8 Findings of Assessment of Policies
8.1.1 As outlined in Section 6.3, the first tier of assessment involved an analysis of the 17 general policies and 10 sectoral policies detailed within the draft Pilot Plan to identify the likelihood of environmental and socio-economic impacts. The findings of this process are presented in the tables in Appendices B and C.
8.1.2 Table 8.1 and Table 8.2 provide an overview of the likelihood of effects for each set of policies and a summary of the findings of this analysis is provided in the following sections of this Report.
8.2 General Policies
General Policy 1A (Sustainable Development)
General Policy 1B (Supporting Sustainable Social and Economic Benefits)
General Policy 1C (Safeguarding the Marine Ecosystem)
General Policy 2 (Supporting the Well-being, Quality of Life and Amenity of Coastal Communities)
8.2.1 The SA found that together, the four overarching policies are likely to have overall positive effects for many of the socio-economic and environmental topic areas, largely through the promotion of a broad and region-wide focus on ‘sustainable development’, ‘sustainable benefits’ and the consideration of economic, environmental and social aspects in decision-making. The SA considered that the draft Pilot Plan also presents an opportunity to reduce the risk of adverse social, economic and environmental impacts that may be associated with future growth in the PFOW area, In particular, the promotion of sustainable development and the efficient management and sharing of existing resources and infrastructure were identified as having the potential to avoid negative impacts (i.e. adverse impacts that may be associated with the construction of new or additional infrastructure, promoting appropriate development and activities).
8.2.2 Potential benefits for population and human health were also identified with the promotion of the long-term sustainability objectives of the group of policies, and through supporting social and economic benefits and promotion of economic and wellbeing considerations. The potential for enhanced involvement of communities in the future growth of the use of the PFOW area was seen as a key positive effect, particularly in relation to the consideration of potential social and economic impacts and opportunities for fostering further community involvement in the decision-making process.
8.2.3 However, the SA also identified the potential for negative effects associated with balancing social, environmental and economic ambitions in the future, particularly in the identification of the likely potential for trade-offs between these ambitions in the future growth of use of the PFOW area. Further, having developers, marine users and local communities themselves ‘buy in’ to the draft Pilot Plan was seen as being an essential part of implementing the ambitions of the Pilot Plan and ensuring the delivery of any potential benefits.
General Policy 3A: Climate Change
8.2.4 The SA identified opportunities for positive effects through improving the resilience of developments to the expected effects of climate change and promoting climate change adaptation across the full spectrum of marine users in the PFOW area. Providing additional guidance for marine users through this policy, particularly developers and consenting authorities, could aid in the identification of opportunities to improve adaptation and aid the future protection of vulnerable coastlines (e.g. future-proofing coastal and marine infrastructure, infusing coastal protection measures and resilience into coastal development).
8.2.5 Whilst likely benefits for climate change adaptation and sustainability of marine sectors was identified as a key potential outcome, the potential for associated benefits such as making further contributions to wider adaptation ambitions were also noted (e.g. reducing GHG emissions). The potential for positive secondary and indirect environmental effects for a number of topic areas associated with greater consideration of likely climate change impacts in undertaking coastal development works and coastal use was also considered likely. For example, the potential for improved protection of coastal ecosystems and species, reduced coastal erosion/accretion, improved protection for cultural heritage in the coastal environment, and reduced turbidity in coastal areas, amongst others.
8.2.6 Whilst the potential for mixed effects was also identified, principally through inappropriate development or coastal use (e.g. impacting coastal processes, shifting erosion/accretion), it was considered that existing mechanisms such as current consenting processes, generally underpinned by environmental assessment, are likely to remain a primary means of identifying and mitigating any such impacts at the project level. As such, the ability of the policy to significantly influence change amongst developers and marine users is likely to be closely linked to the requirements of these existing processes. This is also likely to depend upon achieving ‘buy in’ from stakeholders (i.e. developers, marine users, government agencies (i.e. SNH), consenting authorities and local communities) and this was identified as a key challenge for the Pilot Plan and for future marine regional planning in the PFOW.
General Policies 4A – 4C: Nature Conservation Designations, Protected Species and Wider Biodiversity
8.2.7 While existing mechanisms and methodologies are currently in place to consider the potential for impacts to biodiversity features in the PFOW area, the SA identified the potential for overall positive effects associated with the inclusion of these policies in the draft Pilot Plan, and also through the development of the RLG. While it was also noted that the consideration and protection of designated sites and species is currently a legal requirement and is a key consideration of existing consenting processes (e.g. Marine Licensing, Town and Country Planning and supporting environmental assessments such as EIA and HRA), the SA identified the potential for positive effects in improving the awareness of existing environmental protection requirements and the likelihood of future considerations (i.e. the identification of draft marine SPAs covering much of the Pentland Firth and Orkney) amongst developers, marine users and consenting authorities. The SA found that this could help to promote greater consistency in the consideration of the marine environment at an early stage in the development process, particularly for the preservation and/or enhancement of protected and otherwise recognised biodiversity features.. The potential for the policies to help to facilitate early monitoring (e.g. seabird surveys, seal counts) and early consideration of options for avoidance or mitigation of potential impacts was also noted (e.g. by starting the HRA process early, alternative siting).
