondary or indirect benefits for water quality was also noted in the SA. For example, promoting adaptation and resilience amongst marine users to the effects of climate change (e.g. reduced risk of water quality impacts from flooding and coastal erosion), biodiversity (e.g. improvements in the ecological status of water quality, improved conditions for marine flora and fauna, reduced potential for impacts on fauna from marine litter), soil marine geology and coastal processes, and for communities, population and human health (e.g. reduced risk of health effects from recreational use), were identified amongst others. Similarly, the potential for indirect positive effects on some marine sectors with a reliance on water quality for their operations were also noted in the SA, including the aquaculture, fishing, and recreation, sport, leisure and tourism sectors, amongst others.
Soil, marine geology and coastal processes
7(a) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to the preservation of Scotland's geodiversity?
9.2.46 Through the inclusion of General Policy 4E (Geodiversity), the Pilot Plan will provide guidance for stakeholders on the importance and value attributed to geodiversity in the PFOW area. With the ‘buy in’ of developers, coastal/marine users and consenting bodies, more transparent and consistent consideration of geodiversity in planning for the future use of the PFOW marine area is likely; particularly in existing consenting processes for coastal and marine development and in any underlying assessments (e.g. EIA). The inclusion of General Policy 7 promoting the integrated management of coastal and marine development also has the potential for positive effects in the promotion of a joined-up approach to managing developments with both coastal and marine interests (e.g. offshore renewables with landfall infrastructure).
9.2.47 With much of Orkney and the north Caithness and Sutherland coast recognised for its unique geodiversity, the SA identified the potential for greater consideration of potential adverse effects on coastal and marine geodiversity, and in the development of integrated mitigation. Similarly, the potential for benefits was also identified through promotion of the preservation of these unique features and the habitats they support through the publication of the RLG and the SA. Together, the RLG and the Pilot Plan have been developed to act as material considerations for current consenting processes, and will provide additional source of information for developers, marine users and consenting bodies.
9.2.48 They should also provide further guidance on potential geodiversity issues in the development and consenting processes. For example, in some instances, there may be the potential for the RLG to inform prospective developers or marine users and help to steer activities towards sites of lesser concern. Similarly, the SA identified the potential for guidance to also aid in steering developments with the potential to create adverse impacts away from more sensitive or valued locations.
9.2.49 The assessment identified the potential for positive secondary or indirect effects for communities, population and human health (e.g. preservation of sense of place, use and appreciation of coastal geodiversity) and for coastal and marine industries with interactions with marine and/or coastal geodiversity interests (e.g. recreation, leisure and tourism sectors, commercial fishing, amongst others).
7(b) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies present opportunities to improve the resilience of the PFOW coastline, including contributing to the management of the effects of climate change on coastlines within the PFOW such as flooding or coastal erosion?
9.2.50 As discussed for Questions 2(a) and 2 (b), adaptation and resilience to the effects of climate change are important ambitions of the draft Pilot Plan, both in its focus on sustainable development and sustainable use of the natural environment, and also in working towards ‘future-proofing’ marine sectors and coastal communities in the PFOW area. The promotion of these ambitions at the regional level was identified as an opportunity to improve the adaptation and resilience of future developments and coastal/marine activities, and in preserving, and where possible, improving the resilience of coastlines and coastal communities in the PFOW area. However, the SA also noted the importance of achieving the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, particularly of developers and marine users undertaking activities with the potential to affect coastal areas (e.g. involving the placement of offshore infrastructure, dredging activities).
9.2.51 Discussion of the potential implications of offshore activities to contribute to coastal erosion/accretion and flooding in the Environmental Baseline and in the RLG should help to promote awareness of these issues and provide guidance for potential developers and consenting bodies on areas of known or potential erosion/accretion concern. Similarly, for the inclusion of policies in the draft Pilot Plan in setting out expectations for developers and marine users should strengthen awareness of these issues. In some instances, this may aid developers and marine users in the identification of concerns at an early stage in the development process, and could potentially steer coastal/marine activities away from areas of potential concern, and steer them in the early exploration of options for mitigation.
7(c) Will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies generate any significant environmental impacts on coastal and marine geodiversity or coastal processes?
9.2.52 In general terms, development in the coastal or marine environment has the potential to result in adverse environmental effects, particularly for impacts on geodiversity and changes to coastal processes if a development or activity is not appropriately sited or designed. As outlined in the Questions 7(a) and 7(b), the promotion of sustainable development in the draft Pilot Plan seeks to reduce the potential for adverse effects such as these, and could provide opportunities for developers and marine users to actively avoid or otherwise reduce the potential for impacts from their activities.
