14.1 Desktop Study
- This section outlines the literature and data sources that will be used to support the SLVIA. An overview of the key data sources is provided in Apx. Table 14. 1 Open ▸ .
Apx. Table 14. 1: Key Sources of Information for Seascape, Landscape and Visual
- This section provides an initial overview of the baseline for seascape, landscape and visual established through desk-study.
- The SLVIA takes into account definitions of seascape by NatureScot (2012) para 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’, and ‘the visual and physical conjunction of land and sea which combines maritime, coast and hinterland character’. It also takes account of Natural England (2012), NPS EN3 (para 2.6.203) and that set out in the UK Marine Policy Statement (UK Government, 2011), which states that ‘…references to seascape should be taken as meaning landscapes with views of the coast or seas, and coasts and the adjacent marine environment with cultural, historical and archaeological links with each other’.
- There is a subtle transition between seascape and landscape and the importance of the interaction of sea, coastline and land as perceived by people is highlighted in definitions of seascape. The seascape impact assessment in the SLVIA therefore focuses particularly on areas of coastal onshore landscape with views of the coast or seas and marine environment, as perceived by people, on the premise that the most important effect of offshore windfarms is on the perception of seascape character from the coast.
- Type 1: Remote High Cliffs;
- Type 2: Rocky Coastline / Open Sea Views;
- Type 3: Deposition Coastline, Open Views;
- Type 4: Outer Firths; and
Type 5: Developed Inner Firths.
- The seascapes of the SLVIA study area are varied and interesting seascapes, which are valued natural and cultural assets. They contain important habitats, contribute to the setting of locally designated coastal landscapes; are important for recreation along the coast and as seaside resorts; and contribute to the culture and identity of local communities. The seascape is visually unified, with an expansive open character, but the character is influenced by the presence of vessels crossing these waters, to and from coastal ports within the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay, which are often visible from the shore.
- Offshore wind farms will also form a key characteristic in the evolving baseline character of the SLVIA study area. The Proposed Development, represents the next phase of wind farm development within the outer Firth of Forth. Phase one includes the under construction Neart na Gaoithe and two consented OWFs – Inch Cape and Seagreen Alpha/Bravo (now collectively referred to as Seagreen), which will, when constructed, introduce OWF development to the baseline seascape context.
- The coastal character of the SLVIA study area within Scotland is also defined at the regional level within the Regional Seascape Character Assessment Aberdeen to Holy Island Suffolk (Forth and Tay Offshore Windfarm Developer Group, 2011), as shown in Figure 7.9 Open ▸ to Figure 7.11 Open ▸ . The regional coastal character types identified within this coastal character assessment (Figure 7.12 Open ▸ ) will provide the baseline coastal characterisation and mapping for the SLVIA, against which the seascape effects of the Proposed Development will be assessed. This coastal character assessment was undertaken as part of a collaborative approach to impact assessment being taken by the Forth and Tay Offshore Windfarm Developer Group (FTOWDG) in discussion with NatureScot and local authorities. The use of this coastal character assessment as a common baseline will ensure consistency between SLVIAs for the Proposed Development and other OWFs in the Forth and Tay area. At a regional scale, the SLVIA study area includes several regional coastal character types:
- SA3. Cove Bay to Milton Ness;
- SA4. Montrose Bay;
- SA5. Long Craig;
- SA6. Lunan Bay;
- SA7. Lang Craig to The Deil's Heid SA8. Arbroath to Monifieth;
- SA8. Arbroath to Monifieth;
- SA9. Dundee;
- SA10. Inner Firth of Tay;
- SA11. St Andrews Bay;
- SA12. St Andrews to Fife Ness;
- SA13. East Neuk of Fife;
- SA14. Kirkcaldy & Largo Bay;
- SA16. Edinburgh to Gullane;
- SA17. Eyebroughty to Torness Point;
- SA18. Torness Point to St Abbs Head;
- SA19. St Abbs Head to Eyemouth; and
SA20. Eyemouth to Berwick Upon Tweed.
- At a national scale the MMO identified Marine Character Areas (MCA’s) within the Seascape Character Assessment for the North East Inshore and Offshore Marine Plan Areas (MMO, 2018). There are four MCAs within the SLVIA study area, as shown in Figure 7.12 Open ▸ :
- MCA 23: Rural Northumberland and Coastal Waters;
- MCA 25: Farne Deeps;
- MCA 26: Berwick Bank; and
MCA 28: Shallow Hole Plain.