8.2.8 If implemented with the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, there is the potential for significant positive effects for biodiversity, water quality (e.g. improving the ecological status of the water environment) and soil and marine geodiversity (i.e. preserving the character and diversity of the seabed). However, the SA also identified that delivery of any such benefits would likely be dependent on having the ‘buy in’ of these stakeholders (i.e. developers, marine users, Government agencies (i.e. SNH), consenting authorities, environmental bodies).
8.2.9 Associated benefits for a range of marine sectors associated with the protection of the marine environment were also identified, particularly alongside the promotion of sustainable development, and for those industries with a close relationship with biodiversity (e.g. fishing, wildlife tourism). The potential for associated benefits for local communities relating to further contributions in preserving the integrity of the marine environment and supporting sustainable industries was also identified.
General Policy 4D: Landscape and Seascape
8.2.10 The SA found that while existing consenting processes currently include the consideration of impacts to visual amenity, landscape and seascape, and a number of methodologies have been developed to consider these, there is the potential for overall positive effects associated with this policy. The potential for the policy to promote greater consistency in the consideration of visual impacts in the development process, and in the early stages of consenting processes was identified as one such example. As a consequence, the potential for significant benefits for the many recognised landscape/seascape areas in the PFOW area were identified in the SA.
8.2.11 Close links between landscape/seascape and the setting of cultural heritage features was also noted in the assessment, particularly as many of the valued landscape and seascape areas are also recognised for their cultural importance (e.g. west Mainland Orkney and Northern Hoy). The potential for positive effects for communities, population and human health was identified, largely in relation to enjoyment and use of the natural environment and its visual assets. The potential for positive indirect effects for many coastal and/or marine industries was also noted (e.g. recreation and tourism).
8.2.12 However, the SA also identified the importance that this policy and the Pilot Plan be supported by stakeholders including developers, marine users, Government agencies such as SNH and local communities themselves, for any such benefits to be realised. This was considered to be a key area of opportunity for the policy, with the SA also noting that this could aid in improving engagement between different stakeholders in the future consultation processes both at the strategic level (e.g. future regional marine planning) and in the engagement over the consideration of visual issues at the project level (e.g. developer-led consultation).
General Policy 4E: Geodiversity
8.2.13 The SA found that with the support of developers and marine users, the policy would have the potential to strengthen geodiversity considerations in the development process and within existing consenting processes (e.g. Marine Licensing, Town and Country Planning development applications), in future regional marine planning and also in associated assessment work (e.g. EIA, HRA and SEA). Primarily, increased awareness of geodiversity value in the PFOW area has the potential to contribute to the recognition and preservation of coastal and marine geodiversity at the project level (e.g. identify need for seabed surveys, early consideration of options for avoidance or mitigation of potential impacts).
8.2.14 The implementation of the Policy and ambitions of the Pilot Plan, particularly around ensuring a consistent approach is taken to the consideration of environmental concerns and their assessment, was seen as a priority in working towards sustainable development. In this context, the policy is seen to sit alongside those promoting the protection of the rich biodiversity, and the wide and varied landscapes and seascapes in the PFOW area. As a consequence, the potential for secondary and indirect benefits for biodiversity (e.g. associated benefits for benthic and coastal habitats), landscape/seascape, and communities, population and human health (e.g. access and appreciation of geodiversity) were also identified.
8.2.15 As for other policy areas, the SA identified that working with stakeholders (i.e. developers, marine users, Government agencies (i.e. SNH), consenting authorities, local communities) was likely to be a crucial component in ensuring that any potential benefits of the policy are both realised and maximised.
General Policy 5A: Water Environment
8.2.16 The SA identified the potential for overall positive effects associated with the policy, largely through increased awareness of the importance of water quality and support for existing water quality obligations under current planning and consenting processes. The potential for improved consistency and efficiency in addressing water quality issues by marine users and developers was identified as a key positive effect. For example, the inclusion of “sufficient information to enable a full assessment of the likely effects, including cumulative effects, on the water environment [for a proposed development]” aligns with similar findings identified in the assessment of other general policy areas. While the potential for benefits to water quality were clearly identified, the potential for secondary or indirect positive effects for biodiversity, soil, marine geodiversity and coastal processes were also considered likely from adoption of the Pilot Plan.