9.2.53 However, the potential for any impacts is likely to be project and location-specific. As such, for many marine development proposals and activities, the potential for adverse impacts to geodiversity and coastal processes would likely be considered under existing consenting processes (i.e. Marine Licensing and Town and Country Planning) and supported by project-level environmental assessment processes where applicable (i.e. EIA involving coastal studies where appropriate). The draft Pilot Plan and its RLG have been identified as a material consideration for current consenting processes, and as a consequence, may aid in informing decision-making under these processes.
9.2.54 If implemented with the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, there is the potential for more consistent consideration of geodiversity, coastal processes, and climate change adaptation and resilience by marine users and developers through increased awareness of these environmental concerns and outlining expectations for their management. As a consequence, the potential for the early avoidance or mitigation of possible adverse effects on a wide range of environmental receptors was identified in the SA, including that for coastal impacts (e.g. offshore works exacerbating existing or creating new erosion/accretion issues at the coastline, risk of shifting erosion or flooding into nearby areas, installation of inappropriate coastal protection measures, amongst others).
8(a) Will the draft Pilot Plan support the development of a sustainable marine economy and safeguard and/or create jobs that support new or existing communities?
9.2.55 Together, the draft Pilot Plan and its sectoral and general policies seek to balance the needs of marine users in the PFOW area, while promoting sustainable management ambitions and the preservation of the natural environment on which many industries depend (i.e. fishing, wildlife tourism). In general terms, the promotion of these ambitions, particularly the preservation of the marine environment and sustainable management of the use of resources, is likely to have overall benefits for many marine users and industries. With the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, there is also the potential for positive effects in supporting existing industries and through setting a regional framework for the sustainable growth and development of new opportunities. The potential for associated benefits for local communities, including maintaining existing and creating new employment opportunities, and maintaining the quality of life was also noted. However, the SA considered that the Pilot Plan by itself would be unlikely to promote sectoral growth in the Pilot Plan area, but rather that future growth would likely be primarily influenced by economic drivers and demand.
9.2.56 The assessment identified the likelihood of increased interactions between marine sectors in the Pilot Plan area, associated with increased use of marine space in the future. While aspirations promoting sustainable development, demonstrating opportunities to support synergistic benefits, promoting efficiency and shared/multiple use of space, and supporting consultation and engagement between users of the marine environment, all seek to reduce the potential for adverse impacts and promote synergistic opportunities, some sectors are unlikely to be compatible in some areas (e.g. types of fishing and some offshore renewable technologies, shipping/recreational sailing and some offshore renewable technologies). As a consequence, the potential for both temporary and permanent displacement of activities has been noted in this SA. The potential for any such effects are likely to be sector and location specific, and as such, will remain subject to consideration at the project level in current consenting processes within which the requirement for consultation between developers and other stakeholders (e.g. communities, other marine users) is well established.
9.2.57 Further, the potential for some sectors to grow at the expense of others was also identified. The assessment considered that fairness was at the heart of the Pilot Plan development, and that no sector should be favoured over another. Even so, the inclusion of the sectoral policies in the draft Pilot Plan will likely further emphasise the need for future developers and marine users to consider other sectors and promote opportunities for co-existence. For example, the inclusion of policy provisions setting out support for the minimisation of disruption to existing industries, protection of aggregate resources, protection of existing shipping lanes and port and harbour access, and consideration of community benefits, amongst others, should help to support the continuation of existing sustainable industries within the PFOW area.
8(b) Will the draft Pilot Plan contribute to the growth of marine industries?
9.2.58 The growth of many marine industries, both in the PFOW area and in other parts of Scotland, is likely to be predominantly influenced by economic drivers. While support for the sustainable development and sustainable economic benefits is promoted in the draft Pilot Plan, the SA considered that the Pilot Plan will likely contribute to reducing the risk of adverse effects associated with further development and use of the PFOW marine area, rather than directly contribute to the growth of marine industries. In seeking to promote sustainability in the growth of these industries in a fair and transparent manner, the Plan will likely lay the groundwork for the upcoming Regional Marine Plans by helping to balance the needs of existing industries, the communities they support and the natural resources that comprise the long-term future for the region.