- NatureScot’s landscape character map (NatureScot, 2019) and associated LCT descriptions will form the basis of the baseline landscape character description of the SLVIA study area and the assessment of the visual aspects of perceived character resulting from the Proposed Development. These LCTs are shown in Figure 7.11 Open ▸ , with the key coastal landscapes in the SLVIA study area identified as follows by region:
- Landscape Baseline
- Aberdeenshire – 11. Fragmented Rocky Coast; and 13. Raised Beach Coast;
- Angus – 388. Beaches, Dunes and Links; and 389. Cliffs and Rocky Coast;
- Fife – 193. Coastal Terraces; 194. Coastal Cliffs; and 196. Coastal Flats;
- East Lothian – 277. Coastal Margins; and 278. Coastal Terrace; and
Scottish Borders – 110. Coastal Farmland; 111. Coastal Pasture; and 112. Coastal Moorland.
- The Proposed Development is located beyond the boundaries of any areas subject to international, national or regional landscape designation in Scotland intended to protect landscape quality, as shown in Figure 7.14 Open ▸ Figure 7.12 Open ▸ . Certain designated landscapes or defined areas found within the study area in Scotland have been designated or defined due to their scenic qualities or historic landscape qualities and are of relevance to the SLVIA as set out in Apx. Table 14. 2 Open ▸ .
Apx. Table 14. 2: Landscape Designations in Scotland Within SLVIA Study Area
- There is a hierarchy of published Landscape Character Assessments that describe the baseline landscape character of the English landscape in the SLVIA study area, at the National, County and District level.
- The English Landscape is classified at the national level by National Character Areas (NCAs). The 159 NCAs, which cover the country, were originally identified by the Countryside Agency. This mapping and the associated descriptions have been revised and developed by NE into NCA profiles, which provide a recognised, national, spatial framework. The NCAs will be used in providing a high-level description of the landscape and its context.
- At the National level, the SLVIA study area within England is characterised by the North Northumberland Coastal Plain NCA; the Northumberland Sandstone Hills NCA; and the Cheviot Fringe NCA. The North Northumberland Coastal Plain covers the coastal parts of the SLVIA study area in England, and formed by a narrow, windswept strip that runs from the Anglo-Scottish border south to the mouth of the River Coquet, bounded by the sea to the east and the Northumberland Sandstone Hills to the west. The gently undulating inland plain consists of arable farming, with some pasture and sparse woodland cover confined to the river valleys and the estates. The coastline is diverse, with rocky headlands and cliffs contrasting with long, sweeping sandy beaches backed by dunes, and extensive intertidal mudflats and salt marsh around Lindisfarne.
- The landscape of the onshore parts of the study area will be informed by these NCAs, however it will be described and assessed in relation to the published Northumberland County Council Landscape Character Assessment (Northumberland County Council, 2010) that describes the associated coastal landscapes within the SLVIA study area at the regional scale. This provides a county-wide, consistent character framework as a background for more detailed assessments (such as at the district level) and is considered to be of an appropriate scale to allow assessment of the effects of the Proposed Development over the relatively wide SLVIA study area, at a sufficient level of detail. The key coastal landscape character areas in the Northumberland part of the SLVIA study area form the North Northumberland Coastal Plain:
- 1a. Tweed River Mouth;
- 3a. Haggerston;
- 4a. North Tweed Coast; and
5a. Holy Island Coast.
- The Proposed Development is located beyond the boundaries of any areas subject to international, national or regional landscape designation in England intended to protect landscape quality, as shown in Figure 7.14 Open ▸ . Certain nationally designated landscapes or defined areas found within the study area in England have been designated or defined due to their scenic qualities or historic landscape qualities and are of relevance to the SLVIA as set out in Apx. Table 14. 3 Open ▸ .
