Scotland – Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters
Under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 the government has opted to retain planning authority with central government ministers. MSP drafting work is delegated to a number of advisory Marine Planning Partnerships (MPPs) set up in each of several Scottish Marine Regions covering the whole country. The MPPs will be staffed with representatives from Marine Scotland, adjacent local authorities, and possibly other stakeholders. The MPPs will draft the regional MSPs in an advisory capacity to Ministers who will make the decision. A National Marine Plan (NMP) will define general goals. Once the Minister approves a regional spatial plan as the statutory plan, all development and licensing decisions must be made in accordance with it. It will be reviewed every five years. There will be links with terrestrial planning in the adjacent coastal areas. Non-statutory sectoral marine plans will be published to assist planners, developers and stakeholders.
The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area is identified as an environment of exceptionally high wave and tidal energy. It is defined by the 12-nautical mile territorial sea limits to the north, east and west of Orkney and by the coast of the Scottish mainland to the south. It has the additional advantage of being close to places where operations and support infrastructure can reasonably be constructed, including the means to export the power produced.
The Scottish Government started work on a non-statutory pilot plan in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area in 2008. It was made urgent by the decision of the Crown Estate Commissioners to invite bids for seabed leases from renewable energy developers that would speed the process of development and define spatial areas for wave and tidal devices. The pilot will have to stand in for the statutory plan that is unlikely to be completed until 2016 or later. The preparation of the pilot is a three-stage process. Stage 1 comprised a series of baseline studies and the collection and mapping of all the available data. The report was published by Marine Scotland. Significant gaps in data were identified and a number of additional studies are being made under Stage 2. The pilot should be published later in 2012 or 2013 as Stage 3. Public information events and informal consultations with stakeholders have been undertaken. Formal consultations will begin just prior to Stage 3.
The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters pilot plan is the first comprehensive marine spatial plan in Scotland and has the official purpose of supporting the marine licensing process. It is being prepared in advance of the statutory plan and will temporarily substitute for it. It is informed by experience elsewhere and by a previous series of pilot plans made under the SSMEI, the Scottish Sustainable Marine EnvironmentInitiative. These pilots were made at four sites between 2002 – 2010 (Shetland, Sound of Mull, Firth of Clyde and Berwickshire Coast) by local voluntary or council organizations with funding mainly from the central government, the Crown Estate and Scottish Natural Heritage. These are pilot plans designed to identify issues and test possible process. They have used international experience of MSP to look at what exists and to consider development policies for the future. They are not sites under immediate development pressure.
Similarly with previous experience of MSP in marine reserves and in Europe; the plans have looked at what exists and set policies for future development. In some cases they have been concerned with locating large but discrete offshore wind farms. ThePentland Firth and Orkney Waters stands out because of the sudden and concentrated development of a relatively pristine area with the potential for very large impact on local communities. The market has been invited to define the spatial area for development in advance of planning. The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters pilot plan will be the instrument that informs the licensing process for each of the developments. It has real and immediate purpose.
A similar situation of sudden and concentrated marine development occurred in Shetland in the 1970s. Shetland was then awarded special powers to manage the marine environment and help the islands respond to the challenges brought about by North Sea oil. The powers remain in place and control all activities in Shetland waters.
The decision to deploy wave and tidal devices in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters preceded MSP. Licenses have yet to be granted, but the momentum of development within the designated areas may be unstoppable.