9.2.59 By setting out expectations for potential developers and marine users, and providing additional guidance through the inclusion of specific safeguarding policies and the accompanying RLG, the draft Pilot Plan has the potential for a range of indirect effects. For example, with the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, there is the potential for positive effects for developers and consenting authorities (e.g. more consistent and efficient applications, early and improved engagement with relevant stakeholders, early identification of potential conflicts or barriers) and also for other stakeholders (i.e. improved engagement, opportunities for synergistic benefits). This is discussed further in Question 8(c).
9.2.60 However, the SA also noted that current consenting processes such as Marine Licensing, TCE leasing rounds and Town and Country Planning will remain the primary means of progressing future development and marine use. The Pilot Plan and its accompanying documents are intended to become material considerations under these processes.
8(c) How will the draft Pilot Plan remove or avoid barriers to new marine enterprise opportunities?
9.2.61 Setting out expectations for future development and activities in the PFOW area was identified as having the potential for improving the efficiency of existing consenting processes and also informing both applicants and consenting authorities on issues that may require consideration. If implemented by future developers and marine users, the promotion of early pre-application engagement with relevant stakeholders has the potential for a range of positive effects (e.g. early identification of potential conflicts and barriers including the potential for delays, opportunities for synergistic benefits and opportunities for cost savings, improved knowledge of expectations of consenting authorities, amongst others). Similar benefits were identified with the publication of the RLG, which is likely to provide additional guidance for prospective developers and other marine users on the constraints and opportunities within the PFOW area. The potential for further benefits in the future was also noted through the possible revision of the RLG as part of the development of the upcoming Orkney and North Coast Regional Marine Plans (e.g. building upon the work undertaken on the draft Pilot Plan, progressive identification and filling of data gaps).
9.2.62 The inclusion of General Policy 7 relating to integrated marine and coastal development was also seen as having the potential to remove barriers for developers and consenting authorities in considering proposals for development with both terrestrial and marine components. For example, promoting early engagement with consenting authorities and other relevant stakeholders, and where possible, linking the consideration of these processes were identified as particular opportunities (e.g. Environmental Management Plans covering both terrestrial and marine environments, exploring opportunities for submission of a single EIA).
9.2.63 However, the SA also noted that the likelihood of any such benefits are likely to depend on a range of site and development-specific factors (e.g. location, potential receptors, nature of activities) and that the realisation of any benefits would largely be subject to achieving the ‘buy in’ of developers and consenting authorities. However, the SA found that the potential for any such efficiencies should not preclude or outweigh existing consenting and/or legislative requirements.
8(d) How will the draft Pilot Plan and its policies contribute to improved management of wastes, including reduced waste generation in the coastal and marine environments in the PFOW?
8(e) How will the draft Pilot Plan help to meet wider waste management ambitions (e.g. marine litter, contamination, pollutants, emissions)?
9.2.64 The inclusion of aspirations for waste management in General Policy 8B (Waste and Marine Litter) of the draft Pilot Plan takes forward ambitions for the reduction of marine litter detailed in the Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland  . It will likely provide a regional focus for the management of waste and marine litter, taking forward these wider ambitions and work alongside a range of regional and community plans and initiatives (e.g. Royal Yachting Association Scotland ( RYAS) Green Blue project, local beach cleans, Orkney and Highlands Council LDPs).
9.2.65 Setting out expectations for developers and marine users in the management of waste in the draft Pilot Plan has the potential for positive effects in the reduction of waste and litter, particularly if undertaken in combination with other local programmes. As a consequence, the assessment considered that the Plan has the potential to make a positive contribution to wider ambitions, including meeting targets detailed in the MSFD and Zero Waste Scotland. As noted in previous questions, the potential for positive effects in the reduction of risk of contamination and pollution in the coastal and marine environments was also identified, particularly as a result maintaining navigational safety, safe access to ports and harbours, and maintaining shipping lanes and ferry services. Similarly, as noted in Question 2(a), the potential for the draft Pilot Plan to contribute to a reduction in GHG emissions and meeting Scottish emissions targets was also noted in the SA.
9.2.66 However, the delivery of any such benefits are likely to depend on having the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders both in the marine environment and also of other known generators of marine waste and litter (e.g. terrestrial sources including farming, agriculture, aquaculture). Given the reliance on parties largely out with the PFOW coastal and marine area, the SA noted the importance that linkages between the future Regional Marine Plans and terrestrial and marine waste/litter initiatives be explored to take these ambitions forward.
