1. Audit of Post-Scoping Discussions

1.1. Introduction

  1. Berwick Bank Wind Farm Limited (BBWFL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of SSE Renewables Limited and will hereafter be referred to as ‘the Applicant’. The Applicant is developing the Berwick Bank Wind Farm (hereafter referred to as ‘the Project’).
  1. The Project is a proposed offshore wind farm located in the outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay, approximately 37.8 km east of the Scottish Borders coastline (St. Abb’s Head) and 47.6 km to the East Lothian coastline. The Project is comprised of both the offshore and onshore infrastructure required to generate and transmit electricity from the Proposed Development array area to a Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) 400 kV Grid Substation located at Branxton, south-east of Torness Power station. The offshore export cables will make landfall on the East Lothian coast, specifically at Skateraw.
  2. The offshore components of the Project (hereafter referred to as the ‘Proposed Development’) which are the focus of this document, include the offshore wind farm (the wind turbines, their foundations and associated inter-array cabling), together with associated transmission infrastructure including Offshore Substation Platforms (OSPs)/Offshore convertor station platforms, their foundations and the offshore export cables and cable protection.

1.2. Purpose of this Document

  1. An Offshore Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report has been produced for the Proposed Development. The Offshore EIA Report contains various provisions to document consultation with statutory consultees and other stakeholders. Each topic chapter of the Offshore EIA Report details topic specific consultation undertaken. Consultation is also reported in-:

1.3. Scope of the Audit Document

  1. The distinct and specific scope of the Audit Document is:
  • post-scoping discussions (i.e. those that took place between the publication of the 2022 Scoping Opinion and submission of the Proposed Development Application (November 2022);
  • key concerns or matters which were highlighted in the 2022 Scoping Opinion as needing further discussions, or resulted in such;
  • Proposed Development refinements or clarifications that took place or were agreed subsequent to the 2022 Scoping Opinion being published; and
  • matters for which an alternative approach is being taken by the Applicant from the position set out by MS-LOT in the 2022 Scoping Opinion.
    1. For all the above aspects, the Audit Document is expected to provide detailed accounts of key discussions on the scope of the EIA including the nature of agreements on approach and how/where it was agreed, dated, and evidence of the relevant meeting or correspondence. As such, the Audit Document should act as a consolidated account of how Scoping Advice (from the 2022 Scoping Opinion) has been incorporated into the Applicant’s assessments, subject to further discussion and development. MS-LOT has confirmed that this Audit Document will be published with the Application (volume 1, chapter 5, appendix 5.1).
    1. The scope of the Audit Document extends to the Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) process for the Proposed Deployment, despite this having its own bespoke consultation process and reporting. The Audit Document will only audit key discussions where a resolution was not reached, or was reached after notable exchanges, otherwise, where it is considered the position may not be clear. Accordingly, detail is not provided on every point raised during Road Map discussions and non-contentious actions can be assumed to have been actioned, as requested. To enable the Application documents to be finalised, a cut-off date of 01 November 2022 has been applied; post-scoping discussions subsequent to this date may continue post-application but may not be captured within this Audit Document.
    1. To balance the requirement for a concise audit and detailed account of agreements and communications utilised in assessments, the Audit Document is structure as follows:-
  • section 1: introduction and scope;
  • section 2: tabulated summary of key discussions points and headline outcomes; and
  • section 3: detail on post-scoping discussions and cross references to supporting documents provided for key discussion points for each topic group considered in the Offshore EIA Report and HRA process.

2. Overview of Post-Scoping Discussions

Table 2.1:
Overview of Post-Scoping Advice and Outcomes of Key Discussions that Took Place Between the Publication of the 2022 Scoping Opinion and Submission of the Application

Table 2.1: Overview of Post-Scoping Advice and Outcomes of Key Discussions that Took Place Between the Publication of the 2022 Scoping Opinion and Submission of the Application

3. Detail on Post-Scoping Discussions

3.1. General/Overarching

3.1.1      Cambois Connection

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion the Scottish Ministers view plans for an additional offshore cable corridor (known in October 2022 as the ‘Cambois connection’) as a necessary and integral part of the Proposed Development. Accordingly, the Applicant was advised to submit an Offshore EIA Report (and coinciding Application) for the Proposed Development which included the Cambois connection (see paragraph 2.4.1).
  1. In subsequent face-to-face meetings with MS-LOT and via a letter dated 4 April 2022, the Applicant provided detailed information to MS-LOT on the offshore transmission assets for the Proposed Development to support its position that the additional cable is not an integral, necessary part of the Proposed Development. In June 2022, MS-LOT confirmed by return letter, with reference to the clarifications provided, that Scottish Ministers understand that the additional cable (Cambois connection) is not an integral, necessary part of the Proposed Development. However, MS-LOT did advise that the Applicant must provide a sufficient CEA of the additional cable route within the Offshore EIA Report.
  2. Applications for the necessary consents for the Cambois connection (including marine licenses) will be applied for separately. The Cambois connection has been considered as a cumulative project within the CEAs reported within the Offshore EIA Report. CEAs are based on information in the Cambois connection Scoping Report (SSER, 2022e), published in November 2022.

