Sectoral marine plan: regional locational guidance

Sets out regional spatial baseline data for the sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy and describes the information used in the planning and assessment process.

5 North East

5.1 Introduction

5.1.1 The North East region includes the Shetland Islands, the north-eastern extent of the Orkney islands, and covers the east mainland coastline, including the Moray Firth area, as far south as Peterhead (Figure 143). There are eight Plan Options identified in the North East region, as shown in Figure 143.

Figure 143: Map of the North East region, including Plan Options
Regional map of Scottish waters

5.2 Physical Considerations

Offshore Wind Resource

5.2.1 Within the North East region, encompassing seven Plan Options (NE1, NE2, NE3, NE4, NE6 NE7, and NE8) there is considerable available resource as shown in Figure 144 using the annual wind speed as a proxy, and calculated in Table 4 for the seven Plan Options.

Figure 144: North East region: mean annual wind speed
Regional map of Scottish waters
Table 4: North East region: Potential installed capacity in the Plan Options
Area of Search Region Area (square km) Potential Installed capacity (GW) Realistic Maximum Development Scenario (GW)
NE1 North East 751 3.8 2
NE2 North East 345 1.7 1
NE3 North East 265 1.3 1
NE4 North East 440 2.2 1
NE6 North East 699 3.5 2
NE7 North East 684 3.4 3
NE8 North East 339 1.7 1
North East Total 3523 17.6 11

Grid Connection

5.2.2 Within the North East region, there is currently infrastructure being developed to accommodate the Beatrice windfarm and the Caithness-Moray HVDC, capable of transmitting 1200MW, with HVDC converters, a 400kV substation and associated infrastructure[251]. The reinforcement of the grid in this area will support additional offshore wind development in the North East region, including the Beatrice windfarm, and the Moray Firth windfarms. Beatrice windfarm entered operation in summer 2019[252]. Moray East windfarm is currently undergoing construction[253], whilst Moray West has been consented. Depending on remaining capacity it may also support potential development in the Plan Options. However, further reinforcement of the grid in this area is expected to be required, in order to support the growth of renewable energy generation in the area[254].

5.2.3 There is currently no transmission link between the Shetland Islands and mainland Scotland. Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks have submitted a needs case, based on the potential for onshore wind development on Shetland, to deliver a 600MW subsea HVDC circuit from Shetland to Caithness, which is currently undergoing its planning phase[255]

5.2.4 Should the Shetland HVDC link proceed, there may be potential for the link to support grid connections from offshore wind development in the Shetland region, but this will depend on the level of onshore wind development as current proposals for greater than 600MW of generation would potentially exceed the proposed transmission circuit.

Bathymetry and Seabed

5.2.5 Water depths in the North East region are more gently shelving than in the North or the West regions, as can be seen on Figure 145, with much of the Moray Firth area, including parts of NE4 and the areas encompassing the Beatrice and Moray Firth OWF, with water depths under 60 m. Beyond the 60 m contour the slope shelves gradually, with water depth less than the 100 m contour encompassing NE2, NE3 and most of NE6. The remaining Plan Options (NE7 and NE8) have water depths predominantly greater than 100 m.

5.2.6 The water depth around the Shetland Islands shelves quickly to depths greater than 100 m, with only a small area of shallower water to the south of the islands and a bank, just offshore, to the east. NE1 is in water over 100m deep. 

5.2.7 The seabed sediments in the North East region can be roughly broken down into four sediment types. The sediments in the north-west of the area, around the Orkney Islands, are mostly rock and gravelly sediment; sediments around the Shetland Islands are predominately sand and coarse sediment, with areas of muddy sediment to the east; sediments in the Moray Firth are muddy sediment to the south with sand and sandy gravel to the north; and further offshore to the east the sand gradates to muddy sediments (Figure 146). As a result, the sediments within the Plan Options are also varied, sediments within the shallower Plan Options (NE4 and part of NE6) are predominantly sand, with small regions of coarse sediment. In the deeper regions (encompassing NE7 and NE8), the sand gradates to sandy mud and muddy sand. The sediment within Plan Option NE1 is almost entirely sand, with small areas of coarse sediment.

Figure 145: North East region: banded water depth
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 146: North East region: seabed sediments
Regional map of Scottish waters

5.3 Socio Economics

Supply Chain

5.3.1 Three locations are identified in the North East region[256] which could be developed to support the construction, operation and maintenance of offshore wind in the Plan Options. These are:

  • Nigg - integrated manufacturing, 
  • Ardersier - integrated manufacturing, and
  • Peterhead - distributed manufacturing and operation / maintenance.

5.3.2 In addition, Wick harbour is currently the active Operations and Maintenance base for the Beatrice development, having supported engineering activities during development, and as such would be well placed to support further developments in the North East region. Furthermore, there are sites in other regions discussed within the specific regional text, particularly the North and East regions that have the potential to support the development of offshore wind in the North East region.

5.3.3 Nigg fabrication yard is currently being used by Siemens to support the construction of the Beatrice Wind farm development, estimated to support approximately 100 direct and indirect jobs in the local area[257]. It is therefore well placed to support further expansion of offshore wind in the North East region following completion of the Beatrice wind farm in 2019.

5.3.4 Ardersier is identified in the NRIP[258] as having the potential to be developed to support large scale manufacturing for offshore renewables, given its history of supply jackets to oil and gas rigs. The current owners, Ardersier Port Ltd, have submitted planning permission to establish a port and port related services to support the energy industry[259].

5.3.5 Infrastructure at Peterhead is currently used to support the oil and gas industry, particularly providing O&M support. It is therefore well placed to transfer the skills within the current workforce, as oil and gas within the North Sea is decommissioned, to support the offshore renewable industry.

5.3.6 There are not currently any sites on the Shetland islands currently identified to support the supply chain for offshore wind. However, Lerwick has been operating as a base for the oil and gas industry and there are thus likely to be significant transferable skills available to support a developing offshore wind industry. There may therefore be the possibility for socio-economic benefits from the development of onshore operations and maintenance support, should it be considered as part of the development of NE1 Plan Option to the east of Shetland.  

Energy Generation

5.3.7 There are a number of power stations located within the North East region:

  • Kirkwall (Diesel);
  • Invergordon (Biomass); 
  • Peterhead (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine), located on the border between the North East and East regions;
  • Sullum Voe (Gas Turbine) in the north of the Shetland Islands; and 
  • Lerwick (Diesel) 

5.3.8 Potential for wave and tidal energy generation is limited to the seas around the Orkney Islands (as considered above under the North region) and the Shetland Islands. There are a number of facilities currently operational or under development around the Orkney Islands and one tidal energy array at Bluemull Sound in Shetland. None of the currently proposed, consented or operational facilities overlap with the Plan Options in the North East region. There are no currently proposed or consented developments in the Shetland region. 

