Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan - Sustainability Appraisal

This report summarises the findings of the Sustainability Appraisal undertaken on the draft pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan incorporating a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) required under Directive 2001/42/EC and the Env

10 Conclusion And Recommendations

10.1 Summary of Cumulative and In-combination Effects

10.1.1 Whilst the draft Pilot Plan is not statutory, the assessment identified the potential for largely positive environmental and socio-economic effects from its development. However, this is likely to be contingent on the support and ‘buy in’ of coastal and marine stakeholders.

10.1.2 The fundamental focus of the Plan in supporting sustainable development in the Plan area has the potential to make a significant contribution to the protection of the coastal and marine resources in the PFOW area, with likely benefits for coastal and marine environments themselves and those that use them. It also presents an opportunity to help in the delivery of overall benefits for the many varied sectors operating in the PFOW area and also the communities that they support, whilst supporting wider objectives of the Scottish Government, and Orkney Islands and Highland Councils.

10.1.3 Alongside these overarching ambitions, the inclusion of general policies in the draft Pilot Plan aims to promote the safeguarding of important environmental and social features (e.g. biodiversity, landscape/seascape, cultural heritage and historic archaeology). It should also contribute by reducing the risk of adverse effects that could be generated through increased use of these coastal and marine environments, and support the work of existing mechanisms such as current consenting processes supported by protection legislation, HRA and EIA, etc. The other messages they promote, particularly the efficient use of the marine area, co-existence and shared used of space and facilities, were also identified as key potential outcomes.

10.1.4 Opportunities to improve engagement between future developers, marine users and other stakeholders were also identified, including the potential to manage interactions and conflicts at an early stage. Whilst dependent on achieving the ‘buy in’ of these stakeholders, this could also help to identify opportunities for synergistic benefits amongst them (e.g. safe navigation, reduced risk of flooding and coastal erosion/accretion, shared/multiple use of marine space and infrastructure, preservation of natural and cultural heritage). The inclusion of the sectoral policies in the draft Pilot Plan will likely provide further support for these ambitions at the sectoral level by setting out expectations for these sectors and providing guidance for developers, marine users, consenting authorities and other stakeholders for future growth centred on appropriate development and co-existence.

10.1.5 In general terms, many of the themes and ambitions contained within the draft Pilot Plan and its policies are also key threads running through wider policy both at the UK and national levels; most notably in supporting sustainable development, sustainable social and economic benefits, and the need for balancing this with a wide array of environmental considerations. The assessment considered that many seek to safeguard socio-economic opportunities and environmental features; again reflecting wider ambitions, and in the case of many general policies, offering built-in mitigation against the potential for adverse effects that can be associated with inappropriate development or coastal/marine use.

10.1.6 Their inclusion in the draft Pilot Plan will complement and add weight to the positions of existing policy and planning in the context of the future management of the PFOW area. Through supporting the ambitions set out in other PPS (e.g. NMP, LDPs, Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewables), working towards established objectives and targets (e.g. WFD, MSFD, Scottish Biodiversity Strategy), and working in-combination with existing consenting processes (e.g. Marine Licensing, Town and Country Planning), the SA identified the potential for the draft Pilot Plan to positively contribute to promoting the sustainable management of activities in the PFOW area. The identification of potential adverse socio-economic and environmental effects through the iterative development of the Pilot Plan and this SA, will likely add further weight to their consideration by prospective developers, marine users and consenting authorities in the future. An opportunity for the Pilot Plan to improve efficiencies, for example in streamlining of current consenting processes around which applicant-lead engagement with stakeholders is considered to be key, was also identified. As a consequence, there is the potential for overall positive effects.

10.1.7 However, having the ‘buy in’ of future developers, marine users, local communities and consenting authorities was identified as an essential factor in the realisation of any potential benefits associated with the Pilot Plan. This was also considered to be a key factor in the role of the Pilot Plan in shaping the development of the two upcoming Regional Marine Plans, particularly in fostering engagement with stakeholders ahead of their development.

10.2 Challenges and Recommendations for Mitigation and Enhancement

10.2.1 While the drive for sustainable development and growth within the PFOW area was seen as a key ambition of the Pilot Plan, the growth of marine industry in the region is also likely to present a number of challenges in the future.

10.2.2 While the SA identified the potential for the Pilot Plan and its policies to have significant positive effects, this is likely to depend on achieving the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders to the ambitions set out in the Pilot Plan. Without the support of developers, marine users, consenting authorities and local communities, the SA considered that many of the potential positive effects identified in the assessment would be unlikely to materialise. As such, the formal public consultation process supported by ongoing engagement with stakeholders is likely to play an important role in obtaining feedback on the draft Pilot Plan and in identifying possible improvements, opportunities and limitations. In particular, the stakeholder engagement undertaken in the development of the Pilot Plan and the lessons learned through its development is also likely to lay the foundation for future discussions and stakeholder involvement in the development of Regional Marine Plans for Orkney and the North Coast. The documentation of lessons learned was identified as a means of ensuring that the development of the Pilot Plan usefully informs the development of regional plans, both in terms of the PFOW area and in other parts of Scotland.