3.1.2      Cumulative Assessment of Seagreen Projects

  1. During the bi-weekly call (between the Applicant, MS-LOT and NatureScot) on 11 Aug 2022, MS-LOT and NatureScot did not agree with the Applicant’s proposed approach to the consideration of Seagreen’s 150 consented wind turbines within the CEA. As the section 36 (s.36) consents for the component projects of Seagreen are under Seagreen Alpha and Bravo, MS-LOT and NatureScot proposed that the infrastructure be split across both consents (i.e. up to 75 wind turbines in each). The Applicant proposed that it should consider Seagreen 1 (114 turbines) and Seagreen Project 1A (36 wind turbines) separately as the component projects comprising Seagreen are progressing under different timeframes. The Applicant thereafter set out its proposed approach in an email to MS-LOT and NatureScot on 24 August 2022 as follows:-
  • Seagreen 1 - 114 wind turbines with export cables. Currently under construction (fully operational by the time the Proposed Development starts construction);
  • Seagreen Project 1A – 36 wind turbines. Due to commence construction as early as 2023 (potential temporal overlap with the construction phase of the Proposed Development; and
  • Seagreen 1A Export Cable Corridor - export cable for Seagreen Project 1A. Covered by a separate marine licence.
    1. MS-LOT confirmed a general contentment with the proposed approach by email on 24 August 2022. However, MS-LOT emphasised the need for the Applicant to clearly articulate which elements will be assessed under what ‘name’ within the Proposed Development Application. The Applicant has therefore undertaken the CEA allocating 114 and 36 wind turbines to the respective Seagreen projects (Seagreen 1 and Seagreen 1A Project) and provided clear exposition in the introduction chapter (volume 1, chapter 1) of the Offshore EIA Report.
    2. In its email of 24 August 2022, MS-LOT further highlighted the Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm Piling Strategy. As this is relevant to the underwater noise assessments, this is addressed in section 3.6

3.1.3      Digital Reports

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, MS-LOT advised further discussion and agreement with Marine Scotland on the approach to digitisation for the EIA Report(s). The Applicant responded by opening a consultation on the template for the digital EIA. The template was shared with stakeholders for comment between 3 May 2022 to 31 May 2022. This consultation resulted in two sets of comments from NatureScot (on 5 May 2022 and 31 May 2022) which have been actioned to improve usability. The scope of the documents being digitised has also been extended since the 2022 Scoping Opinion to include the HRA reports and a read-aloud mode addition for the EIA.

3.1.4      Mitigation and Monitoring

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, MS-LOT suggested that any embedded mitigation relied on should be clearly and accurately explained in detail within the Offshore EIA Report. The likely efficacy of the mitigation proposed should be explained with reference to residual effects. To address this request, the Applicant has developed the following outline plans that will be submitted with the Application:-
  • volume 4, appendix 22: Environmental Management Plan (EMP);
  • volume 4, appendix 22, annex A - Marine Pollution Contingency Plan (MPCP);
  • volume 4, appendix 22, annex B: Invasive Non-Native Species Management Plan (INNSMP);
  • volume 4, appendix 22, annex C: Scour Protection Management Plan (SCMP);
  • volume 4, appendix 23, Marine Mammal Mitigation Protocol (MMMP);
  • volume 4, appendix 24: Fisheries Management and Mitigation Strategy (FMMS);
  • volume 4, appendix 25: Navi Safety and Vessel Management Plan (NSVMP); and
  • volume 4, appendix 26, Aid to Navigation Management Plan (ANMP).
    1. The Applicant will provide the requested Cable Plan, Code of Construction Practice (CoCP), Decommissioning Plan, Piling Strategy, Cable Specification and Installation Plan when sufficient information on detailed design and construction methods is available post-consent. The Pollution Prevention Plan is considered to be covered by the EMP (volume 4, appendix 22).
    2. With respect to mitigation to reduce significant adverse effects, where this has been identified in chapters, the efficacy of these measures are discussed in detail. For example volume 2, chapter 10 provides a detailed discussion on Acoustic Deterrent Devices.
    3. MS-LOT further specifies that the Offshore EIA Report identifies and describes any proposed monitoring of significant adverse effects and how the results of such monitoring would be utilised to inform any necessary remedial actions.
    4. In most instances where commitments to monitoring have been made (e.g. for physical processes, benthic ecology and diadromous fish), the Applicant has not done so in response to a finding of significant adverse effects. Therefore, no mitigation has been proposed in view of significant adverse effects that would require monitoring to demonstrate or review its efficacy and, the requirement for adaptive management does not apply. As above, where mitigation has been applied in topic chapters a discussion as to its efficacy is provided in topic chapters.
    5. For offshore ornithology, detailed monitoring commitments will be agreed post consent at the Forth and Tay Regional Advisory Group – Ornithology (FTRAG-O) meetings and included in the Project Environmental Monitoring Plan (PEMP). Further details are included within volume 3, appendix 6.3.