5.3.9 In 2013 Marine Scotland consulted on Draft Plan Options (DPO) for wave and tidal energy[260,261]. These draft options were subsequently recognised in Scotland’s National Marine Plan[262]. The DPOs identify areas of potential for the future development of wave and tidal energy in Scottish waters (Figure 147).  The DPOs for wave and tidal are either within or to the west of the Orkney and Shetland Islands and as such do not overlap with the proposed Plan Options for offshore wind.

5.3.10 Offshore wind is currently being developed in the North East region, with three major developments, and associated landside infrastructure identified for development in the Moray Firth,  as shown in Figure 147. The Beatrice Wind Farm (588MW) became operational in summer 2019. The two phases of the Moray Firth windfarm are at different stages, Moray East (950MW) is expected to be developed in the early 2020s, while Moray West has gained consent and is awaiting funding through the Contracts for Difference process[263](potential generation capacity up to 750MW).

5.3.11 In addition to development in the Moray Firth the Hywind array (30MW) is currently operational, just on the southern border of the region (Figure 147) with connection into Peterhead. 

5.3.12 Following the UK Government’s decision to consider island onshore wind as a less developed technology, there is potential for onshore wind energy in Shetland to undergo development, as identified in the potential for the expansion of the mainland to Shetland energy grid above under Grid Connection in Section 5.2. 

Figure 147: North East region: current, planned and potential future offshore energy generation infrastructure
Regional map of Scottish waters

Power Interconnectors

5.3.13 There are 223km of interconnectors in the North East region, with most of the infrastructure on the east side of Orkney and Shetland to connect the small islands together (Figure 148). 

Figure 148: North East region: power interconnectors
Regional map of Scottish waters

5.3.14 There is a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) link which was completed in January 2019 between Caithness and Moray. Routing the cables across the Moray Firth rather than over land will greatly reduce visual impact, but it intersects NE4[264]

5.3.15 The North Connect project proposes to develop a 665km, 1400MW HVDC interconnector between Peterhead in Scotland and Simadalen in Norway. It will provide an electricity transmission link between the two nations to exchange power and increase the use of renewable energy. The intention is for the HVDC interconnector to be operational by 2023[265]. It could potentially intersect NE7

5.3.16 There is a high voltage direct current (HVDC) link in the early stages of development being built to connect Shetland to the Nation’s Electricity Transmission system for the first time.  It will be comprised of about 250km of cabling in the sea, require a 320/132kV substation and HVDC convertor station at Upper Kergord on Shetland and a HVDC switching station at Noss Head in Caithness[266]. This interconnector may intersect the Plan Option NE2

5.3.17 An interconnector has been proposed to connect Shetland with Norway. The Maali interconnector would offer the opportunity for energy produced in Shetland (currently identified as being likely to be onshore wind) to be exported, and energy imported when supply on the Shetland Islands is unable to meet demand[267]. There is some potential for the Maali interconnector to intersect NE1, however it is currently in the early planning stages and no detailed route is available to be reviewed. 

Telecom Cables

5.3.18 The North East region has 568km of active telecom cables, a stretch of which goes through the NE4 and NE2 Plan Options (Figure 149). The cables are to the south of Shetland and connect it to Orkney and the mainland (Figure 189).

Figure 149: North East region: active telecom cables
Regional map of Scottish waters

Carbon Capture and Storage

5.3.19 The current development of the potential carbon and capture industry in Scotland is centred around the North East and East regions with the sole proposed development (ACT Acorn) proposing to use existing Oil and Gas infrastructure to transport CO2 from St Fergus, near Peterhead (approximately on the boundary between the two regions) North East to the Captain Sandstone saline aquifer (centre point shown in Figure 150). 

5.3.20 It is therefore likely that the majority of the potential economic benefits associated with the development of a CCS industry will be realised within the North East and East regions. 

5.3.21 The Captain aquifer currently identified for development overlaps with the Plan Options NE3, NE6 and NE8 however the portion of the Captain aquifer identified for the ACT Acorn project (Captain X storage site) lies to the south of the Plan Option NE7 with no direct overlap.

5.3.22 In addition, there are further saline aquifers in the seas either inshore or further offshore to the east of the Plan Options, which in future may have the potential to support CCS development, therefore development of offshore wind in the Plan Options may impact potential pipeline routing.

Figure 150: North East region: saline aquifers
Regional map of Scottish waters

Oil and Gas

5.3.23 In the North East region oil and gas activity occurs throughout much of the offshore waters (Figure 151). There are 14 producing hydrocarbon fields in this region (13 producing oil and 1 gas). Many of the provisional awards that have been granted through the 31st provisional awards, overlap with the Plan Options in the North East region. In additional, there is some overlap between blocks offered in the 32nd round and the Plan Options in deeper waters. Several licence blocks have already been selected; some of which overlap with the Plan Options. 

5.3.24 NE4, NE6 and NE7 overlap licensed blocks and 30th round awarded areas. 

Figure 151: North East region: oil and gas infrastructure and licenced blocks
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.25 The North East region has one major airport in Inverness, eight civil aviation aerodromes and two helicopter rescue stations (Figure 152).

5.3.26 Inverness is the only major airport in the North East region. It offers a range of daily flights to and from key destinations including; London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin, Amsterdam, Orkney and Shetland[268]

5.3.27 Kirkwall airport provides easy access to the Orkney Islands from Scotland’s major cities, Shetland and Norway[269]

5.3.28 Wick John O’Groats airport has flights to and from Aberdeen and Edinburgh[270]

5.3.29 Sumburgh airport is the main airport serving Shetland and provides links to Scotland’s major cities, Orkney and Norway[271]. Tingwall and Scasta are smaller. 

