The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires certain Plans, Programmes and Strategies (PPS) to undergo Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
SEA is a systematic process for evaluating the environmental implications of a PPS. It allows environmental effects, including cumulative effects, to be identified and addressed at the earliest stage of decision making. It ensures that, at various points in the preparation process, expert views are sought from the consultation authorities: NatureScot, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Historic Environment Scotland. It also provides opportunities for public participation in decision-making.
SEA is a multi-stage process involving Screening, Scoping, preparation of an Environmental Report, preparation of a Post-adoption Statement and ongoing Monitoring.
The Orkney Islands Regional Marine Plan (OIRMP) has undergone a screening assessment and the findings indicate that implementation of the OIRMP has potential to cause significant environmental effects. A Screening Determination has therefore been prepared which confirms that a full SEA will be undertaken in parallel with preparation of the OIRMP.
The Scoping Report will set out the level of detail that is to be provided in the assessment, along with an outline of relevant background information about the environment and proposed consultation periods of the SEA. The Report will be sent to the Consultation Authorities for their consideration.
Once the scope of the SEA has been agreed, assessment will be undertaken in parallel with preparation of the OIRMP and the findings presented in an Environmental Report. The Environmental Report will be released for public consultation along with the draft OIRMP.
Following consultation, a Post-adoption Statement will summarise the findings of the environmental assessment and how consultees’ comments on the Environmental Report have been taken into account. Once the OIRMP has been approved and adopted by Marine Scotland the Statement will be made available on the OIC website.
Monitoring throughout the lifetime of the OIRMP can highlight a need to take remedial action to avoid or mitigate any adverse environmental effects arising from its implementation.
Several sites in Orkney, including coastal and marine areas, are designated as Special Protection Areas for birds, or Special Areas for Conservation due to the presence of certain habitats and species. These are internationally important and are collectively known as European sites.
Article 6(3) of the EC Habitats Directive requires that any plan (or project), which is not directly connected with, or necessary to, the management of a European site but would be likely to have a significant effect on such a site, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to an ‘appropriate assessment’ of its implications for the European site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. The plan-making body shall agree to the plan only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned, unless in exceptional circumstances the provisions of Article 6(4) are met.
This procedure is applied in Scotland through The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended), and is known as the Habitats Regulations Appraisal of plans.
The Orkney Islands Regional Marine Plan will include policy on European sites, which will be used to determine development proposals and activities; therefore, it will undergo a Habitats Regulations Appraisal in consultation with NatureScot, Scotland’s nature agency, and Marine Scotland.