8.2.17 The assessment found that the policy also presents an opportunity to further engage with developers and marine users, and in working with them to contribute to meeting Scotland’s water quality objectives (i.e. under the WFD and MSFD). It may also present a good opportunity to engage with those out with existing consenting processes (e.g. recreational users, fishing vessels, shipping) in addition to those under existing consenting regimes (e.g. aquaculture, renewables). As a consequence, communication and engagement with stakeholders (e.g. developers, marine users, Government agencies (i.e. SNH and SEPA), consenting authorities, environmental bodies, and local communities) was considered to be a key recommendation of the SA, particularly in ensuring that ‘buy in’ of stakeholders can contribute to efforts to meet the established water quality objectives, and in the realisation of other potential benefits.
General Policy 5B: Coastal Processes and Flooding
8.2.18 The SA identified the potential for overall positive effects for the Policy, principally through its ambition to increase awareness of potential coastal erosion and flooding issues, and obligations under the Flood Risk Management Act. In particular, it identified the potential for benefits in the development process or in proposing undertaking new coastal and marine activities, if considered at an early stage.
8.2.19 The SA identified close links between the ambitions of this policy and that of General Policy 3 (Climate Change), particularly in ensuring that any future development or new coastal or marine activities are ‘future-proof’. Given the predicted effects of climate change, the SA considered that there is likely the potential for significant benefits for both developers and marine users in considering how these issues could aid in improving adaptation and resilience at the project level. However, the SA also recognised that current consenting processes underpinned by assessment work (e.g. EIA, socio-economic assessment, flood-risk assessment) will remain the primary mechanisms for identifying, assessing, and where appropriate, avoiding/mitigating any potential adverse effects.
8.2.20 While the potential for positive effects were identified through protecting water quality and promoting climate change resilience, adaptation and reducing the risk of exacerbating flood and erosion issues, the assessment also noted the potential for positive secondary or indirect effects. Positive effects for all environmental topic areas were noted in the assessment (i.e. biodiversity through reduced risk to coastal or flood-prone habitats, and reduced risk of adverse impacts on soil, marine geodiversity and coastal processes, in particular). However, the potential for mixed effects for Material Assets was noted in the SA. In particular, the potential for additional costs associated with future developers to demonstrate adaptation and resilience to climate change were identified. However, in many instances, such costs may be offset at the project and regional levels in ensuring the sustainability and future-proofing of the relevant marine sectors.
8.2.21 The SA considered that the ability of the Policy to significantly influence developers and marine users in increasing their consideration of these issues is likely to be linked to the requirements of existing consenting processes. Obtaining the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders in these ambitions (i.e. developers, marine users, Government agencies (i.e. SEPA), consenting authorities, environmental bodies, and local communities), is likely to be a critical factor of the delivery of any potential benefits.
General Policy 6: Historic Environment
8.2.22 The SA recognised the importance of cultural heritage in the PFOW and for the many communities in the area. It also noted the range of existing legislative mechanisms and processes that are in place for the protection of cultural heritage and historic environment features in both the terrestrial and marine environments.
8.2.23 The SA found that the policy likely presents an opportunity to further promote the importance of cultural heritage sites, both designated and undesignated, and raise awareness for future developers and marine users in their obligations for the preservation of these valued features. The potential for positive effects for the preservation of heritage assets was noted and the potential for secondary and indirect environmental effects for a number of topic areas was also identified (e.g. landscape/seascape and visual amenity, and communities, population and human health).
8.2.24 The SA considered that current consenting processes underpinned by specific assessments (e.g. EIA incorporating an assessment of cultural heritage/historic environment in relation to a proposal) are likely to continue to be the primary mechanism for identifying and mitigating any such impacts at the project level. The implementation of the Policy and the ambitions of the Pilot Plan, particularly around ensuring a consistent approach is taken to the consideration of these concerns and their assessment, are likely to support these processes. However, the SA also identified a need to engage with stakeholders, including developers, marine users, Government agencies (e.g. Historic Environment Scotland), consenting authorities and local communities, and nominated this as a key recommendation in ensuring that the potential benefits identified in the SA are realised, and where possible, maximised.