5.3.30 The North East region is also partly covered by the primary surveillance radar from Aberdeen airport, covering or partially covering Plan Options NE3, NE4 and NE6, NE7 and NE8

5.3.31 Inverness, Kirkwall, Wick and Sumburgh airports are safeguarded civil aerodromes. 

5.3.32 In addition, the North East region is intersected by multiple Helicopter Main Routes (HMR). The current recommendation is that offshore wind development should allow a 2 nautical mile buffer either side of a HMR

5.3.33 HMRs in the North East region intersect Plan Options NE1, NE6, NE7 and NE8

Figure 152: North East region: aviation infrastructure, key routes and radar coverage
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.34 There is a high concentration of defence assets in the North East region used for free navigation for surface and subsurface naval vessels for national defence; safeguarding of navigational routes and nationally critical infrastructure; safeguard the usage of designated Danger Areas and Exercise Areas for military training and defence test & evaluation purposes; retain strategic maritime infra-structure, installations and coastal MOD facilities.

5.3.35 The RAF facilities at Lossiemouth and Kinloss, and the garrison at Fort George are large facilities in rural locations, and therefore support a large proportion of the jobs, both directly and indirectly in that rural community. The economic impact of RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth was assessed in 2010 and found to support 5771 jobs (16 % of all FTE employment in Moray) and a gross income of £158.3 million to the local economy[272]. The Fort George garrison is due to close in 2032, and it has been estimated that the closure of the garrison would result in the loss of 732 jobs and £16.3 million from the local economy[273].

5.3.36 Three of the Plan Options in the North East region (NE2, NE3 and NE4) are entirely within a firing danger area (Figure 153). In addition to military establishments in the public domain, it is recognised that further military assets may be present in the region. Any concerns regarding assets of this type will be identified in consultation with the MOD at a project level.

5.3.37 The MOD supports a number of jobs in the North East region, both directly and indirectly. Employment is largely through the two key bases on the coastline in the Moray Firth discussed above. No regional breakdown of employment figures are available within Scotland, however it is likely that an appreciable portion of the direct and indirect employment figures discussed in the national overview above are located in the North East region.

5.3.38 There is a limited defence activity in and around the Shetland islands with the only assets identified as communications and training or volunteer estate on the islands themselves. The largest asset is the radar facility at Saxa Vord, which is remotely operated by the RAF.

5.3.39 There is likely to be limited employment associated with defence activities within the Shetland region (regional breakdowns of MOD employment are not available within Scotland), although the defence radar at Saxa Vord [274] may support a small number of jobs on the island indirectly through support to visiting maintenance contractors.

Figure 153: North East region: defence infrastructure and exercise areas
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.40 Landings from UK-registered vessels caught in the North East region had an average annual value of £645 million and an average live weight of 121,069,869 tonnes for the five-year period 2013-2017.

5.3.41 The majority of landings were demersal (37%) and pelagic (38%) with the vast majority landed by the over 12 m fleet (92%). The most significant gear types were demersal trawls (43%) and midwater trawls (34%) while mechanical dredges (6%) and creels (6%) also made a significant contribution.

5.3.42 Figure 154 shows over-15m vessels using mobile demersal gear fish throughout the region. Nephrops trawlers operate in the southern part of the Moray Firth, mostly along the Moray/Buchan coast, and further offshore between NE3 and NE8 and on the Fladen Grounds. Scallop dredgers operate in the Moray Firth, along the Sutherland coast from John O’Groats to Borgue and off Fraserburgh and Peterhead. Vessels using mobile demersal gears targeting demersal fish operate across the region and predominantly in the north-eastern part around Shetland. Over-15m pelagic vessels operate at a lower intensity in the region, although there is some patchy herring fishing east of Orkney and in the north-east part of the region (Figure 155). Pelagic vessels also target herring and mackerel around Shetland. Over-15m vessels using static gear operate at a low level in the region, the most important area being in the north-east of Orkney and west of Shetland, targeting crab and lobster (Figure 156).

5.3.43 ScotMap data do not cover the Shetland region, but the Shetland marine spatial plan[275] identifies important shellfish dredging grounds and shellfish creeling grounds for scallops, crabs, lobsters and whelks. 

5.3.44 For under-15m vessels, the Moray Firth is a particularly important area, as well as around the Orkney Islands. Demersal trawls for Nephrops and other species (‘Trawls – non-Nephrops’) operate in the Moray Firth and scallop dredgers operate east of Orkney (Figure 157). Creels for crabs and lobster operate along the Moray and Buchan coasts and around Orkney, with mackerel lines also used along the coast from Buckie to Peterhead (Figure 158). 

5.3.45 There were 611 fishing vessels with their Home Port registered within the North East region in 2016[276]. Whilst 62% of these were in the ten metres and under length category, this region has the highest percentage of larger vessels of all the regions (30% of registered vessels are over 15m in length). The ports with the most registered vessels were Fraserburgh (141), Peterhead (86), Lerwick (86), Kirkwall (68), Buckie (56), Whalsay (25), Scalloway and Isles (20) Macduff (16) and Westray (16). Home ports within the North East region are shown in Figure 159. 

5.3.46 The main landing ports (in terms of value of landings in 2017) in the North East region are Peterhead (£158 million), Lerwick (£52 million), Fraserburgh (£36 million), Scalloway and Isles (£13 million), Cullivoe (£4 million) and Buckie (£3.9 million)[277].

5.3.47 There are six fixed engine sites for wild salmon and sea trout, around the Dornoch and Cromarty Firths and near Banff, and 13 net and coble sites around the Dornoch, Cromarty and Moray Firths and around Fraserburgh (Figure 160).

5.3.48 The main rod and line fishing rivers in this region are the Wick (salmon), Helmsdale (salmon and some sea trout fishing in summer months), Shin (salmon), Oykel (salmon), Alness (salmon and some sea trout), Conon (salmon and some sea trout), Beauly (salmon and some sea trout), Ness (salmon), Nairn (salmon and some sea trout), Findhorn (salmon and some sea trout), Lossie (salmon and sea trout), Spey (salmon and sea trout), Deveron (salmon and sea trout).[278]

5.3.49 Fishing is one of Shetland’s most important industries. There are 179 active commercial fishing vessels, virtually all owned by local shareholders, and 386 people directly employed in fish catching.[279]

Figure 154: Fishing intensity for over-15m vessels in the North East region using demersal mobile gear (2009-2013)
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 155: Fishing intensity for over-15m vessels in the North East region targeting pelagic species (2009-2013)
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 156: Fishing intensity for over-15m vessels in the North East region using static gear (2009-2013)
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 157: Number of vessels for under-15m vessels in the North East region, all gears and mobile demersal gears, from ScotMap 
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 158: Number of vessels for under-15m vessels in the North East region, pots, divers and mackerel lines, from ScotMap
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 159: North East region: distribution of home ports
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 160: Salmon and sea trout net fisheries reporting catches in 2011–2016 in the North East region
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.50 Marine aquaculture sites within the North East region are shown in Figure 161. There are 82 licensed finfish and 146 licensed shellfish sites in the region, the majority of which are around the Shetland islands (67 and 136 respectively).  

