Sectoral marine plan: islands communities impact assessment

Islands communities impact assessment for the sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy.

Description of the likely significant different effect(s) of the Plan:

Section 7 of the 2018 Act sets out a specific duty for relevant public bodies, including Marine Scotland, to "have regard to island communities" in carrying out their functions. A related duty under section 8 of the 2018 Act requires relevant public bodies to undertake an island communities impact assessment "in relation to a policy, strategy or service which, in the authority's opinion, is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from its effect on other communities (including other island communities) in the area in which the authority exercises its functions." However, no guidance has yet been published by the Scottish Government regarding how these Assessments should be completed.

The ICIA process has provided the opportunity to examine whether any Scottish island communities would be discriminated against by any of the measures, policies or proposals outlined in the Plan.

Our determination of potential differential impacts is based on a review of published literature, analysis of consultation responses and stakeholder engagement and full details are included in the Sustainability Appraisal reports. These documents were published for public consultation on 18 December 2019.[12]

The Sustainability Appraisal was undertaken on the 17 draft Plan Options included within the draft Plan. The 15 Plan Options selected for inclusion in the final Plan reflect amendments made to the boundaries of DPOs in response to consultation feedback received. Therefore, the boundaries of 3 DPOs included within this ICIA (W1, NE2 and NE1) have been subsequently amended since the Sustainability Appraisal was completed. The findings of the Sustainability Appraisal (as completed for DPOs) are outlined below and have not been updated to reflect the modified boundaries. The Sustainability Appraisal was undertaken using a range of development scenarios and, therefore, its conclusions remain valid despite these amendments. The amendments made to the boundaries of the Plan Options do not alter the conclusions regarding potential impacts on island communities as outlined below.

Potential types of impacts on island communities

At this stage, it is considered likely that development within the Plan Options located close to island communities is likely to have differential impacts on island communities.

Crown Estate Scotland's report on its "Offshore Generation, Energy Storage and Systems Feasibility Study"[13] explored a number of scenarios, including Scenario 5: Large scale floating wind with offshore electrolysis and use of gas pipelines, consisting of a 100 MW floating windfarm located off a large island with a highly constrained grid connection to the mainland and limited local demand for supply. Resulting positive impacts included local opportunities for employment, as well as delaying decommissioning of existing infrastructure, delivery of renewable heat at scale and overcoming the barrier of grid constraint to development. It is not possible to predict whether similar development would take place, but this demonstrates the wider range of impacts arising from offshore wind energy development.

Differential impacts may arise from impacts on landscape, seascape and visual amenity, opportunities for recreation and tourism, economic opportunities relating to fishing. For example, the SEIA identifies that there may be some perception impacts on the unspoilt nature of the coast around the Outer Hebrides. Project-level mitigation measures should ensure that any potential negative impacts are minimised as far as possible, however, some communities and/or individuals may perceive an impact. Impacts may be greater where DPOs are located closer to shore, however, key ports such as Lerwick and Sullom Voe already consist of industrial areas, which may mean that such landscape, seascape and visual impacts can be minimised.

In addition, there may be impacts relating to employment opportunities, cultural heritage, migration etc. Overall, employment in fishing accounts for a higher percentage of employment in island communities (Shetland, Orkney, Na h-Eileanan Siar local authorities) and in Argyll and Bute, where it exceeds 2% each and 1% respectively.[14]

The SEIA identified that the main societal impacts for individuals from the Plan related to increased employment, with potential knock-on benefits for family life and disposable income (with benefits for child wellbeing) and an increase in potential for people to develop careers locally in skilled occupations (e.g. engineering and construction sectors), with the majority of impacts being felt more closely in the North East and East regions. The SEIA identified that rural and coastal areas are more likely to benefit from increased employment and economic opportunities associated with offshore wind development, due to their location (e.g. ports that can offer facilities required by wind farm developments).

Key island ports which may benefit from investment include;

  • Kirkwall and Hatson;
  • Lerwick;
  • Lyness;
  • Stornoway; and
  • Sullom Voe.

