Sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy: strategic environmental assessment screening and scoping report

Sets out the proposed scope and level of detail for the assessment, as well as a description of the methodology.

4 The approach to the assessment

4.1 Purpose and scope of the assessment

4.1.1 The purpose of this section of the report is to determine the likelihood, nature, and significance of any environmental effects that may arise in the areas of search identified as part of the development of a new Draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Encompassing Deep Water Options (‘the Draft Plan’).

4.1.2 As discussed earlier, this joint Screening/Scoping Report represents one component of a wider assessment process that will also involve the gathering of socio-economic information, the production of a HRA, and a round of public consultation.

Relationship between this SEA and previous assessments

4.1.3 A considerable amount of work has already been undertaken to explore the environmental effects of a range of activities within the UK and Scottish marine environment. Of particular relevance are the SEAs that were previously undertaken on both the 2011 Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind [96] and its 2013 review [97] . It is expected that this SEA will build upon, rather than duplicate, the information and findings of the respective Environmental Reports that were produced as part of these assessments.

4.1.4 It is also proposed that the assessment methodology build upon that which underpinned these previous assessments. Taking this approach should to help ensure a consistency in the assessment of offshore wind energy development in Scotland.

Scope of the assessment

4.1.5 Following a review of these previous SEAs, as well as relevant academic and grey literature, it is proposed that the scope of the present SEA assessment should include:

  • Biodiversity, Flora, and Fauna;
  • Population and Human Health;
  • Soil (namely, Marine Geology and Coastal Processes);
  • Water Quality;
  • Climatic Factors;
  • Cultural Heritage; and
  • Landscape, Seascape, and Visual Amenity.

Further, the assessment should be comprehensive and include consideration of the likely significant effects on the marine, coastal, and terrestrial environments.

4.1.6 At this stage, it is considered that significant environmental effects on ‘Air Quality’ are unlikely to arise through the implementation of the Draft Plan. As such, it is it is proposed that this topic be scoped out of the assessment.

4.1.7 The SEA topic of ‘Material Assets’ encompasses a broad range of subtopics that include both built and natural assets and it is proposed that relevant issues be assessed under corresponding SEA topic areas. For example, it is proposed that potential impacts as they relate to nursery and spawning grounds be covered under the topic of ‘Biodiversity, Flora, and Fauna’. Similarly, it is felt that infrastructure could be given consideration under the topic of ‘Climatic Factors’ with regard to the promotion of a diverse and decarbonised energy sector. As such, it is proposed that ‘Material Assets’ be scoped out of the assessment. This mirrors the approach taken in the previous assessment work [98] .

4.1.8 The effects on other marine users, such as the potential displacement of fishing activity, recreational boating, and tourism, will be adequately considered by the accompanying socio-economic assessment. Issues of navigational safety and collision risk for vessels will be covered, as far as possible, within the topic of ‘Population and Human Health’.

4.1.9 A summary of this proposed scope is presented in Table 2.

4.1.10 The views of the Consultation Authorities, consultation bodies, Member States, and members of the public on the proposed scope are now being sought.

Table 2. Scoping in/out of SEA Topics

SEA Topic Scoped In/Out Potential Effects
Biodiversity, Flora, and Fauna In - loss of and/or damage to marine and coastal habitats, including benthic and intertidal habitats (for example, due to smoothing of benthic habitats and substratum loss)
- effects on species, including disturbance, noise impacts, EMF exposure, collision risk, habitat exclusion, and barriers to wildlife movement
- positive effects arising from habitat enhancement, such as the creation of artificial reefs
- effects of pollution releases on both species and habitats
Population and Human Health In - impacts arising from noise, vibration, and shadow flicker effects
- impacts on residential amenity stemming from construction/installation/operational activities
- issues of navigational safety and collision risk
- effects on marine and coastal recreation and access (note: recreation and tourism are also likely to be considered as part of the complementary socio-economic assessment work)
Soil (Marine Geology and Coastal Processes) In - effects on subsea geology, sediments, and coastal processes arising from changes in hydrodynamics and the existing wave regime
Water Quality In - effects on ecological status
- effects on water quality (for example, due to increases in suspended sediment loads and turbidity as well as an increase in pollution incidents)
- effects of the presence of structures on local currents, wave regimes, and water column mixing, as well as secondary effects on sedimentation and erosion beyond the sites
Climatic Factors In - contribution to supporting a diverse and decarbonised energy sector
- coastal facilities may be at risk from climate change
Cultural Heritage In - loss of and/or damage to historic environment features and their settings, including coastal and marine archaeology
Landscape, Seascape, and Visual Amenity In - both temporary and longer term effects on landscape, seascape, and visual amenity arising from the presence of structures

4.2 Proposed approach to the assessment

Assessment methodology

4.2.1 The SEA will be undertaken as a high level assessment, reflecting the national level perspective the Draft Plan will take. Specifically, it is proposed that the SEA take the form of a baseline-led assessment which will compare the potential impacts of the Draft Plan against the current receiving environment in order to assess the significance of any environmental effects that could arise.