5.3.51 There are no aquaculture facilities within the Plan Options. 

5.3.52 In the Shetland region shellfish production is dominated by mussels. In 2017, 6,647 tonnes of mussels were produced. In addition, the aquaculture industry farms high volumes of salmon in the Shetland region. In 2016, approximately 37,000 tonnes were produced with a value of £176 million. 

Figure 161: North East region: marine aquaculture sites
Regional map of Scottish waters

Ports and Harbours

5.3.53 The North East region has a significant number of ports and harbours which are essential to the economy. Figure 162 shows that there are 3 major ports, 8 minor ports and many small harbours distributed along the north east coast, Orkney and Shetland. 

5.3.54 Peterhead is the largest port for white and pelagic fish landings in the UK, and a key base for the oil and gas sector and leisure activities. It is a versatile port, suitable in all weather conditions and has deep-water berthing facilities at depths of up to 14 metres. Extensive improvements to the port facilities are currently being undertaken, including the addition of easily accessible berths to accommodate vessels up to 160 metres[280].

5.3.55 Cromarty port, in the Cromarty Firth, is a key site for economic development as it plays an important role in the oil and gas sector. It has deep water access and is already established as a key facility supporting offshore energy developments in the Moray Firth. In 2017, Cromarty was awarded the busiest cruise port in Scotland; welcoming over 150,000 passengers throughout the year. The cruise sector is predicted to grow further and to meet the demands the port is planning a £23 million capital investment to build an additional quayside for larger cruise ships[281].

5.3.56 Inverness port is a natural, sheltered deep-water port. It is a vital gateway for companies to export and import a range of goods including oil and timber. It has a marina and is also used for recreational activities to maximise its economic benefits. Access to the port has been significantly improved in recent years to facilitate the transportation of large freight and the handling of wind turbine components. Recent developments have made Inverness port one of the most modern in the north with large areas of undercover storage and laydown facilities[282].

5.3.57 Fraserburgh harbour provides important services to the fishing and oil and gas industries.

5.3.58 Sullom Voe is a major deep-water harbour servicing the oil sector and can accommodate large vessels and freight. 

5.3.59 Lerwick is the principal commercial port for Shetland and a key component in the islands economy. It is a deep-water port which is open to shipping in all weathers and supports the oil and gas industry, large cargo ships and fishing and leisure activities[283]

5.3.60 Scalloway port is located for servicing oil related shipping in the west of Shetland oil fields and accommodates freight and commercial fishing activities[284]. It is only 50 miles from the Clair oil and gas field, 85 miles from the Schiehallion and Foinhaven oil fields and 180 miles from Aberdeen. 

5.3.61 There is a high concentration of anchorages in the Moray Firth and Shetland in the North East region reflecting the high sailing activity in the area. None of the anchorages overlap with the Plan Options. 

5.3.62 There are a few dredge disposal sites in the region. They are all close inshore and do not overlay the Plan Options. 

Figure 162: North East region: ports and harbours
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.63 There is a high level of shipping activity throughout the North East region (Figure 163), particularly in the southern extent, where shipping movements servicing the oil and gas industry and the offshore wind industry, including vessel movements to offshore platforms, are concentrated around Peterhead, Fraserburgh and moving north into the North East region from Aberdeen. In some areas the density of shipping is up to 100 vessel transits per week, particularly in those areas of high transit to offshore oil and gas platforms to the north east of Peterhead. The port services transit lines are a proxy for support to oil and gas platforms and show the importance of the area to the industry.

5.3.64 It is noted that there is also movement of large oil and gas platforms through the Moray Firth, particularly to Nigg where they are decommissioned. Any barrier effects caused by offshore wind development therefore have the potential to impact these large scale but low frequency movements.

5.3.65 In addition to shipping supporting the oil and gas industry there are high densities of shipping, up to 100 vessel transits per week, in the Moray Firth (Figure 163), including concentrations around Inverness and Cromarty Firth, and movements around the north coast related to cargo transport, with transit routes around the coastline and across Moray Firth from the Firth of Forth and ports to the south of the border in England.

5.3.66 DPO’s NE2, NE3, NE6, NE7 and NE8 are within the Eastern Ballast Water Exchange Area (EEA) – as stated in the approved Ballast Water Management Policy for Scapa Flow. Vessels using Scapa Flow are required to carrying out a minimum of three ballast water exchanges in the EEA prior to entry.

5.3.67 The main Shetland ferry route from Aberdeen transits through the North East region, intersecting NE6. This route corresponds with areas of high density (with up to 100 vessel transits per week) in Figure 163. There is a further ferry route linking Aberdeen to Orkney, transiting just to the west of NE2 and NE3.

5.3.68 The key routes around Shetland are mostly to the south of the islands, with ferry routes linking the islands with the mainland and Orkneys, and transport of key commodities to the islands, alongside passage routes east-west through the recommended routes to the north and south of Fair Isle. In addition, there is an area of high density transiting just to the north of the islands, connecting Denmark with the Faroe Islands and further onwards to Iceland. 

5.3.69 There is a large ATBA in the area surrounding the Shetland Islands, including a significant portion of overlap with Plan Option NE1, indicating that this region should be less important for commercial shipping.

5.3.70 AIS density data shows that the areas of highest density are close to the Islands, centred on the ports of Lerwick and Sullum Voe, and correlating with lifeline ferry services from the mainland (Aberdeen) and the Orkney Islands (Kirkwall). Ferry services and maritime transport are of high importance to the Shetland Islands, allowing for the import and export of key commodities, including importing the majority of the fruit and vegetables consumed on the islands.

Figure 163: North East region: shipping densities and key routes
Regional map of Scottish waters

Coastal and Flood Protection

5.3.71 There are very few areas of coastal or flood protection within the North East region, with two flood defence schemes constructed since 1961, one within the Moray Firth around Inverness and the other within Cromarty Firth (Figure 164).  

5.3.72 There are a number of further areas of hard defence around the coastline of the Moray Firth, the largest is well to the west of likely cable landfalls on the southern edge of Moray Firth, and the majority of the additional infrastructure is associated with ports and harbours throughout the coast in the North East region. 

5.3.73 There are no documented coastal or flood protection schemes constructed since 1961 for the Shetland Islands, with some limited hard defences associated with harbour facilities on the east coast of the Shetland Islands.