General Policy 7: Integrating Coastal and Marine Development
8.2.25 The SA identified the potential for positive effects through promoting greater efficiency and streamlining in the development process through seeking opportunities to combine aspects of these processes for the consideration of its onshore and offshore elements. The likelihood of benefits for developers, stakeholders and licensing/consenting bodies alike was identified, and the potential for more consistent and transparent engagement between these and other stakeholders was also seen as a key potential benefit. While efficiencies for each were noted, the SA also noted that any such benefits or opportunities for streamlining should not outweigh the requirements of specific consenting processes. As a consequence, working with stakeholders and obtaining their ‘buy in’ was noted as an essential aspect of this policy. The engagement of developers and marine users with consenting authorities and local communities in particular was considered likely to be a determining factor in achieving any potential benefits and also in opportunities for co-ordinating consenting requirements.
8.2.26 The potential for further benefits through the consideration of direct and cumulative environmental effects through an integrated process were considered to be of particular note where there are potential interactions between coastal and marine environments (e.g. coastal and marine geology, coastal processes, biodiversity, landscape/seascape and the setting of cultural heritage features). Similarly, potential opportunities for early identification of synergies and mutual benefits for marine users and local communities were also identified as key findings of the SA (e.g. sharing infrastructure with other marine sectors and coastal/marine users, community benefits, sharing monitoring strategies, linking construction works with other development activities).
General Policy 8A: Noise
8.2.27 Whilst recognising the role of existing processes in the identification and mitigation of potential noise issues (e.g. through Development and Marine Licence Applications underpinned by EIA and HRA), the SA identified the potential for the policy to have positive effects for biodiversity and communities, population and human health. In particular, the provision of guidance for developers and marine users for the consideration of potential noise and vibration impacts on receptors was identified a likely to contribute to positive effects. The potential for wider benefits was also noted, particularly in relation to the potential for the consistent and transparent consideration of receptors susceptible to both terrestrial and marine noise (e.g. seabirds feeding at sea and breeding in coastal or inland locations, seals utilising both marine and coastal environments), including those that can travel past different noise sources (e.g. migrating seabirds, seals, cetaceans, elasmobranchs). Benefits for material assets were also identified, largely in the potential for improved consistency and efficiency in the early identification of potential concerns and in managing potential noise and vibration issues (e.g. production of a noise impact assessment, receptor surveys).
8.2.28 Effective communication between stakeholders (i.e. developers, marine users, consenting authorities, Government agencies (e.g. SNH), environmental bodies and local communities), was a key recommendation in ensuring the early identification of any potential issues. However, the ability of the policy to deliver these potential benefits is likely to be closely linked to the requirements of current consenting processes and conditions of any consent given. As such, the SA identified a need for further engagement between stakeholders including developers, marine users and local communities in ensuring the realisation of any potential benefits.
General Policy 8B: Waste Management and Marine Litter
8.2.29 Whilst recognising that existing consenting processes in the coastal and marine environment currently consider waste and litter generation and can outline conditions for its appropriate management (e.g. development of Waste Management Plans), the SA identified the potential for overall positive effects associated with this policy. In particular, the potential for improved management of waste amongst marine users was identified, and especially for coastal and marine users out with these consenting processes.
8.2.30 However, the SA also noted the potential for mixed effects for some marine users. While reduced marine litter is likely to have benefits for many, through a reduced risk of adverse impacts to water quality, damage to coastal and marine infrastructure and vessel collision risk from larger items, there is the potential for additional cost implications associated with implementing further waste management measures for some marine users; particularly for small operators (e.g. in the recovery of waste or litter after storm events).
8.2.31 The potential for secondary or indirect benefits for a number of topic areas associated from the promotion of ambitions to reduce litter and improve the recovery of unavoidable litter (e.g. from storm events) were also identified. This included the potential for a reduced risk of interactions between marine flora and fauna with marine litter (e.g. ingestion, entanglements, benthic smothering), reduced collision risk between vessels and marine/coastal infrastructure, and reduced risk of impacts to visual amenity, landscape/seascape and the setting of cultural heritage features, amongst others.
8.2.32 The SA found that the realisation of any such benefits associated with the implementation of the Policy are likely to be closely linked to the requirements of current consenting processes and conditions of any consents given be contingent, and contingent on achieving the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders (i.e. developers, marine users, consenting authorities and local communities). However, it also considered that with the support of stakeholders, any actions undertaken by developers and/or marine users are also likely to contribute to wider waste reduction and management ambitions, including Scotland’s zero waste targets.
General Policy 9: Invasive Non-native Species
8.2.33 The SA identified the potential for overall positive effects associated with greater awareness of risks from invasive non-native species. It found that the Policy is also likely to strengthen and promote overarching ambitions of informing a wide range of marine users on existing guidance and on their legal requirements in relation to this issue (e.g. SNH Guidance on Marine Biosecurity Planning, Codes of Practice, NMP, regulations, Orkney Islands Council Harbour Authority Ballast Water Management Policy for Scapa Flow).
