It seems logical, when considering the main mode of operation of marine renewables, to surmise that they must present a significant possibility of disruption of the status quo in the immediate locale, and by a number of different means. Consequently it would be a great nuisance, one may suppose, perhaps even treacherous, if there were no rules governing the deployment of substantial infrastructure.
There are many bodies in place for that reason, to ensure that any developers/electricity generators upset as few areas as possible during deployment and subsequent operation of any such plant. While some rules may be obvious - for instance ensuring humble fisherman are not forced to traverse an extra 30 miles to reach a port that once was 3 miles away - many may not realise that there is a good chance they may also be obliged to facilitate refuge in any piled structure if said fishermen get into distress.
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With this in mind the following information has been prepared to help build up a picture of the procedures or steps required before physical deployment can go ahead, coupled with mandatory requirements, legislation and obligations.
There are a number of agencies and bodies that must form part of the consultation process when determining the feasibility of deploying renewables, and as a result the consent process can be fairly convoluted and ambiguous. Firstly an overview will be presented on the most authoritative of these bodies, and the scope of their involvement in any consultation.
This information is the culmination of research taken from relevant websites or publications, or gleaned from direct contact with the various institutions themselves. It should also be noted that there may be other organisations that must be consulted on a site specific basis, such as particular sea users etc., but where applicable it will be safe to assume that a developer will be pointed in the right direction by local authorities and so forth. The following information also applies more specifically to Scottish developments, as some bodies exist as distinct entities under a different name in England, Ireland and Wales.
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It would be most pertinent as a developer when considering potential sites to exclude the greatest number in one go, to whittle down the feasible areas with the least effort. It is recommended therefore that the site selection process (as detailed in the methodology) primarily focuses on sites which are immediately off-limits. For instance, some important criteria are:
- Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive. Since 2002, the identification of SACs in UK offshore waters has become a part of Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s (JNCC)
- Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) designated by SNH in Scotland and derived from the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (amended 1985).
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as defined most likely by Scottish Natural Heritage for instance
- Marine Parks. A fairly new scheme and as yet may not have been fully implemented, but are certainly an option regarding generic conservation. Possibly remit of SNH.
- Areas of international navigation: that is if a planned site will interfere with international navigation it will immediately be rejected.
- Ministry of Defence (MoD) specific estates or testing areas (submarines in particular). Also the MoD is one of the biggest landowners in the UK (1% landmass), which should be considered when planning infrastructure. Guidance can be sought at www.defence-estates.mod.uk
While in themselves, the existence and intended use of above areas might not constitute a planning rejection outright due to case by case characteristics, it is important to be aware that they will pose a significant hindrance to deployment. The balance therefore may be defined in terms of timescale for consultancy, consent, compromise and alterations to approach.
A question worth pondering will be: “are these extra difficulties worth it in the long run?” The information concerning the areas mentioned above is generally in the public domain and a CD-ROM with some this information was sourced from the UK Hydrographic Office.
Similarly it has been noted that many Scottish sites with some
of the fastest flowing tidal currents may contain the most diverse
sea life, rendering those locations potentially off-limits as
well (a specific rejection will be encountered on a site by site
basis in these cases).
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