Legal requirements

A scoping report must include these legal requirements:

  • A description of the nature and purpose of the project and the possible effects on the environment.
  • Plans, charts or maps sufficient to identify the location of the activities to be carried out.

Report structure

Generally, the structure of a scoping report should be the same as the intended final Environmental Statement. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) needs to include:

  • Description of project, location and purpose, including construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning. ­Include ancillary works, such as any cable corridors and temporary structures
  • Description of reasonable alternatives
  • Current state of the environment (baseline)
  • Description of likely significant effects on these receptor topics:

    • ­Population and human health
    • ­Biodiversity, including protected species and habitats
    • ­Land, soil, water, air and climate
    • ­Material assets, cultural heritage and landscape
    • ­In-combination effects
  • Description of direct, indirect, secondary, cumulative, transboundary, short, medium and long-term, permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects
  • Description of evidence and methods to be used, including any gaps or uncertainties
  • Description of measures to avoid, reduce and mitigate adverse effects
  • Monitoring measures
  • Risk of major accidents or disasters, such as extreme weather events.

Potential effects to receptor topics

When describing the potential effects to receptor topics, including those being ruled out of the assessment, you should include:

  • Impact pathways from the development activities and the receptor topic
  • An outline of any environmental protection objectives that receptor topic e.g. species protected under the Habitats Regulations
  • How the assessment of the receptor topic will be done, including spatial, temporal and buffer zones e.g. bird survey design over an area and across seasons
  • How project design envelopes and a realistic worst-case scenario to be used in the assessment for that receptor topic
  • Measures to avoid, minimise and mitigate impacts to the receptor topic, including:

    • ­mitigation that are in the development design
    • ­need for derogations such as compensation for unavoidable damage
    • any ­proposed adaptive management measures

When ruling out receptor topics from more detailed assessment, the scoping report should explain fully why this is justified.

At scoping, we appreciate that some of the detailed development information, such as installation methods, may not be known. Please give as much information as you can to help us give full consideration to the assessment needed.

Receptor topics we advise on

The receptor topics that we can provide advice on during scoping are:

  • Marine and coastal physical processes
  • Biodiversity
  • Seascape and landscape
  • Water quality
  • Flooding
  • Land quality
  • Air quality
  • Climate change
  • Cumulative and in-combination effects

We can provide a preliminary view about the information required and any relevant information sources.

You need to consider the pressures and impacts from your development on each of these topics.

Impacts on the topic areas will vary for different developments. Not all topics will be relevant to all development types.

These receptors are also interrelated. An activity may have an effect on more than one receptor. An effect on one receptor may cause a knock-on effect to another receptor. These interrelationships would need to be explored in the EIA and may have implications for the scope of specific assessments required under Water Environment Regulations 2017 and the Habitats Regulations 2017.

Marine and coastal physical processes

Marine developments can cause changes to physical marine and coastal processes and can cause direct and indirect impacts on other receptors.

Changes to hydrodynamics, geology, sediments, morphology or the water column can all affect other receptors like biodiversity, water quality risk of flooding. The scale of change depends on the type of development and its location.

Understanding physical process early can help identify the assessment area, called the zone of influence.

You should consider physical processes and climate change impacts together to help assess and plan for future scenarios. This can help developments be more resilient to climate change and residual impacts minimised and mitigated.

Our Marine Physical Processes guidance sets out the survey, monitoring and numerical modelling needs for EIA marine developments.

You should identify if your development has the potential to impact on marine and physical processes. If so, this will need assessment in the EIA.

Coastal impact studies are usually needed for marine aggregate extraction activities. This activity can cause changes to physical processes such as sediment plumes and coastal erosion. Information is available on carrying out a coastal impact study from British Marine Aggregate Produces Association.

Shoreline management plans (SMP) set out information on coastal environments including the baseline and future evolution scenarios at the coast. Stretches of the coast are divided into management units, each with an assigned management policy. You can use the SMPs to find out the management policy for the development area and information to help with the assessment.