8.2.34 In all, the SA identified the potential for positive effects for biodiversity, and marine ecosystems, water, geodiversity and communities, population and human health. The potential for mixed effects for a number of marine sectors was also noted; principally that compliance with biosecurity measures by some sectors has the potential to increase operating costs. However, the potential for reducing the risk of adverse impacts on marine biodiversity and marine and coastal ecosystems are also likely to be beneficial in helping to preserve those sectors dependant on biodiversity in the area (e.g. fishing, wildlife tourism) and the local communities they help to support. As a consequence, the SA found that there is the potential for any such costs to be offset, at least in part, by overarching benefits for the marine environment and the sectors that utilise its resources.
8.2.35 However, it also found that consistency across all marine sectors is likely to be needed to minimise these risks and deliver these potential benefits. The SA noted identified that achieving ‘buy in’ of all marine stakeholders was likely to be a key factor in realising the ambitions of the Policy. As a consequence, the SA considered the policy and the Pilot Plan may present an opportunity to facilitate further engagement with a wide spectrum of marine sectors in the PFOW area (e.g. fishing sector, recreational sailing and boating, shipping and marine transport) and work towards the consistent use of biosecurity measures across all marine sectors in the PFOW by building upon those measures already in place.
8.3 Sectoral Policies
Sectoral Policy 1: Commercial Fisheries
8.3.1 The SA identified the potential for largely positive effects associated with the policy through the promotion of the consideration of interactions with the fisheries sector by potential developers and other marine users in the PFOW area. In setting out expectations for developers and marine users, and outlining support for the safeguarding of existing fishing practices where possible, preserving the potential for opportunities for future sustainable activities, and supporting the safeguarding of environmental factors upon which the sector relies (e.g. fish stocks, spawning and nursery areas), the policy has the potential for contributing overall positive effects for the sector. However, the potential for conflicts and trade-offs between the fishing sector and other sectors was noted in the SA (e.g. particularly in terms of displacement due factors such as the location and timing/design of development, amongst others), and hence the potential for both positive and negative effects for Material Assets and Communities, Population and Human Health.
8.3.2 The SA considered that the policy may help in streamlining the development process; principally through promoting the co-existence of marine users and in early and effective management of any potential conflicts. For example, in setting out expectations for developers for working with fisheries stakeholders (i.e. Inshore Fisheries Groups, local communities) there is the potential for benefits in having early and effective discussions on the management of the available marine space. This could also aid in resolving potential conflicts between developers and fisheries, and where possible, help to seek opportunities for synergistic benefits for a wide range of marine users.
8.3.3 With the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, the potential for associated positive effects for biodiversity and the ecological status of water quality and soil and marine geodiversity were also identified (e.g. protection of benthic habitats important to juveniles). Positive effects for safeguarding fishing stocks and nursery/spawning areas, managing potential conflicts between the fishing sector and other marine users, and reducing displacement and collision risk were also identified. However, it was considered unlikely that the Policy itself would have significant effects on climate change, cultural heritage, landscape and coastal processes.
8.3.4 The SA also noted that delivery of any such benefits is likely to be contingent on the achieving the ‘buy in’ of key stakeholders (e.g. future developers, the fishing sector, other marine users, consenting authorities, environmental bodies and government bodies such as SNH).
Sectoral Policy 2: Aquaculture
8.3.5 The SA found that while aquaculture and seaweed cultivation activities have the potential to result in significant environmental effects, development within these sectors in the future will continue to be managed through existing consenting processes (e.g. potentially including planning permission under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, obtaining seabed leases from TCE and landowners, Controlled Activity Regulations ( CAR) Licenses from SEPA, Marine Licensing from Marine Scotland). The policy will provide support to these processes by providing awareness for future developers and stakeholders on these requirements, and could result in benefits for Material Assets and Communities, Population and Human Health topic areas (i.e. potential for improved efficiency in the consenting process, enhanced consultation between developers and stakeholders, early identification of interactions and potential constraints to development/marine use). As a consequence, there is likely the potential for positive effects for the aquaculture sector and associated benefits for the communities that these activities can help to support. It was also noted that Marine Scotland is undertaking work to identify areas of opportunity and constraint for both finfish and shellfish aquaculture, referred to in the NMP, and the SA noted that that future regional marine planning work should be linked to this work.
8.3.6 The SA considered that the ‘buy in’ of a range of stakeholders is likely to be an important factor in the delivery of any positive effects identified in this assessment (e.g. prospective developers, aquaculture sector, other marine users, consenting authorities and Government bodies (e.g. TCE, SEPA, Marine Scotland) in particular).