Figure 164: North East region: coastal and flood protection schemes
Regional map of Scottish waters

Marine and Coastal Recreation

5.3.74 Overall recreational activity in the North East region is shown in Figure 165. Most recreational activity occurs inshore of the Plan Options, although there is some potential interaction with sailing and cruising routes in the region. There is very little overlap between Plan Options and marine and coastal activities, however, there may be some overlap with low-level activity, particularly in NE2.

Figure 165: North East region: density of recreational activities
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.75 Recreational boating in the North East region is centred in the inner Moray Firth and the Shetland Islands which are important areas for sailing both domestically and internationally. Popular cruising routes connect the busy sailing areas of Moray Firth and Shetland with marinas in the northern part of the region such as Wick, Helmsdale and the Orkney Islands. There are many marinas, clubs and training centres along the coast (Figure 166). There is some overlap between Plan Options and boating activities including NE1, NE2, and greater numbers of transits at the southwestern boundary of NE4

5.3.76 The Shetland region has over 100 small islands and 900 miles of coastline making it the perfect sailing destination. There are marinas at Lerwick, Bressay, Scalloway and Skeld with other smaller pontoon facilities around the islands. Yachting is important for the Shetland’s economy. It holds numerous regattas as well as the Round Foula Race, Lerwick to Skeries Race and Shetland Race[285]

Figure 166: North East region: recreational boating facilities and recreational boating density (from 2015 AIS data)
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.77 The North East region offers a variety of locations for successful boat and shore angling (Figure 167). The most common catches include mackerel, coley, haddock and ling[286]. There are a number of charter boat companies on the islands operating in mostly inshore areas, with higher densities of activity around Fair Isle and to the north of the islands. Fraserburgh is also a popular location with good local beaches and Kinnaird head for shore fishing. The most common species to be caught from shore include cod, mackerel, plaice, pollock and trout. Haddock and conger are more likely to be caught off a boat. Banff has some prime shore fishing locations including; Banff harbour, Macduff Pier, Boyne Bay and Garness. Whiting and bass are two other common species caught here. Cromarty is another popular location.  There is some overlap between angling and NE2

Figure 167: North East region: sea angling (by boat) activity density
Regional map of Scottish waters

Scuba Diving

5.3.78 The North East region offers a variety of diving from shipwrecks to cold water corals. There are several dive centres and charter boats operating in the area which run regular boat and shore dives throughout the year. The underwater scenery and wildlife attract both underwater photographers and sports divers. The Orkney Islands (Scapa Flow) is one of the most popular diving locations in the UK, while the Shetland Islands, Moray Firth and populated areas like Fraserburgh and Peterhead are also popular locations (Figure 168).  The Shetland region offers a range of exciting dive sites with wrecks (e.g. 18th century Swedish East Indiaman and WW1 Steamship Gwladmena), caves, stacks and submerged cliffs. The only Plan Option that may overlap with reported diving sites is NE2, within which is the HMS Nessus. It is unlikely to be a regularly dived site, lying offshore in 67 m of water depth.  

Figure 168: North East region: scuba diving activity density
Regional map of Scottish waters

Kayaking and Canoeing

5.3.79 The majority of trips are close inshore. Kayaking and canoeing takes place at most spots along the west coast where there are suitable launching spots such as beaches and slipways (Figure 169). Available data indicate that no kayaking or canoeing activity occurs within any of the Plan Options in the North East region. 

Figure 169: North East region: canoeing and kayaking activity density
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.80 Fraserburgh is one of the most popular surfing locations in the North East region and regularly holds surf competitions and events such as the Scottish National Surfing Championships. Other popular locations include Banff, Sandend, Lossiemouth, Brora, Sinclairs Bay, Keiss and Bu Sands on the east cost of Orkney[287]. Shetland is exposed to swells from the Atlantic and North Sea meaning that it offers enjoyable surfing when conditions are right. Popular locations include Melby, Breckon, Gulberwick and Quendale Bay[288], although activity is low due to the remote nature of the islands (Figure 170). There is little windsurfing activity within the North East region (Figure 171).

Figure 170: North East region: surfing, surf kayaking and paddleboarding activity density
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 171: North East region: windsurfing and kitesurfing activity density
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.3.81 Tourist sites in the North East region  are concentrated along main routes (e.g. A9, A95, etc.), geographic features (e.g. Loch Ness) and the coast (Figure 172).  

5.3.82 There are a considerable number of natural, historic and coastal/maritime heritage attractions. They are reasonably evenly spread along the coast and include several coastal heritage museums, a historic ship and a couple of accessible heritage sites. 

5.3.83 The Shetland region is famous for its scenic landscape and interesting history with lots of activities that draw tourists to the islands. 

5.3.84 Tourism is important to the local economy on Shetland, particularly for small businesses on the islands. In 2017, around half of visitors went to Shetland for leisure and 35% for business. The profile of visitors was skewed to males (61%) and those over the age of 45 (66%). The number one reason that people chose to visit the area was due to its scenery and landscape (57%), followed by its history and culture (33%). The majority of visitors to Shetland were overnight visitors (93%)[289]

5.3.85 North east Scotland additionally has a significant number of designated bathing waters and seaside awards which are likely to be relevant when considering offshore renewables. There are also two designated Marine SACs: The Moray Firth and an offshore area at Scanner Pockmark. Both of these will need to be taken into account by the offshore renewables industry.

Figure 172: North East region: tourism activity density
Regional map of Scottish waters

Social Considerations

5.3.86 The total population of the North East region is approximately 693,100 using data for Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland and Shetland Islands council areas. The overall average age is 44 in the North East region. 18% of the population is under 16 years old, 60% of the population is of working age and 22% of the population is pension age[290]

5.3.87 In 2017 the employment rate for the mainland and Orkney part of the region was approximately 79%. The greatest number of jobs in the North East region are associated with public admin, education and health (28%). Other important industry sectors are distribution, hotels and restaurants (20%), and manufacturing (14%)[291].

5.3.88 Shetland experiences many issues that often hinder island development including a lack of employment opportunities, transport links and availability of affordable housing. Access in the Shetland region can be an issue for residents. If people are unable to run a private vehicle most opportunities to them are severely restricted (e.g. employment and leisure). The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) shows that most of the Shetland region is in the 5% most access deprived areas in Scotland[292]

5.3.89 In 2017 the employment rate in Shetland was 82.7%, down from the previous year at 86.6%[293]. Average income in 2016 was £650 per week[294]. The greatest number of jobs in Shetland are associated with public administration, education and health (30%). Other important industry sectors are distribution, hotels and restaurants (19%), and agriculture and fishing (10%). 