3.2. Physical Processes

3.2.1      Issues Raised at Road Map Meetings

  1. The physical process topic group completed a Road Map Process which involves one Road Map Meeting (Road Map Meeting 3) which took place after the 2022 Scoping Opinion was published. The Applicant has identified five key issues raised, substantially from the following advice issued by email to the Applicant subsequent to Road Map Meeting 3:
  • 20 April 2022: NatureScot and JNCC joint advice to the Applicant following Road Map Meeting 3;
  • 25 August 2022: Applicant’s response to joint advice received 20 April 2022; and
  • 16 September 2022: further joint advice from NatureScot/the JNCC in response to the Applicant’s email of 25 August.
    1. The key post-scoping issues for physical processes concern:-
  • advice on data presentation, data limitations and potential secondary scour;
  • further discussion on hydrodynamic/hydro-sedimentary modelling (requested in 2022 Scoping Opinion);
  • comments on the scope of the Firth of Forth Banks Complex MPA Assessment;
  • issues around the potential re-exposure of cables and beach lowering; and
  • evidence to support the assessment of sand waves in particular in relation to sand wave recovery.
    1. Item 1 and 2 are considered to be satisfied by discussions at Road Map Meeting 3 and with reference to comments in NatureScot and JNCC joint advice of 16 September 2022. This indicated the information was useful subject to key issues 4 and 5. Item 3 is addressed in the Berwick Bank Wind Farm Marine Protected Area Assessment (SSER, 2022b) as confirmed (without prejudice) in NatureScot and JNCC’s joint advice regarding the review of the draft MPA Report. Key issues 4 and 5 are addressed below in section 3.2.3 and 3.2.2 respectively.

3.2.2      Sand wave Recovery

  1. Email exchanges between the Applicant and Road Map Meeting attendees (20 April 2022, 25 August 2022 and 16 September 2022) audit discussions around a request that the Applicant provide evidence that the sand waves are active, therefore able to dynamically reform either in-situ or by migration. Also that consideration is also given to the risk of a trenched cable being re-exposed due to the dynamics of migrating sand waves.
  2. The Applicant explains in its response of 25 August 2022, that the current modelling study was not designed or intended to examine the detailed sand wave mobility and longer-term morphology. Further, that modelling to examine the potential for changes in sand wave mobility and migration studies usually involve a combination of multiple geophysical surveys (i.e. current and historic) recorded over a reasonably long period. The Applicant was able to provide evidence for other industries that suggests that sand based sediments would be expected to occur gradually over a period of several years. Based on this expectation and geophysical survey data sand wave recovery is considered likely to occur and no significant effects are predicted in the EIA. Notwithstanding, the Applicant has made a commitment to monitor sand wave recovery following seabed clearance activities, with stakeholder agreement and address the limited data available for this area of research.
  1.       Potential re-exposure of cable
    1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion and subsequently in Road Map Meetings, MS-LOT has raised queries over the design decisions for cable burial particularly through areas of sand waves/mega ripples and whether at installation or in response to future re-exposure could disrupt the hydrodynamics that underpin the MPA features.
    2. The Applicant advised that further detailed designed work and a CBRA is required to confirm the extent of cable burial and the requirement and locations for additional cable protection. This will include consideration of installation of cables through seabed forms and the requirement for seabed preparation activities including sand wave clearance which may be required to mitigate the risk of cable exposures and further cables burial activities or use of cable protection. Furthermore, the potential disruption to hydrodynamics resulting from the Proposed Development including cable protection has been included in chapter 7 (volume 2) of the Offshore EIA Report.