Apx. Table 14. 3: Landscape Designations in England Within SLVIA Study Area
- The SLVIA study area includes part of the area covered by the Northumberland Coast AONB designation, within the north of the County between Berwick upon Tweed and Holy Island. The Northumberland Coast AONB covers an area of 138 km2 along 64 km of coastline from just south of Berwick-upon-Tweed to the Coquet Estuary. The AONB is only 2.5 km wide at its widest point, and yet it contains a variety of features of natural, historical and cultural value. The area is best known for its sweeping sandy beaches, rolling dunes, rocky headlands and isolated islands. Within the AONB and its seascape setting, is abundant evidence of 7,000 years of human activity, conflict and spiritual pursuit, whilst a host of national and international nature conservation designations attest to the variety of important habitats and species in the AONB. The ‘natural beauty’ of the Northumberland Coast AONB is best expressed as the special qualities of the landscape, embracing all of these elements. These special qualities are set out in Part One of the AONB Management Plan 2020-2024, as follows:
- dramatic natural coastline of rocky headlands and cliffs contrasting with extensive sweeping sandy beaches and dynamic sand dune systems;
- coastal and riverside setting of iconic historic and cultural landmark features which provide localised vertical emphasis within a predominantly horizontal landscape and seascape;
- remote historic, cultural and spiritual qualities and ecclesiastical associations of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne Rocky Farne Islands archipelago, which features in many coastal views;
- traditional coastal fishing villages clustered around small harbours;
- views inland to the rounded sandstone hills and Cheviot Hills provide a dramatic and dynamic backdrop to the coast;
- feeling of exposure and tranquillity on the flat, low lying open coastal plain and windswept coast, with sparse tree cover, huge skies and wide seascape views; and
- The North Northumberland Heritage Coast is largely contained within the AONB (Figure 7.14 Open ▸ ) between Cocklawburn Beach in the north to the edge of the SLVIA study area at Seahouses in the south. A further area of coastline to the north is also defined within the Heritage Coast outside the AONB, consisting of the Berwickshire coastline at Berwick-upon-Tweed. The purpose of Heritage Coast designation is similar to that of an AONB. As its geographic area is largely within the AONB and its protection policies are now incorporated into the Northumberland Coast AONB Management Plan 2020-2024, the effects of the Proposed Development on the North Northumberland Heritage Coast will be considered as integral to the assessment of the AONB.
- The baseline visual resource experienced from the Scottish coastline within the SLVIA study area is diverse. It ranges from the remote high cliffs at St Abbs, which afford elevated and distant views, to the rocky but more settled coastlines of East Lothian and Fife; and the lower lying deposition coasts of Fife, which retain open sea views but are less elevated; and the outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay, which have land to land views across the Firths.
- From the remote high cliffs at St Abbs, there are wide elevated views directed along the coast and out to open sea, where there are exhilarating and awe-inspiring coastlines due to the height of cliffs giving elevated and distant views. From the rocky coastlines of East Lothian and Fife the views over the North Sea are generally wide and open, but settlements and built features often appear at regular intervals providing foci along the coast, and shipping is a common feature seen out to sea. From the deposition coasts of Fife, which are low lying, views are long and expansive along sandy beaches and extend out to the North Sea. The outer Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay have land to land views across the Firths, while also retaining open views east out to sea. Views from the outer Firths often focus on distinctive islands (such as Bass Rock/Isle of May), and land on either side of the Firths is a focus s, with settlements, and often masts and other infrastructure located on ridges, forming significant features in views.
- An initial understanding of the baseline visual resource of the Northumberland coast is provided in the Seascape Character Assessment for the North-East Inshore and Offshore Marine Plan Areas (MMO, 2018), which describes the ‘Expansive undeveloped vistas out to the wider North Sea and islands, marked by distant ships and fishing vessels, as well as views from the sea and islands (recreational boat routes) back to the coast where the fortified castles form dramatic and iconic features on the skyline. Scenic views gained along, the undeveloped Heritage Coast’. It also identifies the ‘High levels of intervisibility between inland high points, such as Halidon Hill or Ros Castle, low-lying sandy beaches (Goswick Sands and Budle Bay) and the Farne Islands offshore’.
- The Berwick Bank seascape (MCA26) in which the proposed development is located covers an expansive offshore area of water located off the coast of Northumberland, where the visual baseline is described as being influenced by shipping activity (although less so than seascapes to the south), where the Northumberland coast ‘is visible from the westernmost parts of the MCA, with coastal landmarks providing orientation for seafarers’ and forming ‘part of the wider maritime setting to the Northumberland Coast AONB and North Northumberland Heritage Coast’ (MMO. 2018).
- Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV)
- The visual baseline is largely defined by the ZTV shown in Figure 7.15 Open ▸ . The ZTV shows the main area in which the Proposed Development would theoretically be visible, highlighting the different groups of people who may experience views of wind turbines located within the Proposed Development Array Area and assisting in the identification of viewpoints where they may be affected. The ZTVs shown in Figure 7.15 Open ▸ are based on wind turbines of 355 m to blade tip (above LAT) and represents the MDS for the SLVIA considered in the scoping assessment. The blade tip ZTV illustrates where there would be no visibility of these wind turbines, as well as areas where there will be lower or higher numbers of wind turbines theoretically visible.
- The ZTV illustrates the ‘bare ground’ situation based on an Ordnance Survey (OS) terrain model and does not take into account the screening effects of vegetation, buildings, or other local features that may prevent or reduce visibility. By using a bare ground elevation model, the results will be an over-representation of maximum visibility, as many could, in reality, be blocked by surface features not included in the model.