This has attendant impacts on quality of life, but may have negative impacts in relation to loss of income from fishing activity (due to temporary or permanent loss of access to or displacement from fishing grounds and particularly for the North East region). However, under the national scenario, the SEIA estimates losses of around 2.5 FTE (under the low scenario) to 8.3 FTE (under the high scenario) for this sector. Fishers may be able to supplement their income from offering services to the wind farm. A maximum of 4.7 FTEs (under the high scenario) are estimated to be lost across the North East, impacts may be larger locally but are expected to be concentrated into small areas.

In addition, large numbers of new people relocating to these areas could be perceived as a threat to existing communities (particularly during the short-term) and loss of fishing jobs or income could impact on networks for family businesses and the fishing community. The SEIA estimates that these impacts may be felt locally, but are unlikely to be prominent across the country as a whole. Increased demand from larger populations may also have impacts on healthcare services. The SEIA identifies that these potential negative community impacts can be identified and addressed via good quality project management, engagement and consultation.

The SEIA has assessed impacts on individual ports based on the reduction in the value of landings to each Scottish port, in relation to the total value of landings to each port. This approach has been taken to reflect the fact that a reduction in a certain tonnage of landings to a small island port may have a greater impact on any associated processing activities at that port compared to a loss of the same value of landings to a larger port. Total impacts in terms of value of landings per port may occur at the following island ports; Kirkwall, Lerwick, Stornoway, Stromness, Islay, Port Ellen, Bunessan, Fhionnphort, Portnahaven and Portree.

The figures, however, equate to small reductions which are unlikely to result in local job losses either directly to fisheries or to processing and the supply chain. However, some of the ports impacted may not benefit greatly from wind farm development so impacts could be disproportionately greater as fisheries would not be able to supplement their income through renewables work (e.g. Portnahaven and Stromness).

Reductions in the value of landings of 0.19% at Stromness (landing port) and 0.78% at Portnahaven (landing port) could have impacts on fishing business owners affected by a reduction in income (as they may not be able to invest in their business, which may impact long-term viability). These impacts, however, may also be felt by non-island ports, such as Scrabster – which would see a 0.84% reduction in value of landings. Whilst these impacts on national indicators (employment) may be limited at a national level, more material but marginal impacts may be seen at a local level for these ports.

Tourism and recreational impacts could be significant in the Outer Hebrides, with potential impacts on ports such as Miavaig Boat trips out of Miavaig (also important for recreational fishing and wildlife watching), due to impacts on fuel costs or access to sites.

The SEIA report (Table 43) identifies the following potential cost impacts across all sectors per DPO (costs on commercial shipping, water sports, power interconnectors and commercial fishing), as shown in

Table 2 and Figure 5 below:'

Table 2 Potential cost impacts per DPO
DPO Maximum Development Scenario (GW) Cost (£000s) Cost per GW installed (£000s) Direct GVA cost (£000s) Direct GVA cost per GW installed (£000s)
W1 2 5,131 2,565 1,482 741
N1 2 8,896 4,448 1,392 696
N3 2 318 159 1,991 995
N4 1 4,159 4,159 675 675
NE1 3 2,273 1,137 1,378 689
NE2 1 9,269 9,269 399 399
Figure 5 Potential Cost impacts by sector per DPO
graph depicting the potential total costs for the 6 Draft Plan Options and displayed by sector.

Project-level mitigation measures can be used to reduce, avoid or offset potential impacts, including:

  • Commercial fisheries – the requirement for developers to maintain access for certain fishing gears;
  • Commercial shipping – spatial planning of DPO, to include design of shipping lanes in accordance with Maritime and Coastguard Agency guidance to reduce diversions;
  • Watersports – maintenance of access to recreational angling within arrays (particular for fixed-bottom technologies);
  • Power – consultation with cable installers and subsequent spatial planning to allow for a corridor within the DPO for the interconnector; and
  • Tourism – impacts on tourism are linked to potential visual impacts from turbines, therefore mitigation applied to reduce the visual impact has the potential impacts on tourism (including the selection of smaller turbines), although there may be residual visual impacts.

Assessment of likely significant differential effects

The Sectoral Marine Plan is a high-level Plan and, as such, identification of likely overall impacts on specific island communities is not appropriate, as it is not possible to predict the scale, extent and type of future offshore wind development with any certainty at this stage, nor draw any conclusions regarding the likely significant differential effects. Any proposals for development will be subject to further detailed project-level assessment, which will consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of the specific proposal and any required mitigation measures to reduce, remove or offset any potential differential impacts.



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