5.4 Environment

Designated Sites

5.4.1 Within the North East region the majority of designated sites are in coastal areas, with a small number of sites offshore or with offshore elements. As shown in Figure 173, Figure 174, Figure 175 and Figure 176 there are 11 NCMPAs, 33 SPAs (including 7 pSPAs), 11 SACs and 41 SSSIs in the North East region.

5.4.2 There are no designations within the North East region which overlap directly with the Plan Options.

5.4.3 SPAs are designated and proposed for designation around a considerable portion of the coastline landwards of the Plan Options in the North East region and are designated for a range of seabird features and assemblages. There are further SPAs designated within the North East region in the terrestrial environment. Some of the species designated within the terrestrial environment may have migration pathways which overlap the Plan Options. It is understood that the Pentland Firth pSPA, proposed for designation for Arctic skua, Arctic tern, guillemot and breeding seabird assemblages, and which extends out from the coastline to approximately 5km of NE3 is likely to be withdrawn. The Copinsay SPA, designated for fulmar, great black-backed gull, guillemot, kittiwake and breeding seabird assemblages, is to the west of the Plan Option NE2, within approximately 8km. 

5.4.4 Within the SPA and pSPA in Shetland there are both breeding and non-breeding seabird aggregations as well as SPA designated for terrestrial species, which have the potential to use the seas within the Plan Option for feeding and / or during migration. They are all concentrated around the islands, and as such there is no overlap between the SPA and the Plan Option. The closest SPA to the Plan Option is Noss SPA, 12km to the west of Plan Option NE1. Further detail on seabird species distribution is contained within the Birds section below.

5.4.5 The majority of the NCMPAs are coastal, two around the Orkney Islands (Papa Westray, designated for black guillemot and marine geomorphology features; and Wyre and Rousay Sounds, designated for kelp and seaweed communities, maerl beds and marine geomorphology features) and two on the east Caithness coast (Noss Head, designated for horse mussel beds; and East Caithness cliffs, designated for black guillemot). There is one proposed NCMPA (Southern Trench) which covers much of the north and west facing coastline from Buckie to Peterhead approximately 7 to 10km south of Plan Option NE6. It is proposed for designation for burrowed mud, fronts, minke whale, shelf deeps, quaternary of Scotland and submarine mass movement features. In addition, there is one research and development MPA designated at the northern extent of the region around Fair Isle.

5.4.6 There are relatively few marine SSAC designated within the North East region with three in the area of the Orkney Islands (Sanday, designated for harbour seal, intertidal mudflats and sandflats, reefs and subtidal sandbanks; Faray and Holm of Faray, designated for grey seal; and Loch of Stenness, designated for marine lagoons including marine mammals) and two in the Moray Firth (Moray Firth, designated for bottlenose dolphin and subtidal sandbanks; and Dornoch Firth and Morrich More, designated for Atlantic salt meadows and coastal dune heathland). There are a number of SAC designated for migratory fish in riverine environments. There is therefore potential for the migration routes of the diadromous fish to intersect the Plan Option.

5.4.7 The Pobie Bank Reef SAC, designated for Reef Habitat, is directly adjacent to the west of Plan Option NE1, between the Plan Option and the coast of the Shetland Islands. There are additional smaller SACs in coastal areas within the Shetland region designated for a range of features, including seals, marine mammals, lagoons, reef habitats and otters. There are no SACs for migratory fish within Shetland, however it is identified that there are migration routes (Figure 45 above in Section 2.3 shows the approximate routes, although should not be used to infer “safe” zones) which are likely to pass to both the east and west of the islands, and as such may pass through the Plan Options.

5.4.8 The 41 SSSI are located across the North East region and are protected for a range of features, including geology, habitats and species. Some, although not all, SSSI sites overlap with European SPA or SAC designations. 

5.4.9 In addition to the sites identified within the boundaries of the North East region, there may be more remote designated sites which may have the potential to be affected by offshore wind developments within the Plan Options. This would be considered on a project by project basis.

Figure 173: North East region: NCMPA sites
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 174: North East region: marine and coastal SAC sites
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 175: North East region: marine and coastal SSSI sites
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 176: North East region: marine and coastal SPA sites
Regional map of Scottish waters

Water Quality

5.4.10 WFD monitoring incorporates coastal and transitional waters in the marine environment. There are no overlaps between the Plan Options and classified water bodies within the North East region. Water bodies in the North East region are shown in Figure 177. All the coastal water bodies in the North East region were classified as either good or high status[295] at the last assessment in 2017.

5.4.11 There are areas of protected waters for shellfish production in the North region (Figure 178), all within coastal regions with no direct interaction with the Plan Options. The shellfish waters are classified against their target objectives, of the 24 shellfish waters, 15 are classified as not at target objective, the remainder are meeting target objectives. 

5.4.12 There are 12 classified bathing waters protected in the North East region (Figure 178), all on the east coast of the Scottish mainland. Of the 12 designated bathing waters, two are at excellent status, whilst the remainder are currently classified as either good or at target objective.

Figure 177: North East region: WFD coastal and transitional waterbody classifications
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 178: North East region: shellfish and bathing water protected areas
Regional map of Scottish waters

Benthic Habitats and Species

5.4.13 Benthic habitats in the North East region are highly varied with gravelly sediments to the south of the Shetland islands, and sandier sediments to the east and north, rocky substrate in the North-west around the Orkney Islands, sand and sandy gravel in the northern Moray Firth and muddy sediments within the southern Moray Firth and further offshore (Figure 179). The sediments within the Plan Options are roughly a function of distance from the coast, with the Plan Options closer to shore (NE2, NE3, NE4 and NE6) characterised by sandy sediments with some more gravelly elements, whereas those further offshore (NE7 and NE8) have more muddy elements alongside some sandy areas.

5.4.14 Areas of high biodiversity within the North East region are concentrated around the Orkney Islands, around the presence of sub-tidal rock habitats. Extending east from the Orkney Islands towards NE2 Plan Option there are records of the PMF fan mussels (Atrina fragilis). In addition, there are a number of records of ocean quahog around the North East region and directly overlapping Plan Options, including a high concentration of records to the North of and overlapping with Plan Options NE7 and NE8. There is additionally an area with numerous records of ocean quahog in the muddy sediments between the Plan Options further offshore in the North East region, as shown in Figure 180.