- The blade tip ZTV shows the areas of highest theoretical visibility of the Proposed Development will be from the North Sea within the Proposed Development Array Area and from the surrounding areas of the North Sea extending out to approximately 40 km, beyond which visibility experienced by users of the sea decreases with the influence of the earth’s curvature, which reduces visibility of the wind turbines at longer distances and from the low-lying seascape.
- The blade tip ZTV also illustrates the main coastal landscapes of the SLVIA where there is theoretical visibility of the Proposed Development. These areas of visibility have the potential to extend over relatively wide terrestrial areas extending from Aberdeenshire in the north to Northumberland in the south, along the coastlines of the outer Firth Forth and Firth of Tay, with the closest areas of visibility from terrestrial areas being:
- Aberdeenshire coastline between Stonehaven and St Cyrus, at distances from 40.1 km at the closest point (Milton Head near Johnshaven);
- Angus coastline between Montrose Bay, Lunan Bay, Arbroath, Carnoustie, Budden Ness, and the outer Firth of Tay at distances from 34.1 km at the closest point (near Red Head);
- Fife coast between Tentsmuir, Fife Ness and St Monan’s at distances from 36.6 km at the closest point (Fife Ness);
- East Lothian coastline between North Berwick, Dunbar and Torness at distances from 42.7 km at the closest point (where East Lothian meets Scottish Borders near Cove);
- Scottish Borders from Cockburnspath extending along the elevated cliffs between Cove / Pease Bay to St Abbs Head and Eyemouth at distances of 33.3 km at the closest point at St Abbs Head; and
Northumberland coast between Berwick-upon-Tweed, Holy Island and Seahouses on the southern edge of the SLVIA study area, at distances from 38.5 km at the closest point near Lamberton.
- The area of theoretical visibility of the Proposed Development become more fragmented from the hinterland and inland areas of the SLVIA study area, where views of the sea become increasingly screened either by adjacent rising land or coastal landforms. Theoretical visibility does extend into some of the more elevated coastal farmlands of Aberdeenshire, Angus and Fife, and parts of the East Lothian coastal plain. Actual visibility from these hinterland and inland areas also becomes increasingly screened by vegetation, such as woodland and hedgerows, and / or built development and settlement. Visibility from streets, open spaces and low storey buildings within coastal, urban areas will typically be contained within the urban environment by surrounding built form, with most visibility of the Proposed Development likely to be greatest at the coastal edge and sea front. There are a number of elevated landscapes affording very distant views of the sea from inland areas of the SLVIA study area, generally at much longer distances of 50 km to 60 km from the Proposed Development, including the Mounth uplands of Aberdeenshire; the Lammermuir Hills of East Lothian and the Scottish Borders; and the Kyloe Hills of Northumberland.
- Atmospheric conditions will affect visibility and therefore the ability of observers to see the Proposed Development from areas where theoretical visibility is indicated in the ZTV. A range of visibility conditions prevail in the SLVIA study area, at different locations, times of day/year and in different weather, ranging from the ‘Windswept coast with frequent ‘haar’, or coastal fog, caused by warmer moist air moving over the relatively cooler North Sea’ noted in MMO (2018) to the ‘northern quality of light often gives intense clarity in views’ described in NatureScot 2005.
- The Met Office defines visibility as ‘the greatest distance at which an object can be seen and recognised in daylight, or at night could be seen if the general illumination were raised to a daylight level’ (Met Office, 2000). Met office visibility data will be used to inform the assessment of the likelihood (or frequency) of effects in the SLVIA, based on data form the closest Met Office weather stations to the coastal parts of the SLVIA study area. The likelihood of the seascape, landscape and visual effects arising will be described in the SLVIA relation to the Met Office definitions for the different ranges of visibility from ‘very poor’ to ‘excellent’ (Met Office, 2000), however likelihood will not be considered as a factor of significance, which will be assessed based on excellent visibility as a worst case. Due to its distance at over 33.3 km from the coast, the Proposed Development will only be visible in very good or excellent visibility and is unlikely to be visible in periods of very poor, poor, moderate or good visibility (less than 20 km).
- Met Office visibility data has been analysed at the national level as part of the Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) (White Consultants, 2020). Averaging visibility data from UK coastal stations, the visual range recorded was just under 24 km around 50% of the time, just under 30 km 33% of the time, around 34 km for 20% of the time, and 40 km 10% of the time.