3.3. Benthic Subtidal and Intertidal Ecology

3.3.1      Cumulative Effects Assessment (Seagreen Project 1A)

  1. During the bi-weekly meeting of 14 July 2022 between the Applicant, MS-LOT and NatureScot, the Applicant sought advice on its approach to the CEA with Seagreen and again by email on 1 August 2022. The Applicant initially proposed to assume a habitat loss/disturbance footprint that is 25% of the total habitat loss/disturbance footprint Seagreen reported in the Seagreen EIA (Seagreen Wind Energy, 2012). This was considered conservative and defendable on the basis the 36 wind turbines comprising Seagreen Project 1A represent 24% of the total 150 wind turbines consented for Seagreen.
  2. MS-LOT and NatureScot confirmed initial reservations about this allocation in an email dated 19 August 2022 stating that neither agree with the Applicant’s proposed approach to use 25% as a proportional value. This is on the basis Seagreen 1 and Project 1A do not align with offshore permissions granted which cover these projects: they are both split across separate marine licences and s36 consents for Seagreen Alpha and s36 for Seagreen Bravo (which both cover up to 75 wind turbines respectively). The Applicant was advised that information required to inform the CEA is presented in the Seagreen in the original EIA.
  3. The Applicant has undertaken a quantified CEA of Seagreen 1A Project based on the footprint areas available in the Seagreen 1A Project Construction Method Statement[1] (Seagreen Wind Energy, 2020) and Appendix G4: Detailed worst case scenarios for Benthic and Intertidal Ecology[2] provided with the Environmental Statement (Volume III) for Seagreen 1A Project (Seagreen Wind Energy, 2012).
  4. The Applicant adapted its intended approach in view of post-scoping advice and this is well evidenced in the chapters of the Offshore EIA Report.

3.3.2      Cable and Scour Protection

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, MS-LOT highlighted the need for more detail to be included regarding cable and scour protection. Where protective material cannot be avoided, MS-LOT advised that a more targeted method of placement is recommended. This advice was iterated in emailed advice received following Road Map Meeting 3. NatureScot further queried the basis (evidence informing) the 15% cable protection value.
  2. With respect to cable and scour protection, the Applicant has provided as much information as it is possible to do at this stage of development of the Proposed Development and details are provided as part of the PDE to inform the EIA. The Applicant will undertake further design work which will allow quantification of cable protection requirements in certain areas based on known seabed conditions (although contingency will still be required for unforeseen events which require cable protection to be in place). Final locations, quantities, types and installation methods will be submitted to MS-LOT for approval post consent.
  3. The 15% cable protection assumption has taken recent project experience into account where a greater % of cable protection may be required compared to initial assessments. This has resulted in an increase from 10% in earlier iterations of the PDE. Therefore, a precautionary approach has been undertaken in respect to making sure adequate cable protection is assessed and the requirement for further cable protection installation above and beyond what is assessed in the Offshore EIA Report is minimised.

3.3.3      Drilling Fluids/Effluent and Drill Cuttings

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, MS-LOT advised that the impact of drilling fluids/effluent and drill cuttings being dispersed into the water column/onto the seabed (construction phase) is not currently considered and will need to be addressed. Otherwise, the Applicant should confirm there will not be any such releases, or there are control methods in place to prevent release.
  2. It is the Applicant’s position that use of drilling fluids that are on the PLONOR list (Poses Little or No Risk), which is controlled and maintained by CEFAS (The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). The Offshore EIA Report been updated to account for this additional information. The following designed in measures have further been added to the Offshore EIA Report to support the assessment in volume 2, chapter 8:-
  • approximately 10 m to 15 m before exit the mud pumps that circulate the bentonite drilling fluid are switched off, the drill head advances in a ‘dry’ state to exit point; and
  • utilise bentonite drilling fluid that is CEFAS and PLONOR rated.

3.3.4      Invasive Non-Native Species Monitoring

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, Marine Scotland Science (MSS) advised that the introduction of non-native species may occur at any phase of the Proposed Development and requires consideration for all phases. As the wind farm has a 35 year lifespan, the operation and maintenance phase has arguably the longest time frame for non-native species to colonise the hard substrates. The need for strategic monitoring to understand the impact of hard structure colonisation was further raised in advice related to Road Map Meeting 2. MSS advise that this could be confirmed by routine monitoring of foundation structures, particularly in the splash zone.
  2. The Applicant confirms that this risk is being considered across all phases of the Proposed Development. Notwithstanding a finding of no significant adverse impacts, the Applicant has made a commitment to engage with MSS, NatureScot and other relevant key stakeholders to identify and deliver proportionate measures for contributing to strategic monitoring to understand the impact of hard structure colonisation and change in community structure and local species diversity in the immediate vicinity of hard structures.