4.2.2 The assessment is likely to include the use of:

  • SEA objectives;
  • spatial information, such as that gathered using Scottish Government’s Geographic Information System ( GIS); and,
  • available relevant research regarding known environmental impacts arising from offshore wind. This will include making reference to emerging monitoring information from existing installations across Scotland.

4.2.3 It is proposed that the SEA objectives developed for previous assessment work [99] set a sound basis for taking forward this SEA. As such, these have been ‘brought forward’ and updated as necessary to reflect the environmental protection objectives and key environmental issues relevant to taking forward this assessment.

4.2.4 The proposed SEA objectives are set out below in Table 3.

Table 3. Proposed SEA Objectives

SEA Topics Proposed SEA Objective
Biodiversity, Flora, and Fauna
  • to safeguard marine and coastal ecosystems, including species, habitats, and their interactions
  • to avoid adverse effects on both designated and non-designated habitats and species (note: this work will be developed in parallel with the HRA work)
Population and Human Health
  • to maintain the accessibility of natural areas for recreation
  • to minimise or prevent the discharge of pollutants into the natural environment
  • to avoid adverse effects on human health and safety
Water Quality
  • to avoid pollution of the coastal and marine water environment
  • to maintain or work towards achieving good ecological status
Soil (Marine Geology and Coastal Processes)
  • to avoid exacerbating coastal erosion and maintain the integrity of coastal processes
  • to maintain and protect the character and integrity of the seabed, including avoiding the pollution of seabed strata/bottom sediments
Climatic Factors
  • to contribute to a diverse and decarbonised energy sector
  • to ensure that adaptation to predicted climate change impacts are taken into account (for example, through consideration of resilience and changing environmental sensitivity)
  • to preserve marine carbon stocks and carbon sequestration potential (note: this objective is closely linked to the SEA topic of ‘Biodiversity, Flora, and Fauna’)
Cultural Heritage

  • to protect and, where appropriate, enhance, the historic marine environment
  • to avoid damage to known and unknown coastal and marine archaeology
  • to avoid adverse effects on the character and setting of historic sites and buildings
Landscape, Seascape, and Visual Amenity
  • to avoid or minimise adverse effects on landscape, seascape, and visual amenity
  • to promote the protection of seascape and coastal landscapes
  • to avoid or minimise adverse visual effects

4.3 Identifying mitigation and monitoring proposals

4.3.1 Mitigation measures will be identified as an integral part of the development of the proposed areas of search. In addition, mitigation may also be identified through the assessment process.

4.3.2 Monitoring proposals are likely to focus on the significant environmental effects that are identified during the course of the work undertaken to identify the areas of search, as a result of the SEA, as well as following implementation of mitigation measures where appropriate. Where possible, existing data sources and indicators will be linked with relevant indicators to minimise resourcing requirements for additional data collection.

4.4 Consideration of reasonable alternatives

4.4.1 The development of the final Plan will be an iterative process that will give regular consideration to reasonable alternatives, based in part on assessment findings and input from consultees.

4.4.2 Initially, the development process will seek to identify prospective areas of search in which wind energy could be pursued. The prospective areas of search themselves constitute reasonable alternatives as they represent different options for fulfilling the objectives of the Draft Plan, based on varying levels of constraint and opportunity.

4.4.3 The areas of search will be refined into a number of potential plan options from which a set of Draft Plan Options will be derived. Within each Draft Plan Option, micrositing will allow additional opportunities to compile and select from reasonable alternatives.

4.5 Cumulative effects

4.5.1 The SEA will assess the cumulative effects that could arise from the designation of the areas of search at a regional scale. In-combination impacts arising from the fulfillment of the Draft Plan in conjunction with other forms of marine development, such as the sites adopted as part of the Blue Seas – Green Energy work, will also be considered.

4.6 Assessment framework

4.6.1 The results of the assessment are likely to be presented as a summarised narrative supported by detailed assessment matrices. The narrative is likely to include information such as:

  • the baseline characteristics of the areas likely to be affected;
  • the results of the environmental assessment; and
  • proposed mitigation.


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