Sectoral Policy 3: Oil and Gas
8.3.7 The SA found that the ambition and potential effect of this policy is likely to be limited by current responsibilities for oil and gas exploration and production activities. It noted that the responsibility for offshore oil and gas exploration and production lies largely within existing UK legislation and regulations within the remit of the Department of Energy and Climate Change ( DECC). As such, while the potential for positive effects associated with several provisions of the policy were noted in the assessment in general terms (e.g. use of approved Oil Pollution Emergency Plans, that connections to shore base and associated infrastructure taking into account environmental and socio-economic constraints, appropriate monitoring programmes and detailed restoration and maintenance proposals based on standard best practice are in place), it was considered that these ambitions were already requirements at the UK level and are largely outside the influence of the Pilot Plan. As such, in the context of this policy and the current oil and gas sector, the SA considered that it is unlikely that the policy would result in significant environmental effects.
8.3.8 However, the SA did note the potential for the publication of the accompanying RLG to aid in informing prospective developers on relevant issues and constraints within the PFOW area. For example, it noted that the RLG could help prospective developers in the sector to identify potential constraints to development, including those looking to progress exploration and production activities within and near to the plan area and associated landfall or shore-based activities, and may aid in guiding developers into areas of lesser constraint (e.g. avoidance of environmental designations for landfall sites). The SA also recommended that any policies relating to oil and gas activities in future Regional Marine Plans in the PFOW area be periodically reviewed to consider the potential for future activities in and near to the PFOW area.
8.3.9 This is discussed in greater detail in Section 9.2.
Sectoral Policy 4: Renewable Energy Generation
8.3.10 The SA identified the potential for largely positive environmental and socio-economic effects associated with the inclusion of this policy in the draft Pilot Plan. As for other sectoral policies, the potential for improved efficiencies in existing consenting processes, awareness of the ambitions of the Sectoral Plans, informing prospective developers of key socio-economic and environmental issues and constraints via the RLG, and the promotion of early, effective and continuous communication with stakeholders are likely to provide benefits for a range of topic areas (e.g. biodiversity, water, soil, marine geodiversity, landscape/seascape, cultural heritage, communities, population and human health and material assets). However, the SA also noted that current consenting processes underpinned by project-specific socio-economic and environmental assessments will remain the primary mechanism for the consideration of future development within this sector. It is anticipated that together the draft Pilot Plan, the RLG and the Sectoral Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal energy are likely to provide support for these processes.
8.3.11 While the net effect of the policy is likely to be positive, the potential for mixed effects for the Communities, Population and Human Health and Material Assets topic areas was noted in the assessment . This finding reflects the potential for some marine sectors to conflict with renewables development and its related activities if inappropriately designed and sited; notably displacement of fishing activities and steaming routes, displacement of shipping and some recreational users, amongst others. The potential for associated effects at the community level were also identified, particularly for those with a close reliance on these sectors. However, the reference to the RLG, Sectoral Plans and inclusion of provisions for early and effective communication with affected stakeholders in the Policy was identified as having the potential to aid in the early identification and resolution of any such interactions.
8.3.12 The SA noted that the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders (e.g. developers, other marine users, communities, environmental bodies and Government bodies (e.g. SNH, SEPA), TCE, Marine Scotland and Local Authorities), and promoting early, effective and continuous communication between them, is likely to be an important factor in the delivery of any potential positive effects of the Plan. With the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, the SA noted the potential for the policy to aid in the management of any potential adverse effects associated with further development of offshore renewables in the PFOW area, whether within the Plan Option areas or out with them.
Sectoral Policy 5: Recreation, Sport, Leisure and Tourism
8.3.13 The SA identified the potential for overall positive socio-economic and environmental effects associated with the inclusion of the policy in the draft Pilot Plan. Increased awareness of potential interactions with recreational users, and setting out expectations for developers and other marine users, has the potential for a range of positive effects (e.g. potential for displacement of activities, impacts on navigational safety and human health, impacts on the natural environment). Similarly, informing prospective developers of known areas of recreational/tourism via the RLG this SA and the Socio-economic Baseline Report, and the promotion of early, effective and continuous communication with stakeholders are likely to provide particular socio-economic benefits. This could include opportunities to identify synergistic benefits for multiple sectors, marine users and local communities. The potential for further socio-economic benefits through the promotion of sustainable development and support for the existing recreation, sport, leisure and tourism sectors at the community level were also noted.
8.3.14 The SA identified that the inclusion of provisions to “minimise or mitigate any disruption and/or disturbance to coastal and marine recreation, sport, leisure and tourism activities, including the natural environment as a resource that these activities rely upon” may have the potential to constrain development in other sectors within the Pilot Plan area. However, it was also considered that undertaking early consultation and engagement between users of the coastal and marine environments could help to ensure the co-operation and co-existence of these users, to seek opportunities for the shared use of space and infrastructure, and help to balance the needs of all users in the sustainable development of the PFOW area.