3.3.5      Key Issues from Road Map Meetings

  1. The benthic and intertidal ecology topic group completed a Road Map Process, which comprised of four Road Map Meetings. Road Map Meeting 4 concerned the MPA Assessment for the Proposed Development (see section 3.4). Therefore, only Road Map Meeting 3 is relevant to post-scoping discussions. The following emails exchanges occurred subsequent to Road Map Meeting 3:
  • SNCB/RMM3/BEN/17.05.22;
  • SSE/RMM3/BEN/25/.08.22; and
  • SNCB/RMM4/BEN//16.09.22
    1. The advice pertained mostly to the MPA Assessment (SSE, 2022b) (addressed in section 3.4) and physical processes (addressed in section 3.23.5 ). The 16 September advice [SNCB/RMM4/BEN//16.09.22] implies that no key issues for the benthic and internal ecology are outstanding at the conclusion of the Road Map Process. The Road Map Document (volume 3, appendix 8.1) documents the actions taken by the Applicant in response to post-scoping advice.

3.4. Marine Protected Area Assessment

  1. Since the 2022 Scoping Opinion, a number of key issues have been the subject of discussions regarding the MPA Assessment for the Firth of Forth Banks Complex ncMPA. These are audited in volume 3, appendix 8.1 and headline issues discussed include (but are not limited to) discussions over:-
  • quantification of impacts to the ‘ocean quahog aggregations’ feature;
  • terminology regarding impacts to habitats/protected features for “permanent/long term impacts;
  • the need for transparency in how the maximum design scenario has been calculated;
  • early consideration of Equivalent Environmental Benefit;
  • comments on presentation and scope; and
  • strategic benthic monitoring and future monitoring.
    1. The basis of post-scoping discussions was a copy of the draft Marine Protected Area (MPA) Assessment that was shared with MS-LOT, NatureScot and the JNCC on 4 May 2022, followed by a dedicated MPA Road Map Meeting was thereby held (31 May 2022) to discuss feedback and various email exchanges.
    2. At the MPA Road Map Meeting on 26 May 2022, NatureScot and the JNCC stated on a without prejudice basis, the current direction of travel of the MPA Assessment would mean that the Conservation Objectives of the MPA are unlikely to be hindered. On 01 September 2022, NatureScot advised by email that it and the JNCC were content with how comments will be addressed in the final MPA Assessment Report and the Offshore EIA Report. On 4 October 2022, Marine Scotland confirmed it has reviewed the minutes for the MPA Road Map Meeting and has no further comment to make in addition to those made by NatureScot regards the MPA Assessment.
    3. The Applicant has further made a commitment to engaging in discussions with MSS and the SNCBs post consent to identify opportunities for contributing to proportionate and appropriate strategic monitoring of temporary habitat disturbance to sensitive features of the FFBC MPA features (e.g. ocean quahog). It is therefore considered that all comments raised after the publication of the 2022 Scoping Opinion have been addressed. Accordingly, there are no post-scoping communications or developments to include in the Audit Document.

3.5. Fish and Shellfish Ecology

3.5.1      Effectiveness of Soft-Start Piliing

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion (see paragraph 5.8.16), MS-LOT advised the Applicant to consider SNCB advice made in representation regarding the potential effectiveness of ramp-up and soft-start piling and further, the need to instead consider the timings for carrying out works
  2. It is the Applicant position that soft starts are considered effective mitigation to minimise risk of injury. With respect to effectiveness of soft starts for fish species, in the paper provided by stakeholders (i.e. Harding et al., 2016) the experiments failed to produce physiological or behavioural responses in Atlantic salmon when subjected to noise similar to piling. However, the noise levels tested were estimated at <160 dB re 1 µPa Root Mean Square (RMS), far below the level at which injury or behavioural disturbance would be expected for Atlantic salmon and other fish species. At elevated noise levels in close proximity to piling, strong avoidance reactions would be observed and therefore soft starts are considered effective mitigation to minimise risk of injury. In any case, the underwater noise assessments for the Proposed Development indicate that neither seasonal restrictions nor sound abatement measures are necessary.

3.5.2      Strategic Monitoring

  1. On 17 May 2022 opportunities were discussed by the Applicant at Road Map Meeting 3 on the strategic monitoring of sandeels and deployment of listening stations for fish species (i.e. particularly diadromous fish, but also potentially marine species). The Applicant has committed to engaging in discussions with Marine Scotland and the SNCBs post consent to identify opportunities for contributing to proportionate and appropriate strategic monitoring of diadromous fish species. This may include research priorities identified by ScotMER steering group.