- Data analysed in the OESEA 2009 report on patterns of seasonal variations on visibility. These illustrate a clear pattern within the visual ranges on a monthly basis. The summer months (June–September) experience a much larger ‘maximum percentage’ visual range in comparison to the winter months (November–February) which experience a much lower visual range. It is likely that more people will be viewing the seascape in the summer, and for more prolonged periods, due to holidays and weekend trips, and more equable weather conditions. There is a case that this should be weighted in consideration of frequency of visibility.
- Visual Receptors
- The principal visual receptors in the SLVIA study area are likely to be found along the closest sections of the Aberdeenshire, Angus, Fife, East Lothian, Scottish Borders and Northumberland coastlines. These include people within settlements, driving on roads, visitors to tourist facilities or historic environment assets, and people engaged in recreational activity such as those using walking and cycle routes. A detailed assessment will be undertaken in the SLVIA for those visual receptors that are most susceptible to changes, which may experience significant visual effects as a result of the Proposed Development and will focus on visual receptors where the sea is a strong influence in the baseline view, along the coastline and immediate hinterland, including:
- coastal settlements – including Montrose, Arbroath, St Andrews, St Abbs, settlements around the East Neuk of Fife, North Berwick, Dunbar, Cockburnspath, Coldingham, Eyemouth, Burnmouth and Berwick-Upon-Tweed.
- recreational routes - including walkers, equestrians and cyclists using the public rights of way network including long-distance trails such as the Fife Coastal Path, John Muir Way, Southern Uplands Way, Berwickshire Coastal Path and Northumberland Coast Path;
- main transport routes - such as the A92, A917, A1, A1107 and the East Coast Mainline Railway.
- visitors to tourist facilities - such as beaches, public open space, common land, coastal caravan and camping sites;
- visitors to historic environment assets - such as Dunnottar Castle, Tantallon Castle, Fast Castle, Lindisfarne Castle, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island; and
nearshore recreational receptors – including motor cruising areas extending to the east towards the Proposed Development Array Area, as well as day boat trips to offshore islands such as the Isle of May and Bass Rock, and other recreation activities, such as kayaking and surfing that can be found along the coast.
- Viewpoints have been compiled based on the ZTV for the Proposed Development, the landscape and visual receptors described above and informed by other projects and feedback from stakeholders contained in the Berwick Bank Scoping Opinion (Marine Scotland, March 2021). In particular, Appendix I to the Scoping Opinion (Marine Scotland, 2021), including Consultation Representations and Advice from NatureScot, East Lothian Council, Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council relating specifically to viewpoint locations for the SLVIA.
- Representative and illustrative viewpoints proposed for the visual assessment are identified in Table 7.16 and mapped in Figure 7.15 Open ▸ .
- Representative viewpoints – are selected to represent the experience of different types of visual receptor within an area where larger numbers of viewpoints cannot all be included. A combination of baseline panorama, cumulative wireline and full photomontage visualisations will be produced. Detailed assessment of the visual effects from these viewpoints that may experience significant visual effects will be undertaken in the SLVIA, while others may be scoped out during the preliminary assessment, if no potential for significant effects is identified; and
Illustrative viewpoints – are chosen specifically to demonstrate a particular effect or specific issue (including restricted visibility). A baseline panorama and wireline visualisation (90 degrees field of view) will be produced, but a written assessment of the visual effects from these viewpoints will not be included in the SLVIA.
- Wireline visualisations showing the Proposed Development from each of the viewpoints listed in Apx. Table 14. 4 Open ▸
Apx. Table 14. 4: Proposed Viewpoints to be Included in SLVIA
- An initial ‘simple’ assessment of the potential effects of the Proposed Development on viewpoints will be undertaken as part of the first stage of the EIA process, initially using desk-based information, wirelines and ZTV analysis, with the aim of scoping out certain viewpoints and receptors where significant effects are unlikely to occur, in consultation with stakeholders. A detailed assessment will focus on those viewpoints and receptors that are identified as requiring further assessment, particularly those representative viewpoints where the combination of their sensitivity and potential magnitude of change resulting from the Proposed Development may give rise to significant effects.
- In preparing photomontages for the SLVIA, the photographs for all viewpoints will, where possible, be taken in good visibility conditions, seeking to represent a maximum visibility scenario when the offshore elements of the Proposed Development may be most visible.
- Night time viewpoint photomontages showing a representation of the appearance of visible aviation and marine navigation lighting will also be produced from up to six viewpoints (one from the coastline of each local authority area in the SLVIA study area), with the locations to be agreed in consultation with stakeholders. The Applicant proposes further discussion on a likely lighting scenario in consultation with Northern Lighthouse Board, the Civil Aviation Authority and Marine Scotland.