9.3.1 As noted in Section 6.6, three alternatives to the draft Pilot Plan were identified as the planning process progressed, and these alternatives were assessed against the SA topic areas. The detailed findings are set out in Appendix D, and a summary of the findings and the rationale behind the development of the preferred approach is presented in the following sections of this report.
Reasonable Alternative: Do not develop a Pilot Plan
9.3.2 The SA found that undertaking the development of a co-ordinated draft Pilot Plan for the PFOW area offered several opportunities over that of not preparing one. Of particular note, the opportunity to encourage co-operation between the separate plan-making bodies in the region (e.g. Orkney Islands and Highland Councils, Marine Scotland) and establishment of relationships with stakeholders through the creation of the working group and advisory group, and engaging with key sectoral stakeholders during the Plan’s development and via the public consultation process, would be missed under this alternative. Further opportunities such as the early identification of potential issues or concerns held by stakeholders, using this period of engagement to encourage stakeholders to ‘buy’ into ambitions of the draft Pilot Plan and its policies, and the opportunity try different approaches, learn lessons and apply this knowledge directly into the upcoming regional planning process, were also considered to be important.
9.3.3 Whilst it is likely that many of these issues and actions could be addressed at the regional level in the development of the upcoming Regional Marine Plans, it was considered that the development of the Pilot Plan presented an opportunity to add value to this process. It is believed that this could help in laying the foundation and had the potential to directly inform and streamline the development of the upcoming regional plans, particularly through the development of supporting information such as the RLG and the Environmental and Socio-economic Baselines. As a consequence, the SA found that many of these opportunities would likely be missed if the Pilot Plan were not produced.
Reasonable Alternative: Adopting a ‘Zoned Approach’ in the development of the Pilot Plan
9.3.4 The SA identified the potential for overall positive effects in adopting a ‘zoned approach’ to the management of marine use in the PFOW, particularly in relation to the environmental impacts. The potential for greater certainty in identifying potential environmental effects for designated and protected features in particular (e.g. SACs, SPAs, dSPAs, MPAs, Historic MPAs), focusing monitoring programmes, and improving the existing knowledge-base in relation to the PFOW marine environment and interactions with developments and marine use were identified under this alternative. However, the SA also noted that development and marine use would continue to be subject to existing consenting processes, where applicable, and the potential for adverse effects would continue to be managed via these processes and through supporting mechanisms such as EIA and HRA.
9.3.5 The potential for both positive and negative effects for marine users were also identified under this alternative. For example, the establishment of zones for types of development or for ‘low level’ interactions may help to promote development within these zones, and the SA considered that this could provide a greater certainty for developers, marine users, consenting authorities and local communities. Opportunities for streamlining the consenting and development processes were also noted, and the potential for positive impacts for local economies and employment associated with establishment of zones and increased development/marine use in these zones was also identified. However, the SA also found that there may be the potential for negative effects for some marine sectors and marine users, particularly in the likelihood that zoning could limit opportunities for growth in some sectors and opportunities for local communities/employment at certain locations, including the potential limitation of recreational and community use (i.e. socio-economic effects).
9.3.6 The SA noted the potential for the introduction of greater spatial data in regional marine planning, and the staged approach offered by the development of the draft Pilot Plan indicates steps are being taken in this direction (i.e. the identification of data gaps and ongoing work to fill these gaps, preparation of the RLGs, and Environmental and Socio-economic Baseline information). It is anticipated that further work in the development of the two Regional Marine Plans will build upon this work and the collated information, and will continue to explore the potential for adoption of a greater spatial focus on management of the PFOW area in the future. It is also anticipated that the public consultation on the draft Pilot Plan, and the inclusion of this as an alternative in this SA, will seek the views of stakeholders on this alternative, and could explore the appetite amongst marine users and local communities in the area for this in the future.
Reasonable Alternative: Limitation of Pilot Plan to an Overview of Existing Requirements
9.3.7 The SA identified the potential for positive effects in the development of an alternative Plan prepared under this option for many of the environmental topic areas. It considered that these were likely to be predominantly associated with improving the awareness of existing requirements and current processes amongst stakeholders (e.g. help in streamlining these processes for developers and consenting authorities alike).
9.3.8 The SA found that while this alternative could help to inform stakeholders on their current obligations, it also introduced limitations in what could be delivered and how this could be done. Of particular note, the SA considered that the Pilot Plan would likely benefit from clear and demonstrable links between overarching ambitions for the region, including that of the NMP and wider overarching policy, and that an opportunity to promote these ambitions in the regional context would likely be missed by limiting the scope of the draft Pilot Plan.