3.5.3      Issues From Road Map Meetings

  1. The fish and shellfish topic group topic group completed a Road Map Process, which comprised of three Road Map Meetings, three of which took place after the 2022 Scoping Opinion was published. Road Map Meeting Four concerned the Marine Protected Area Assessment for the Proposed Development.
  2. There are no post-scoping communications or developments to include in the Audit Document.

3.6. Marine Mammals

3.6.1      Conversion Factors

  1. The most notable topic of post-scoping discussions has concerned the appropriate conversion factors to apply to the underwater noise modelling and related chapter assessments of effects. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, MS-LOT advised the Applicant to model a range of conversion factors (1%, 4% and 10%) (para 5.9.10) and provide justification for the most appropriate conversion factor to take forward to full assessment. Numerous and detailed discussions have taken place subsequently involving the Applicant, MSS and NatureScot. These are audited in the chapter (volume 2, chapter 10), the noise modelling (volume 3, appendix 10.2) and the Marine Mammals Road Map Document (volume 2, appendix 10.3).
  2. It is the Applicant’s position that all requested conversion factors within requested range have been modelled (1%, 4% and 10%) with results provided in the Offshore EIA Report. The requested justification for the most appropriate conversion factor is provided. A late clarification of the Scoping Advice established that instantaneous Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS) impact ranges are calculated using the highest hammer energy for 1%, 4% and 10% constant conversion factors. The Applicant has based these ranges on 1% or 4% reducing conversion factor (which ever results in the most conservative outcome). This is not materially different from the Scoping Advice. As the conversion factors applied result in larger ranges, the Applicant remains confident that intentions of the Scoping Advice are satisfied.
  3. A clarification of the advice (16 September 2022) states that the request was for instantaneous PTS impact ranges to be determined using the highest hammer energy for constant conversion factor 1%, 4% and 10%. On the basis of this clarification, the results for constant conversion factor (4% and 10%) for SPLpk have been added to the EIA assessment alongside the other results. The most conservative of the outcomes has been used in the assessment.

3.6.2      UXO Clearance

  1. In the 2022 Scoping Opinion, with regard to UXO clearance, the Scottish Ministers advise that the assessment must include a worst case of high order detonation in terms of impact and mitigation, unless there is robust supporting evidence that can be presented to show the consistent performance of the preferred low order or deflagration method. The Applicant has complied with this aspect and has presented outcomes in volume 2, chapter 10.7.
  2. In an email dated 30 September 2022 [SNCB/RMM4/MM//30.09.22], NatureScot advised that scare charges should not be employed for marine mammal mitigation on the basis these can introduce significant noise into the environment (Robinson et al., 2022), but there is a lack of evidence showing that they enhance protection for marine mammal purposes. NatureScot further advised that the use of low noise alternatives (to high order detonation) should make scare charges redundant. However, mitigation should be designed to protect in the event of a high order detonation. NatureScot stated that it does not recommend the complete removal of scare charges for depths that currently restrict the use of noise abatement methods, but that they are used at charge sizes suitable for fish mortality mitigation.
  3. The Applicant continues to consider the use of scare charges as appropriate and precedented and the Applicant has not re-modelled at this point in the programme (or undertake an assessment of UXO clearance without use of scare charges). The Applicant acknowledges the feedback from stakeholders will look to further explore these points post-application or post-consent once further information becomes available as to the size of UXOs.  

3.6.3      Seagreen Piling Strategy for CEA

  1. In an email dated 24 August 202, MS-LOT highlighted, in the context of CEA, the Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm Piling Strategy which details the 36 wind turbines within the Seagreen Alpha and Bravo Offshore Wind Farms to be piled, rather than using suction bucket technology. On the basis these are the same 36 wind turbines subject to the current section 36 variation application that will be taken forward at a later construction date, MS-LOT advise that the different foundation technology is taken into consideration when undertaking the CEA.
  2. The CEA reported in the Marine Mammal chapter of the Offshore EIA (volume 2, chapter 10) is based on the maximum design scenario (i.e. whichever result in the greater potential for cumulative effects between the original and optimised designs). For example, harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin and white-beaked dolphin assessments are based on the Seagreen Offshore Wind Farm Piling Strategy (as this approach predicted larger number of individuals potentially affected than the original Seagreen EIA (2012). However, for minke whale, harbour seal and grey seal the original EIA was applied.
  3. The Applicant provides information for the maximum design scenario in each instance and for all relevant receptor groups.