5.4.15 In addition to the PMFs present within the Plan Options there are PMFs supported by benthic habitats landwards of the Plan Options, including further ocean quahog, fan mussel and European spiny lobster. 

5.4.16 The main biodiversity interest tends to be concentrated around the island formations. Within the Pobie Bank Reef SAC, discussed above, there are high concentrations of PMFs, specifically northern seafan, deep sea sponge communities, and white cluster anemone, some of which may overlap into the western extent of NE1

5.4.17 There are currently no records of PMFs in the NE1, albeit that this may be an artefact of limited survey effort, with deep sea sponge aggregations associated with the Faroe-Shetland Channel to the north and west of the Plan Options and records of spiny lobster to the west of NE1.

Figure 179: North East region: Benthic habitats
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 180: North East region: records of benthic PMFs
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.4.18 There is generally lower species richness and diversity amongst the fish populations in the North East region, except for areas around the Shetland and Orkney Islands, in comparison to that found in the North and West regions. There are, however, several species within the region that are commercially important, as discussed in Section 5.3 above. 

5.4.19 There are migratory fish that migrate through the seas within the North East region into the estuary and riverine environments, including Atlantic salmon. The migration routes indicated for these species in Section 2.3 (Figure 45 show that there is potential for the routes to intersect with the Plan Options.

5.4.20 The seas around the Shetland Islands are widely used by shark species, with specifically identified high usage by porbeagle shark to the east and north of the islands and sightings of basking shark near the islands. The rest of the seas in the North East region generally have a lower usage by sharks than the West and North regions, again with some exceptions around the Orkney Islands, notably by porbeagle sharks. In addition, a number of species, including small numbers of basking sharks, rays and other shark species are known to frequent the region.

5.4.21 There are commercially important fish populations in Shetland. The Shetland Islands, encompassing a number of different habitats, from coastal habitats through to the deep sea in the north-west of the region, has a high number of fish species, their distribution largely related to water depth.  

5.4.22 There are expected to be migration routes for adult returning salmon to both the east and west of the Shetland Islands which may intersect Plan Option NE1 (Figure 45 shows the approximate routes, although should not be used to infer “safe” zones).

5.4.23 The North East region also has important spawning grounds for cod, whiting, ling, plaice and sandeels and important nursery grounds for spurdog, tope, common skate, thornback ray, spotted ray, herring, cod, whiting, blue whiting, hake, anglerfish, sandeels, mackerel and plaice[296]

Marine Mammals

5.4.24 Seas within the North East region are used by a variety of marine mammal species, including grey and harbour seal, harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin, white-beaked dolphin and minke whale.

5.4.25 Grey seal usage within the North East region is generally offshore, and is concentrated towards the significant breeding populations in the Orkney islands, as shown in Figure 181. The proximity of the Plan Options to the populations in the Orkney Islands suggests that there is likely to be considerable overlap between the Plan Options, particularly NE2, NE3 and NE6 and areas of high usage density, shown as modelled by the Sea Mammal Research Unit on Figure 182[297]. The Shetland islands are of less importance to grey seals, with considerably lower breeding populations compared to colonies in the Orkney Islands and the Outer Hebrides. However, there are still hotspots of grey seal at sea usage, shown in Figure 182, around the islands with some low-level usage likely in Plan Option NE1

5.4.26 Harbour seal usage, generally lower than for grey seals in the North East region, is concentrated around the breeding colonies within the Moray Firth and the Shetland and Orkney Islands, with foraging activity modelled to be further inshore than that for the grey seals and therefore little or no interaction with the Plan Option further offshore. 

5.4.27 Harbour seal colonies on Shetland underwent a period of decline from 2000-2009, with populations decreasing by approximately 30 % over that period. The most recent counts, however, indicate a slight recovery, with an increase of approximately 10 % between 2009 and 2015. The 2015 population count in 2015 was 3,369[298]. Figure 183 shows that there is some low-level at-sea usage overlapping with NE1

5.4.28 Fewer cetacean species use the seas in the North East region compared with the species diversity on the west coast. However, the North East region is considered to be important for minke whale, as demonstrated by the inclusion of minke whale as a feature in the proposed designation of the Southern Trench MPA. There are also high encounter rates for harbour porpoise throughout the North East region, including throughout the Plan Options; and bottlenose dolphin concentrated in the southern extent of the Moray Firth.

5.4.29 Cetacean usage of the seas around the Shetland Islands is generally concentrated to the west of the islands, with the exception of harbour porpoise populations, for which high encounter rates are observed throughout the islands. Other cetaceans known to extensively use the seas around the Shetland Islands include minke whale, white beaked dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, killer whale and sperm whale[299].

5.4.30 There are areas within the North East region which are known to be used by otters (Yell Sound, Dornoch Firth and River Spey). Neither of these areas overlap with Plan Options, however, there is potential for landfall of cables in the vicinity of the River Spey.

Figure 181: North East region: seal haulout sites and grey seal pupping sites
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 182: North East region: grey seal at sea usage
Regional map of Scottish waters
Figure 183: North East region: harbour seal at sea usage
Regional map of Scottish waters


5.4.31 The importance of the North East region to birds is demonstrated in the designation of 26 of SPAs and the further 7 proposed SPAs with marine elements with additional terrestrial sites, as discussed above. 

5.4.32 There are both breeding and non-breeding populations of a wide variety of seabirds in the North East region. A number of significant seabird colonies are found around the coastlines, particularly on the Shetland and Orkney Islands and in the North East Caithness cliffs. 

5.4.33 The majority of the seabird colonies within the North East region are reviewed as part of the SPA management process, and in the majority of SPA the overall condition of the seabird or waterbird assemblages, with the exception of the Shetland SPA and Troup, Pennan and Lion's Heads SPA, are assessed as favourable. However, at an individual species level a number of species are identified as being in unfavourable condition, and therefore management measures are in place to reduce pressure on these species. Species of importance in the North East region include herring gull, razorbill, kittiwake, puffin, fulmar, guillemot, shag, cormorant and great black-backed gull, in addition to a number of terrestrial (including osprey and peregrine falcon) or waterbird species. Wakefield et al[300] identify that the North East region, in particular the area of sea to the south and east of the Orkney Islands and the Moray Firth are utilised by considerable numbers of seabirds, although usage is high throughout the coastal areas throughout the region. The areas of high usage identified in the multi-species analysis within the study correspond with the areas of high recording shown in Figure 184. Seabird usage of the seas to the east, further offshore is assessed as being lower.