8.3.15 The potential for a number of environmental benefits was also identified, notably through the likely contribution of the policy to the preservation of biodiversity, water and geodiversity from increased awareness of codes of practice and guidance relating to biosecurity and non-native species (e.g. protection of existing biodiversity, particularly for vulnerable habitats and species, reduced risk of impacts on ecological status of water). The potential for positive effects for cultural heritage and landscape/seascape were also identified through more consistent consideration of sectors based around the appreciation and enjoyment of these assets. As a consequence, the potential benefits for communities, population and human health associated with support for the existing recreation, sport, leisure and tourism sectors were also identified. For example, reduced risks associated with navigational safety and human health, and the preservation of outdoor recreation sites and activities, amongst others.
8.3.16 While the net environmental effect of the policy is likely to be positive, the SA considered that the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders would likely be required for the delivery of any such positive effects (e.g. recreation, leisure and tourism sector, other marine users and developers, environmental bodies and Government bodies, consenting authorities and local communities). In particular, the SA found that this is likely to be a key challenge in ensuring co-operation between different sectors, the shared use of space and in sharing infrastructure and facilities, and in the management of potential concerns such as invasive non-native species.
Sectoral Policy 6: Marine Transport
8.3.17 The SA found that there is the potential for socio-economic and environmental benefits associated with the safeguarding of shipping routes, ferry routes and access to ports, harbours and other anchorages. The potential for positive effects from setting out expectations for developers and marine users in maintaining navigational safety, including greater awareness and consideration of existing shipping and ferry routes, was also noted. For example, in addition to the likelihood of benefits for the marine transport sector (e.g. safeguarding access and travel routes for the sector), the potential for positive effects for communities, population and human health through reducing the risk of vessel-development collisions (i.e. tanker and shipping vessels in Scapa Flow, through the Pentland Firth and off the north Caithness and Sutherland coast) and maintaining accessibility, particularly between remote islands were considered likely (e.g. serviced by commercial vessels, recreational craft and ferries). Similarly, with the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, the potential for associated benefits for biodiversity, water quality, soil and marine geodiversity through reduced collision and pollution incident risk were also noted.
8.3.18 However, in some instances, the potential for mixed effects was identified. For example, maintaining safe access to ports and harbours and safeguarding important shipping and ferry routes may also negatively impact on the potential growth of other sectors, particularly those that are not compatible (i.e. offshore renewables, aquaculture). Further, the SA noted that marine safety is currently underpinned by international safety conventions, regulations and codes issued by the IMO. Navigational safety is also currently a consideration of existing consenting processes. As a consequence, the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders and the promotion of early communication and engagement between them was identified as being a likely key factor in the realisation of positive effects associated with this policy.
Sectoral Policy 7: Ports and Harbours
8.3.19 The SA identified the potential for overall positive environmental and socio-economic effects associated with the Policy. However, as for Sectoral Policy 6 (Marine Transport), there is the potential for these effects to be mixed in some instances. Potential socio-economic benefits through promoting the safeguarding and sustainable growth of existing port and harbour facilities, the potential safeguarding of jobs and recreational/leisure activities that rely on these facilities, and setting out support for the communities that rely economically on them, were all noted.
8.3.20 In general, protecting access to ports and harbours in the PFOW area was considered likely to be beneficial for many marine users, particularly if the use of these facilities is shared (e.g. marine transport sector, recreational users, fishing sector, renewables sector, vessels servicing oil and gas). Further benefits for sectors such as the aquaculture sector were also identified through the maintenance of important links in the supply chain and connectivity. The potential for associated positive effects for biodiversity, water quality, soil and marine geodiversity was also identified in the SA, due largely to the potential for a reduction in collision and pollution risk associated with promoting navigational safety and the safeguarding of port and harbour access.
8.3.21 However, the SA noted that in some instances, there may be the potential for conflicts between different industries in the use of port and harbour facilities. Further, any future growth is likely to be subject to demand and market forces. Thus, the ambitions set out in the policy could aid the growth of some sectors and/or activities more than others; for example, while this may benefit sectors reliant on safe navigation, it may create potential siting constraints for growth of aquaculture and offshore renewables. However, the SA noted that there is also the potential for the sustainable growth and adaptability of port and harbour facilities to service a wide range of sectors; potentially including those for aquaculture and renewables. This should help in improving the efficient use of marine space and could potentially help to offset any potential adverse effects (e.g. siting limitations). While the potential for an increase in GHG emissions from the growth of ports and harbours was also noted, the SA found that such growth in vessel numbers would likely be out with the influence of the policy. In particular, while the Pilot Plan and this policy may promote sustainability in sectoral growth, any such growth would likely be influenced by market forces and demand.
