Offshore Renewables - Guidance on Assessing the Impact on Coastal Landscape and Seascape: Guidance for Scoping an Environmental Statement


Title: Offshore Renewables - Guidance on Assessing the Impact on Coastal Landscape and Seascape: Guidance for Scoping an Environmental Statement
Publication Date:
March 01, 2012
Pages: 48

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Scottish Natural Heritage (2012). Offshore Renewables - Guidance on Assessing the Impact on Coastal Landscape and Seascape: Guidance for Scoping an Environmental Statement. Report by Scottish Natural Heritage. pp 48.

1.1 Scotland’s coast is highly regarded on account of its diverse character and the recreational opportunities it offers. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) highlights its international and national importance, and the need to ensure sustainable development through coastal and marine planning.


1.2 There is huge potential for harvesting wind, wave and tidal energy from our surrounding seas, and a growing interest in securing these renewable resources. This guidance supplements SNH’s Marine Renewables Statement which recognises 'if sensitively designed and sited, marine renewables have the potential to have a lesser adverse effect than land-based renewable developments of a comparable capacity. Offshore wave and tidal stream generators appear to have the potential to make least impact.' Our interests lie in securing offshore renewables that are well designed and sited, so that they contribute positively to our social, economic, cultural and environmental needs.


1.3 Marine renewable energy developments raise a range of natural heritage issues that require assessment. These include landscape character, visual amenity and recreation in respect to both land (the coast) and sea (seascapes). This note provides guidance on the issues to be considered in a Seascape, a Landscape and Visual Impact assessment (SLVIA) within an Environmental Statement (ES), in the interests of developing and achieving good practice.


1.4 The Guidance seeks to:


  • draw attention to existing relevant guidance,
  • suggest where existing guidance (for terrestrial development) can be critically applied and may assist in assessment of developments in the marine environment,
  • explain the scope of necessary work and suggest some outputs to support an adequate SLVIA for offshore renewables.


This guidance solely relates to the offshore elements of an offshore renewable project. Other guidance is available for consideration of onshore ancillary works.


1.5 The Guidance is aimed at developers and consultants undertaking the assessment of offshore renewables as part of an Environmental Impact Assessment, as well as SNH and local authority staff who have to advise and comment on the process. It should also be of use to Marine Scotland (as consenting authority) and may be useful for other consultees.


1.6 It may also be of use in assessing the impacts of smaller renewable energy schemes (that do not require formal EIA) on, or adjacent to, our shores.


1.7 Offshore renewables are as yet a relatively recent development, with many technologies in their infancy and existing only at test sites. Good practice in the assessment of offshore renewables will evolve over time as we gain knowledge and experience of them. As our understanding of the issues relevant to the assessment of marine renewable energy developments improves, this note will be reviewed and updated.


Seascapes and coastal landscapes


1.8 ‘Seascapes’ refers to ‘an area, as perceived by people, from land, sea or air, where the sea is a key element of the physical environment’. The term is commonly used and is included within the definition of landscape contained within the European Landscape Convention.


1.9 Innovative work in defining seascapes, undertaken by the Countryside Commission for Wales was developed further in a SNH research project. Both studies recognise that the coast is a significant part of the seascape, its characteristics affect seascape character and dominate how most people experience a marine development. The immediate hinterland (the landscape immediately adjacent to the coast) may also affect how we experience a marine development. Defining the character of the coast and its relationship with both its hinterland and the sea is an important aspect of the assessment process for offshore renewables.


1.10 A succinct definition of seascape is the visual and physical conjunction of land and sea which combines maritime, coast and hinterland character (Alison Grant, SNH 2007, SNH 2008). Without exception ‘seascape’ will exist in a coastal landscape context and influence its character. This approach has been adopted in Department of Trade and Industry Guidance which notes that every seascape comprises three components:


  • the seaward = an area of sea
  • the coastline = a length of coastline
  • the landward = an area of land


This is the meaning applied within this guidance, where seascape refers to an offshore area of sea and its relationship to the land.


1.12 In this guidance, inshore waters – Scottish Territorial Waters – comprise the ‘seascape’ belonging to the coastal zone. These extend to 12 miles offshore. As an example, Robin Rigg, the first offshore windfarm to be built, lies within this limit and within the ‘Inner’ Solway Firth. For the purposes of assessing offshore renewables, any development in/at sea within inshore waters will influence the character of the coastline, the sea and may, depending on the hinterland influence its landscape and visual character.


1.13 Offshore renewable schemes are also planned for waters further off our coasts. Where this is the case it is still relevant to assess their likely impacts on the coastal zone and hinterland. Even within offshore waters there are likely coastal and landscape impacts, due to their potential visibility. For some explanation of this see SNH Commissioned Report 103, (2005), para 2.4 and Appendix B.


1.14 The term SLVIA is commonly used to refer to Seascape, Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment. It is used in this guidance but it must be emphasised that the process of LVIA – Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment remains the accepted methodology underpinning the assessment.


Acknowledgement: This article was identified by the Crown Estate Wave and Tidal Knowledge Network.

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