Although the planning and consenting process for fish farms in Scotland is robust, Marine Scotland is always looking to improve its process and efficiency. Through their involvement in the Capacity Working Group, industry, consenting bodies and regulators were invited to give their views on the efficiency and effectiveness of the consenting process. In response to the number and breadth of concerns expressed, Marine Scotland and The Crown Estate jointly commissioned an independent review of the consenting process for aquaculture in September 2015.
The consultants appointed to undertake the review were Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Ltd, in association with Ironside Farrar Environmental Consultants. Both firms are recognised leaders in their fields. The consultants were tasked with undertaking an objective review of the whole of the aquaculture consenting process; determining the concerns of the key actors in the consenting process; identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the process, examining the scope for improvement; and providing recommendations. In addition to desk-based research, the reviewers consulted extensively with regulators, consenting bodies, statutory consultees and representatives of the finfish and shellfish industries. The members of the Capacity Working Group also participated in the review.
The final report of the review has been published and provides an overview of the current aquaculture consenting process, notes the robust nature of the current planning and consenting regime, and makes 23 recommendations for change which fall into two main categories: eight 'quick wins' and five longer-term options.
The Scottish Government's response to the review was published in January 2017 and reflects the view of the Capacity Working Group to the recomendations and Scottish Ministers’ consideration of these.
The response reflects Scottish Government support of the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry with due regard to the wider environment and aspirations for high performing planning and licensing systems.
In its response the Scottish Government commits to the implementation of all of the “quick win” recommendations of the Review and in the short-term the emphasis will focus on delivery of these, as well as work to move the moorings and equipment aspects of Marine Licensing into the Planning Permission process. This will involve working closely with industry, consenting and regulating bodies to effect improvements.
Scottish Ministers have also confirmed their willingness to look at longer-term alternative approaches; these will be considered and aligned with improvements being undertaken across government.