6.1.8. Proposed Approach to the Environmental Impact Assessment

  1. The methodology set out in section 4 will be followed when preparing the Benthic Subtidal Ecology chapter of the Array EIA Report. The following guidance documents will also be considered with regard to benthic subtidal ecology:
  • Refining the criteria for defining areas with a ‘low resemblance’ to Annex I stony reef (Golding, 2020);
  • Guidelines for EcIA in the UK and Ireland. Terrestrial, Freshwater and Coastal (Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), 2019);
  • Guidance on Environmental Considerations for Offshore Wind Farm Development (OSPAR, 2008);
  • Best methods for identifying and evaluating Sabellaria spinulosa and cobble reef (Limpenny et al., 2010);
  • Defining and Managing Sabellaria spinulosa Reefs (Gubbay, 2007);
  • Identification of the Main Characteristics of Stony Reef Habitats under the Habitats Directive (Irving, 2009);
  • SNH (now NatureScot) guidance: Guidance on Survey and Monitoring in Relation to Marine Renewables Deployments in Scotland – Volume 5: Benthic Habitats (Saunders et al., 2011); and
  • Guidelines for data acquisition to support marine environmental assessments of offshore renewable energy projects (Judd, 2012).
  1. Specific to marine ecology, the CIEEM (2019) guidelines will be followed in order to identify important ecological features (IEFs). Assessments of the identified IEFs will be presented in the baseline characterisation of each relevant technical section. To reflect topic specific interests, the CIEEM (2019) guidelines will be used to produce criteria defining the value of each IEF and will include specific consideration of PMFs within the benthic subtidal ecology study area. Regarding the characterisation of the benthic subtidal ecology baseline, FeAST will be utilised to inform the sensitivity of benthic receptors in the impact assessment section of the Benthic Subtidal Ecology chapter of the Array EIA Report.
  2. A detailed baseline characterisation of the Array will be presented in the Benthic Subtidal Ecology Technical Report, which will expand on the high-level baseline characterisation presented in this Scoping Report (see Appendix 6). The Benthic Subtidal Ecology Technical Report will use site-specific survey data and the most recent desktop sources which are briefly summarised in this Scoping Report (see Appendix 6 for further details). This report will inform the Benthic Subtidal Ecology chapter of the Array EIA Report. 

6.1.9. Potential Cumulative Effects

  1. There is potential for the predicted impacts to interact with those from other activities in the regional benthic subtidal ecology study area (including the Proposed offshore export cable corridor(s) and Proposed onshore export cable corridor(s)), and result in cumulative effects on benthic subtidal ecology. However, the predicted effects from the Array on benthic receptors are considered to be localised to within the footprint of the Array. The approach to the cumulative effects assessment is presented in section 4.3.7.

6.1.10. Potential Transboundary Impacts

  1. Appendix 3 presents the transboundary impacts screening which has been carried out for the Array. This screening exercise identified that there is no potential for transboundary impacts upon benthic subtidal ecology due to construction, operational and maintenance, and decommissioning of the Array.

6.1.11. Scoping Questions to Consultees

  • Do you agree with the two study areas presented for benthic subtidal ecology?
  • Do you agree that the existing data available to describe the benthic subtidal ecology baseline remains sufficient to describe the physical environment in relation to the Array? Are there any further desktop datasets which you would recommend are included?
  • Do you agree that all potential impacts ( Table 6.2   Open ▸ ) have been identified for benthic subtidal ecology?
  • Do you agree that the designed in measures described provide a suitable means for managing and mitigating the potential effects of the Array on the benthic receptors?
  • Do you agree that the identified impacts in Table 6.5   Open ▸ should be scoped out of the Array EIA Report?

6.1.12. Next Steps

  1. The topic specific next step is to agree upon the assessment approach for benthic subtidal ecology and the potential impacts that will be assessed during the EIA process. This includes presenting the sensitivities of the receptors that will be used in the assessment to stakeholders. These impacts will be quantified using an MDS.
  2. In the event that any impacts cannot be quantitively assessed, they will be discussed with key stakeholders. The process for post-Scoping consultation is presented in the dSEP in Appendix 1. It is expected that post-Scoping consultation with regard to benthic subtidal ecology will be limited.