3.6.4      Injury Ranges

  1. In an email dated 30 September 2022 [SNCB/RMM4/MM//30.09.22] 22 MS-LOT advised that injury ranges should be based on risk of instantaneous injury and use SPLpk as a precaution with the mitigation zones based on the worst outcome, which is SPLpk at max hammer.
  2. The Applicant provides information for the maximum design scenario in each instance and for all relevant receptor groups.

3.7. Offshore and Intertidal Ecology

3.7.1      Collision Risk Modelling

  1. The Applicant has for the most part adopted the advice on ornithological assessment parameters advised in the 2022 Scoping Opinion for the purposes of conducting an assessment of collision risk for ornithology for the EIA. Nevertheless, there are some parameters advised in the Scoping Opinion which the Applicant considers to be over-precautionary and a departure from standard advice/practice. With regard to collision risk modelling, the 2022 Scoping Opinion requires the use of monthly maximum bird densities as opposed to mean monthly bird densities, which was the Applicant’s position, based upon the approach taken in all recent UK offshore wind farm assessments. The Applicant queried the Scoping Opinion advice, following which MS-LOT confirmed their Scoping Opinion advice must be followed.
  2. The Applicant considers this element of the 2022 Scoping Opinion to be over-precautionary and a departure from standard advice/practice. As such, the Applicant determined to undertake a ‘dual assessment’ approach of the collision risk posed by the proposed Development:
  • The ‘Scoping Approach’; and
  • The ‘Developer Approach’.
    1. With respect to estimating collision risk, the two approaches differ only in their use of input monthly density estimates of flying birds of the assessed species within the proposed Development.
    2. The Scoping Approach is based on the Scoping Consultation responses from NatureScot and Marine Scotland Science which advised the use of monthly maximum density of relevant seabird species within the proposed Development Array area in the CRMs.
    3. However, guidance on the use of the CRM suggests that model predictions should be based upon the mean monthly densities of flying birds estimated within the Proposed Development array area and therefore the Developer Approach also presents these results. Both assessments are presented in volume 3, appendix 11.3. In addition, further details of the Developer Approach and Scoping Approach are also presented in volume 3, appendix 11.3.

3.7.2      Displacement/Barrier Effects

  1. With regard to the assessment of displacement and barrier effects on offshore ornithology for the EIA, there are again some parameters advised in the 2022 Scoping Opinion which the Applicant considers to be over-precautionary and a departure from standard advice/practice. As such, the Applicant has presented an assessment of likely significant effects based on:
  • The Scoping Opinion Approach (noting that in some cases this is further split out to reflect advice given); and
  • The Developer Approach.
    1. Volume 3, appendix 11.4, annex G presents the evidence base for the Developer Approach for the displacement assessment, including a review of scientific literature, to identify and justify any instances where this diverges from the Scoping Opinion Approach.

3.7.3      Apportioning Methods

  1. Representations to the Scoping Opinion from Natural England and Nature Scot respectively give conflicting advice for the method of apportioning guillemot to the Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA. Natural England advise that common guillemot from the Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA should be screened in for potential impacts during the non-breeding season. Their advice states that “Whilst Furness (2015) indicates that non-breeding individuals are likely to stay relatively close to their breeding colony in the non-breeding season, there is limited empirical evidence currently exists to support this, to quantify the extent over which this operates, and whether it applies to the same extent for all colonies.” Natural England therefore request that the traditional approach of apportioning birds to the relevant SPA using the Biologically Defined Minimum Population Scale (BDMPS) populations as prescribed by Furness (2015) to assess the potential impacts on Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA guillemot in the non-breeding season.
  2. This advice is counter to that provided by NatureScot and Marine Scotland Science (MSS) in their consultation responses of 7 and 16 December 2021, in which they advise that the breeding season mean-maximum (+1 Standard Deviation (SD)) foraging range should be used for apportioning non-breeding common guillemot to relevant SPAs. MSS suggested in their response that further discussion is required around this point.
  3. Following receipt of the 2022 Scoping Opinion, a meeting was held on the 10 May 2022, in which the Applicant sought clarity from MS-LOT and their advisors on the differing advice received on apportioning impacts on non-breeding common guillemot.
  4. Further written advice from NatureScot was issued via email on 18 May 2022. Within this, NatureScot identify that further empirical evidence of non-breeding guillemot and razorbill distributions has been published since the Scoping Opinion was issued (Buckingham et al. 2022) which “indicate that while guillemot from the Isle of May disperse in the moult period immediately following the breeding season to Northern Scotland, during the winter period birds use core areas located in the vicinity of their breeding colony. Razorbill are distributed around the coast of Scotland in the moult period and in central North Sea during the mid-winter period. This is also borne out by observations at breeding colonies over the winter period when guillemot more frequently return to the colony from October onwards, the length and frequency of appearance at the colonies increasing as the winter progresses. Razorbill being largely absent from colonies until much closer to the breeding period. This implies that guillemot are present in areas not so far from their breeding colony through most of the non-breeding season.” NatureScot go on to advise that while the approach based on the BDMPS as per Furness et al. (2015) is suitable for razorbill, an approach based on a smaller scale ‘regional’ population is more suitable for guillemot. NatureScot state that “given the evidence provided by Buckingham et al. (2022), we remain of the view, that assessment of non-breeding season impacts on guillemot should be undertaken using a regional population based on mean-maximum foraging range plus 1SD and do not support the inclusion of Flamborough and Filey Coast SPA based on the distance from the Berwick Bank development and in the absence of any tracking evidence.”
  5. In light of this evidence, The Applicant proposed to follow recent advice from NatureScot and sought agreement that Natural England are content with this approach. Natural England replied to say if Berwick Bank OWF intends to follow the NatureScot advice wholesale, it would nevertheless be useful if the Environmental Statement could include the impact values for non-breeding Guillemot from FFC SPA based on the BDMPS apportioning approach. Alternatively, this could be provided separately to Natural England. This would avoid the need for offshore wind farm developers in the English North Sea and/or Natural England to carry out separate apportioning work for inclusion in relevant in-combination assessments. It was subsequently agreed with stakeholders that this assessment would be provided separately.