5.4.34 Species of importance on the Shetland Islands include Arctic skua, Arctic tern, dunlin, fulmar, great skua, red-necked phalarope, whimbrel, red throated diver, kittiwake, puffin, guillemot and gannets. Wakefield et al[301] identify that the Shetland region, in particular the area of sea immediately adjacent to the Shetland Islands are utilised by considerable numbers of seabirds. Seabird usage of the seas to the north of the islands is assessed as being lower.

5.4.35 Figure 184 maps the total records of birds recorded in the marine environment in the North East region. Whilst the data mapped has not been corrected for survey effort, it highlights areas of high importance, particularly in the Moray Firth and inshore waters to the east of the Shetland Islands, although recordings are high in coastal areas across the North East region. Within the Moray Firth areas of high recordings overlap with Plan Option NE4, and scattered areas of medium to high usage in NE2, NE3 and NE6. There are hotspots associated with the colonies in the south of the Shetland Islands, and the Sumburgh Head SPA site, and areas of high recordings overlap into the south-eastern extent of Plan Option NE1

5.4.36 Bias within the data presented on Figure 184 from survey effort is evident in the higher concentrations of seabirds observed near key shipping routes, therefore the apparent areas of lower concentration around the remaining Plan Option may be artificially lower due to comparatively lower survey effort. 

5.4.37 In addition, there are also a number of coastal areas identified as either IBA or RSPB reserves in the North East region, concentrated around the Shetlands, Firths of Dornoch, Cromarty and Moray (Figure 184).

5.4.38 In addition to breeding populations within the North East region, terrestrial and seabird bird species are known transit the area as migratory species, both during day and night-time.

Figure 184: North East region: ESAS records per 0.1 degree cell
Regional map of Scottish waters

Cultural Heritage

5.4.39 There is one Historic MPA designated in the North East region. It is in Shetland and is associated with two historic shipwrecks around the Out Skerries archipelago. There are also several scheduled monuments (including protected wrecks) around the Shetland Islands. Those in the marine environment are concentrated around the coast and include a wide range of historically significant buildings, shipwreck and structures. 

5.4.40 There are eight shipwrecks designated for the protection of military remains. These shipwrecks are distributed throughout the North East region both in inshore and offshore areas. There is one protected site within NE4 (HMS Lynx) and one protected site just to the northeast of the boundary of NE4 (HMS Exmouth).  In addition, the HMS Duke of Albany lies within 1km of the south-western corner of Plan Option NE2.  There are numerous other shipwrecks distributed throughout the North East region, both within and outwith the Plan Options. 

5.4.41 Within the North East region there are areas within the Moray Firth, particularly off the North Aberdeenshire coast which have the potential to be examples of palaeolandscapes (landscapes which have become submerged following occupation by hominids), There is therefore potential that there may be culturally significant archaeological remains in these areas. Further assessment on a smaller scale would be required on a project by project basis.

5.4.42 In addition to the Historic MPA, there are a number of scheduled monuments (included protected wrecks) within the Shetland region. Those in the marine environment are concentrated around the coast and include a wide range of historically significant buildings, shipwrecks and structures. There is one shipwreck designated for the protection of military remains, close to land off the coast of Unst. There is no overlap of protected sites and the Plan Options.  There are numerous other shipwrecks distributed throughout the North region, both within and outwith the Plan Options. 

Landscape / Seascape

5.4.43 Within the North East region, landscapes and seascapes are considered to be less sensitive in comparison to the North and West regions. There is a NSA, in Dornoch Firth, which considers expansive sea views to the east. There is another NSA in Shetland, broken into a number of specific areas with coastal elements. The coastlines within the Shetland NSA are predominantly west facing, and therefore seascapes are away from NE1

5.4.44 Highland Council has identified SLAs within the North East region, identifying coastline within the Moray Firth facing towards the Plan Options, however these are to the north-west of the Plan Options and therefore views of the Plan Options would likely be blocked by the currently planned Moray West and Moray East windfarms. Aberdeenshire Council produced a Landscape Capacity Assessment for Wind Energy[302] for its area of responsibility, identifying several areas with no capacity for additional development, however this only considered future onshore wind development.

5.4.45 When considering the sensitivity of the coastline Scott et al[303] identified that the coastline within the North East region associated with mainland Scotland is all medium or low to medium sensitivity, due to the simple landform and general absence of focal features. This contrasts with the assessment associated with the sensitivity of the coastline in the north of the region around the Orkney Islands which is classed as medium to high sensitivity due to the relatively low lying land and complex patterns of land and sea.

5.4.46 No specific assessment of landscape or seascape character has been undertaken on the coastline within the Shetland region. However, the low population density in the Shetland region means that most of the coastline can be considered to be isolated, and Scott et al.[304] identifies that there is a varied coastline in the area, with intricacies that would potentially be affected  if development were to occur. All coastlines facing towards the Plan Options are assessed by Scott et al. to be of medium to high sensitivity.

5.5 Planning Issues

5.5.1 There are five local authorities with coastal interests within the North East region: 

  • Highland,
  • Orkney Islands,
  • Moray, 
  • Aberdeenshire, and
  • Shetland Islands.

5.5.2 Orkney Islands Council has developed a sustainable energy strategy[305] and LDP[306] for the islands, both of which consider the potential for renewable energy generation. This includes the development of supply chains to support industry, particularly considering wave and tidal stream energy projects and onshore wind, although it notes that onshore infrastructure required for offshore marine renewable energy developments will be supported where it is demonstrated that it will not result in significant adverse effects.  There is no stated position on the potential for offshore wind development around the islands, with current focus on onshore wind.

5.5.3 The Highland Council has considered the potential for offshore wind within its area, identifying moderate potential for offshore wind within the West region in their region of responsibility around Skye. 

5.5.4 Moray Council has considered the potential for the development of supply chain within its area of responsibility, specifically identifying Buckie Harbour as having the potential to accommodate an onshore operations and maintenance base to support offshore wind development[307].

5.5.5 Aberdeenshire Council in 2004[308] identified that the 250km coastline in the region offered unexplored potential for offshore wind, however there is no further guidance or consideration of offshore wind in documentation with the exception of considering siting for substations.

5.5.6 Shetland Islands Council has produced a Renewable Energy Development Plan, which identifies the potential for, and the potential impacts of the future onshore wind development[309], with focus on the expansion and development of currently developed land. There are no specific plans included in the Shetland LDP[310] regarding the siting of offshore wind in proximity to the islands. 



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