8.3.22 The SA considered that the delivery of any benefits, and the identification and mitigation of any potential adverse effects, is likely to rely heavily on having the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders; in particular, the support of port and harbour owners and operators, marine users and local communities.
Sectoral Policy 8: Pipelines, Electricity and Telecommunications Infrastructure
8.3.23 The SA identified the potential for overall positive effects associated with this policy. The promotion of a ‘joined up’ approach to cabling from developers, appropriate burial of cables where possible, and suitable routing of cables and pipelines are likely to have predominantly positive environmental effects (e.g. reduced risk of disturbance to benthic habitats and biodiversity, cultural heritage and seabed/marine geology). The potential for reduced impacts and conflicts with other marine users were also identified (e.g. limiting the potential for interactions on bottom-contact fishing activities and known anchoring sites). While the SA considered that cabling activities are likely to result in damage to the seabed and the many features that it may contain (e.g. benthic habitats, submerged historic assets), the Policy has the potential to be beneficial in promoting suitable routing of cables and pipelines to avoid sensitive or designated features, and in reducing the potential for adverse impacts by taking a ‘joined up’ and co-ordinated approach to their installation.
8.3.24 The potential for positive socio-economic effects was also identified including the potential for a reduced risk of damage to infrastructure and impacts from outages to communities (i.e. particularly those in remote islands due to damage to telecommunications, electricity and pipeline infrastructure). Likely benefits such as the avoidance of costs to repair and/or lay replacements for damaged cables were also identified, and the potential for reduced costs for the sector in co-ordinating operations involving laying cables and pipelines. However, the SA also noted the potential for negative impacts in relation to the Material Assets topic area, particularly associated with increased costs for longer cable runs associated with suitable routing.
8.3.25 While the net environmental effect of the Policy is likely to be positive, it is noted that the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders is likely to be essential in the delivery of any such positive effects; in particular, pipeline and cable owners, marine users and those sectors involved in the placement and repair of cables and pipelines.
Sectoral Policy 9: Marine Aggregates
8.3.26 The SA identified the potential for largely positive environmental and socio-economic effects associated with the policy. Promoting the consideration of existing marine aggregate resources in the PFOW area, current activities and the potential for future opportunities for the sector amongst developers and decision-makers may have positive effects in the preserving the potential for growth of this sector in the future. The potential for positive environmental effects in setting out expectations that wider environmental issues be considered and appropriately safeguarded by decision-makers was also noted as being likely to result in positive effects at the project level (e.g. promotion of preservation of marine biodiversity, cultural heritage features, geodiversity and water quality).
8.3.27 The potential for conflicts with other marine sectors through the safeguarding of existing and potential marine aggregate resources was identified in the assessment. For sectors and activities likely to involve geological operations (e.g. offshore wind renewables, some fishing operations), there may be the potential significant conflict and could result in displacement of operations or addition of constraints in the siting of developments. As such, the effects of the policy in relation to the Material Assets topic area has the potential to be mixed.
8.3.28 The SA noted that environmental issues are also likely to continue to be a consideration of the current consenting process for marine aggregate extraction (e.g. Marine Licensing, TCE seabed lease) and that such activities currently fall under the EIA Directive. However, it found that reinforcement of these issues in the policy and the Pilot Plan could be beneficial for the sector and its resources overall, particularly if the Pilot Plan is adopted as a material consideration of current consenting processes.
8.3.29 However, while the overall effects of the policy are expected to be largely positive, the SA found that the ‘buy in’ of prospective developers and other stakeholders is likely to be an important factor in the delivery of any such benefits (e.g. the sector, other developers and marine users, consenting authorities, TCE, environmental bodies, and local communities).
Sectoral Policy 10: Defence
8.3.30 The SA identified the potential for positive effects in promoting awareness amongst potential developers and marine users of existing requirements that the potential for interactions with defence interests be a key consideration. With the buy in of stakeholders including the MoD, the opportunity for reducing the potential for conflicts through early engagement and communication was identified as being a specific benefit. While in general, these activities are not located in areas currently subject to development or sectoral growth, the SA noted the potential for increased interactions between marine users and defence activities in the future (e.g. with further exploration of offshore oil and gas, exploration of aquaculture development further offshore).
8.3.31 As with other Policies, the realisation of any such benefits are likely to be largely dependent on achieving the ‘buy in’ of stakeholders, particularly of prospective developers, marine users, consenting authorities and the MoD itself.
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