10.2.3 The staged approach taken in the development of the draft Pilot Plan was specifically adopted to help identify and fill data gaps and uncertainties in relation to the marine environment; in particular, the inclusion of a stage for studies for the Plan’s development and the subsequent preparation of RLG and the Environmental and Socio-economic Baselines. Building upon this knowledge-base is likely to be a critical aspect in progressing regional marine planning in the PFOW area, and particularly in further developing the required spatial information likely to be needed to inform the development of relevant and useful Regional Marine Plans. The consultation process and ongoing engagement with stakeholders may also provide opportunities to seek input on the information outlined in the Pilot Plan, the SA and the RLG, and for identifying opportunities to enhance this data.

10.2.4 The SA identified the potential for conflicts between some coastal and marine users, and the potential for some sectors to grow or develop at the expense of others. The potential for associated impacts on existing sectors and marine users through the emergence of new or evolving sectors was also identified (e.g. offshore renewables, offshore aquaculture). This is likely to be an important consideration in future iterations of marine planning in the PFOW area, particularly if developed with a more spatial approach. The resilience of coastal communities to change, particularly those reliant on specific industries (e.g. fishing, recreation and tourism), was also identified as a concern, particularly as sectoral growth is likely to be driven by market forces. In addition, ensuring any environmental, social or economic risks associated with sectoral growth are minimized while growth itself is optimized was also seen as a likely challenge.

10.2.5 As areas of pressure or opportunity become more apparent, the regional plans and their future iterations could be used to rebalance regional ambitions, including the identification and management of adverse impacts. Maintaining links with wider policies such as the NPF3, NMP, Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewables and existing consenting processes should also help to ensure that the scale of development in different areas is recognised and addressed through strategic level mitigation, as well as that at the project level. Further, this could be used to guide future monitoring programmes, ensuring that they are appropriately targeted towards priority data gaps and produce relevant and useful outcomes that inform future decision-making. This is discussed in further detail in Section 10.3.

10.3 Monitoring Recommendations

10.3.1 The growth of the various sectors operating in the PFOW area and changes to the mix of coastal and marine use are likely to continue to change over time. As a consequence, the assessment identified monitoring to be an important component in assessing the potential impacts of sectoral growth in the area, as well as the influence of the Pilot Plan and future statutory Regional Marine Plans. This was found to be an important aspect of informing future decision-making in the PFOW area.

10.3.2 A range of existing monitoring programmes for socio-economic and health and well-being factors has been established, including sectoral information presented in the Socio-Economic Baseline Report and overarching monitoring programmes (e.g. Scottish Health and Wellbeing Monitoring, Economic and Employment Monitoring, SIMD [185] ).

10.3.3 The potential for environmental impacts of development in each of the sectors discussed in this Report could also be better understood and this was identified as a key data gap in the SA. Existing monitoring programmes for some sectors including offshore renewables sector (e.g. SpORRAn), the fisheries sector (e.g. the work of the Fisheries Industry Science Alliance ( FISA) [186] ) and ongoing work in the aquaculture sector (e.g. Locational Guidelines on the Authorisation of Marine Fish Farms in Scottish Waters and the research behind this), amongst many others, are likely to address some of these gaps.

10.3.4 While much of the research is currently targeting the potential for environmental effects of offshore renewables, the potential for benefits in project or development-specific studies or monitoring information was noted (e.g. studies undertaken in preparing consent applications, compliance monitoring undertaken as a condition of consent, renewables test and demonstration monitoring). The availability of information from these sources, particularly given the number of test and demonstrator sites for offshore renewables and aquaculture developments within the PFOW area in particular, has the potential to play an important role in informing future decision-making at the local and regional levels, and identifying environmental impacts.

10.3.5 Other sources, such as national environmental monitoring programmes (e.g. water quality monitoring undertaken by SEPA, climate change research conducted by SNH), local or regional programmes (e.g. coastal classifications) and targeted monitoring of biodiversity features conducted by the Scottish Government, Marine Scotland Science, academic and environmental groups (e.g. monitoring of seabird and seal populations, basking shark monitoring, Atlantic salmon migration research, collision impacts with onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal infrastructure) are also likely to contribute to filling data gaps. This data could also help to refine the potential for sectoral growth in line with sustainable objectives.

10.3.6 However, greater co-ordination of data gathering, monitoring and research would likely prove beneficial to the development of the upcoming Regional Marine Plans for the PFOW area (e.g. General Policy 9 (Invasive Non-native Species) notes that such an approach would likely be the most efficient when setting up a biodiversity plan). Encouraging this approach at the regional level could enable the identification of relevant data and the use of it to effectively plan the use of space in the region.

10.3.7 In summary, the monitoring of sectoral growth and environmental and socio-economic parameters will continue to be undertaken on an ongoing basis, alongside the filling of data gaps through targeted research and studies. Together, the information obtained from this wide range of sources, complemented by targeted monitoring and research on specific sectoral and environmental effects, would likely help to further inform the development of the upcoming Regional Marine Plans, and potentially, to allow ongoing revision of the RLG. In a similar way, this data could also inform the requirements for further environmental assessment at the strategic or project levels.


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