Planning Circular: The relationship between the statutory land use planning system and marine planning and licensing

All developments and activities which take place in Scotland’s seas have implications onshore too – ranging from changing infrastructure requirements to the impacts on communities of economic growth or decline.

The Scottish Government has produced a cir

Marine Conservation

78. The Act defines the Scottish Marine Protection Area as the Scottish marine area (out to 12 nautical miles), excluding waters upstream of the fresh-water limit of estuarial waters. The Scottish Ministers may make, by a 'designation order', any area of the Scottish Marine Protection area a Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area ( MPA), a Demonstration and Research MPA or a Historic MPA. These may include islands and adjacent areas of seashore. The UK Marine & Coastal Access Act created similar powers for nature conservation MPAs in the Scottish offshore zone, beyond 12nm. Nature Conservation MPAs are one of Scotland's three pillars for marine nature conservation - site protection (including MPAs); species protection; and wider policies and measures.

79. The Scottish Government is consulting on its proposals for Marine Protected Areas at the same time as the consultation on this Circular and on the draft Scottish National Marine Plan.

80. Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Ministers may give advice and guidance on the protection of the features in Nature Conservation and Demonstration and Research MPAs and the furtherance of their purposes and conservation objectives.

81. In exercising any functions which may affect a MPA, a public body must, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of its functions, do so in a way which it considers best furthers (or least hinders) the purpose or objectives of the MPA. For Nature Conservation MPAs, such an obligation also applies to furthering the contribution of that MPA to a network of conservation sites. In complying with these requirements, public bodies must have regard to any guidance issued for the purpose by SNH or Scottish Ministers.

82. Nature Conservation MPAs are to be identified for conserving marine flora or fauna, including rare or threatened species, marine habitats or features of geological or geomorphological interest. Taken together with marine conservation zones identified under the UK Act and with other protected areas in the marine environment such as those designated under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, Nature Conservation MPAs are to form a network which contributes to the conservation or improvement of the marine environment in the UK marine area.

83. Demonstration and Research MPAs are to be identified for demonstration of sustainable methods of marine management or exploitation and/or for research into such matters.

84. Historic MPAs are to be identified for preserving a marine historic asset of national importance according to guidelines published by Historic Scotland. Historic MPAs are to replace use of section 1 of the Protection of Wreck Act 1973 in Scotland and will normally be preferred to scheduling of monuments of national importance offshore.

Conservation of Seals

85. The Scottish Government has responsibility for the conservation and management of seal populations in Scottish waters. The Act introduced enhanced seal protection measures whilst allowing for appropriate management under a new seal licensing system.

86. It is now an offence to intentionally or recklessly injure, kill or take a seal at any time (except under license or for animal welfare reasons) or to harass seals at designated haul-out sites. Scottish Ministers may also designate an area as a seal conservation area where they consider it is necessary to do so to ensure the proper conservation of seals.

87. The potential for development to impact on seal conservation objectives may be material to some planning decisions, notably for fish farm development but also potentially for other developments affecting the coastal zone, including those associated with renewable energy development. This may include impacts on areas important for seals, including seal conservation areas and designated seal haul outs.


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