3.7.4      Displacement Matrix Approaches

  1. The Applicant’s proposed approach was to use the Displacement Matrix using the SNCB 2017 interim displacement advice note and if possible, to use SeabORD for guillemot, razorbill, puffin and kittiwake in the chick-rearing period where tracking data are available. During Ornithology Road Map Meeting 4 the Applicant highlighted issues in terms of how the SeabORD model is parameterised in relation to the prey base. Currently the model is only parameterised for four species from only a few colonies, so extending it to run it in its full form for these four species across a wider range of SPA colonies would need a lot of input from the model developers, at UKCEH. However, it is also the case that the full model is currently under review, as part of its incorporation into the Cumulative Effects Framework (CEF) project. It was questioned whether a simplified version of SeabORD could be used, which was investigated. The Applicant was granted access to the underlying SeabORD R-code in June 2022, with the aim of undertaking sensitivity analysis of the model (volume 3, appendix 11.8, annex a).
  2. The position with regards the use of SeabORD was detailed in the 2022 Scoping Opinion. The Scottish Ministers have considered the scale of the Proposed Development and the sensitivity of the outer Forth for seabird species and do not consider the matrix approach to be sufficient for most of the affected species. The Scottish Ministers advise that, taking into account current knowledge and methods of assessment, the use of SeabORD is likely to be required to enable them to reach a reasoned conclusion on the significant effects of the Proposed Development on the environment.
  3. Acknowledging the practical difficulties associated with running SeabORD, it was agreed that the ‘simplified’ SeabORD model would be used and provided for context, with distance decay method used and assuming a uniform prey distribution. SeabORD analysis was provided for context noting that SSE has significant concerns about the outputs and suggesting that given the uncertainty of the outputs, it is given limited, if any, weight. The SeabORD outputs are presented in Annex D of the Displacement Technical Report, volume 3, appendix 11.4 and the Applicant’s review of seabORD including a sensitivity analysis, presented in volume 3, appendix 11.4, annex H.

3.7.5      Use of MRSea-Derived Density Estimates

  1. The Applicant has been engaging with the MRSea model but overall have found it very difficult to operate for this scale of project. In some instances, it has taken 5-7 days to run a model scenario, with issues over the model crashing or errors which aren't evident until the end of the run. Issues have been noted with MRSea overestimating densities when modelling gaps in survey data (density hot spots noted where the gaps in surveys are). Due to ongoing issues with the model, The Applicant has used design-based density figures in the Collision Risk Modelling (CRM) and displacement assessment, with MRSea outputs presented for context in volume 3, appendix 11.1, annex L.
  2. Significant issues still remain with the use of MRSea. During Ornithology Road Map Meeting 3 consultees acknowledged the attempts to resolve the issue and the programme difficulties this has created. In order to inform further advice and agreement on the use of densities derived from design-based methods, The Applicant provided written reports on MRSea issues to further highlight issues, including a comparison with design-based abundance results, and supporting the use of design based estimates. Where it has been possible to generate MRSea, outputs, they are presented within Annex L to the Baseline Technical Appendix (volume 3, appendix 11.1) but MRSea abundance estimates are not used in the assessment for the reasons outlined in the Baseline Technical Appendix (volume 3, appendix 11.1).