9.3.9 Further ambitions such as promoting sustainable development ambitions, socio-economic benefits, the preservation of the coastal and marine environment at the regional level, the promotion of consideration of other marine users and working towards improving early and effective engagement between stakeholders in the process, were seen as key opportunities that the alternative Plan would be unlikely to contribute to. Similarly, the process for including information in the RLG to further inform stakeholders of potential constraints and opportunities, to work towards filling identified data gaps during the development of the draft Pilot Plan, and to usefully inform the development of the Regional Marine Plans for Orkney and North Coast areas, would also be missed.
9.3.10 As a consequence, the draft Pilot Plan acknowledged the potential outcomes of this alternative and built upon these in the development of the preferred alternative detailed in the Consultation Paper.
Overview of the Preferred Option (the draft Pilot Plan)
9.3.11 The preferred option for the draft Pilot Plan has not taken a spatial approach, but has set out a broad policy direction for the future management and use of the PFOW area. It represents a step in a ‘staged approach’ for the development of Regional Marine Plans for the PFOW area, and was principally intended to raise the awareness of key issues and expectations through the inclusion of policies in the Plan and engagement with stakeholders. The Plan was intended as a key link between the regional and national level planning (see Sections 2, 9 and 10).
Other Comments and Suggestions
9.3.12 In engaging with relevant stakeholders during the development of the draft Pilot Plan, a wide range of options and alternatives were considered by the working group, including those listed above. Many of these ideas and suggestions were subsequently used to refine the approach taken in the development of the draft Pilot Plan, and the iterative process adopted in the development of specific policies (e.g. development of General Policies for Biodiversity and Nature Designations, sectoral policies for Commercial Fishing and Pipelines, Electricity and Telecommunications Infrastructure, amongst others).
9.3.13 As the Pilot Planning process evolved, many of these views were incorporated into the draft Pilot Plan, either through the inclusion of provisions in specific policy areas or the refinement of the overall approach of the process. For example, the inclusion of general comments supporting a ‘balanced approach’ to consider all types of marine use and development without priority, support for co-existence and multiple use of marine space, setting out of existing requirements, and demonstrating clear links between the Pilot Plan and the overarching NMP, all demonstrate that the views of stakeholders have been taken on board in the development of the draft Pilot Plan.
9.4.1 The Draft HRA Record is presented in Appendix F of this Report and its findings are summarised below.
Summary of Interim Findings
9.4.2 The general policies included in the draft Pilot Plan are safeguarding or mitigating policies. They are general in direction and apply to all activities and development in the PFOW marine environment. In consequence, no connectivity or direct pathway for impact has been identified between these policies and specific European sites; and as such, none of the general policies are considered to have a likely significant effect ( LSE) on a specific European site.
9.4.3 The majority of the sectoral policies in the draft Pilot Plan are also general in direction, and do not direct development or activities to a particular location, nor do they promote an action that clearly has a link or pathway to potential effects on specific European sites. As such, at this initial stage, these policies have been screened out of the process. Two of the sectoral policies (relating to aquaculture and renewable energy) were considered to reiterate existing policy and contained proposals that have been generated and assessed under other plans. As a consequence, both policies were also screened out of the assessment in accordance with the screening stage in Appendix C of SNH Guidance.
9.4.4 In conclusion, the initial review of both the general and sectoral policies found that the policies in the draft Pilot Plan will have no LSE on the integrity of any European sites.
Next Steps as the Pilot Plan Progresses
9.4.5 At this stage of the Plan development process, the draft Pilot Plan and its policies are to be published as a draft for public consultation. Upon completion of the consultation period, the draft Pilot Plan and its policies will be subject to review. Based upon the outcomes of the consultation process, both may be subject to revision. Further, there is the potential for the development of new policies for inclusion in the final Plan.
9.4.6 Alongside the process of reviewing and finalising the Pilot Plan, the HRA process will remain open and the findings of the Draft HRA Record will be regularly reviewed and revised where necessary to consider subsequent changes in the Pilot Plan and its policies. Should the findings outlined in this Draft HRA Record change, particularly if a decision is taken that an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ is required, the HRA will be progressed as set out in the attached Draft HRA Record (see Appendix F).
9.4.7 Upon completion of the HRA process, a Final HRA Record will be prepared and agreed based upon the consideration of the finalised Pilot Plan and its policies. This will be issued alongside the publication of the final Pilot Plan.
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