You can use the Welsh Government's Technical Advice Note 14 on Coastal Planning for scoping physical processes.

The Wales Coastal Monitoring Centre (WCMC) can provide coastal monitoring reports and long-term datasets.


Marine developments can impact on biodiversity. Important biodiversity is often given legal protection. Understanding the designations and management objectives of protected species and habitats that may be impacted by the development will help inform the assessment in the EIA.

This section outlines the biodiversity protections in Wales to consider when scoping an EIA.

You should consider which designated site(s) and its habitat or species features, and any other protected species that could be impacted by the development and need further assessment. This can be within or close to the development footprint or maybe further away, for example, designated sites that contain bird features that have large bird foraging ranges.

This can involve:

  • Identifying the sites, habitats and species that are under protection
  • Understanding their importance at a local, regional, national and international level
  • Understanding potential impact pathways between the development activities and the species or habitat
  • Understanding the management measures and objectives applied to these sites and species
  • Gaps in information about where and when these species occur whether further surveys will be required to inform assessments and uncertainties about the methods that should be used for assessment

Use our marine and coastal guidance to:

  • Understand marine vertebrate conservation legislation in Wales
  • Find our marine ecology data and their uses in development
  • Identify survey requirements for seabed habitats and birds

Find sites in Wales using our designated sites search.

Find out more about types of protected site in Wales.

Find guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) from CIEEM.

National and international sites

SACs and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in the UK no longer form part of the EU’s Natura 2000 ecological network. Instead they form part of a national site network. It includes:

  • Special Protection Areas (SPAs) - designated because of rare or migratory birds and their habitats
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) - for a wide range of habitats and species other than birds

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance. In Wales, for the purposes of assessment, Ramsar sites are treated in the same way as SACs and SPAs.

Descriptions of each site are accompanied with information explaining the reasons and features for designation and the site conservation objectives. You can find this through our conservation advice packages for marine sites and the JNCC Marine Protected Area Mapper.

You should outline in the scoping report the nationally and internationally protected site, their features and the impact pathways from the development that will be included for assessment in the EIA.

Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) is the process for assessing possible harm a project could cause to a SAC, SPA or Ramsar site. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 set out the need for HRA. HRA is an additional requirement to EIA, but they should be coordinated where possible.

Find out more about environmental assessments and HRA.

Find out about marine licensing and HRA.

Find out the current condition of SACs and SPAs in Wales using the indicative feature condition assessments.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

SSSI are nationally important sites. Each SSSI has site information which includes:

  • Citation – which details the reasons why the site has been notified
  • List of potentially damaging operations – operations that could potentially damage the site and will therefore require assent or consent from NRW
  • Map – showing the extent of the notified site
  • Site management statement – setting out the management required to maintain the notified features of the site
  • Favourable condition status information about the site

You should identify which SSSIs and their features are likely to be impacted by development and will need further assessment in the EIA.

If works are happening within a SSSI and are undertaking an activity on the list of damaging activities you may need consent or assent from us.

Find details of SSSIs in Wales.

European Protected Species (EPS)

Marine species vulnerable to decline in Europe are classed as European Protected Species (EPS). They include all cetaceans, turtles and some fish such as sturgeon.

It is an offence to disturb, injure or kill an EPS. You should avoid effects on EPS by careful project design such as installation methods. Where this is not possible you should consider the need for a licence as a last resort in order to avoid committing an offence.

You should identify whether your development is likely to disturb, injure or kill and EPS. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA and may require an EPS licence.

Find out more information and qualifying criteria for a licence from our species licensing team.

Read the marine vertebrate conservation legislation guidance.

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) protect marine species, habitats or geological features of interest. MCZs are designated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009). In 2014, Part 5 of the Marine Act came into force and as a result, the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve was reclassified as an MCZ. Skomer MCZ is wholly within the Pembrokeshire Marine Special Area of Conservation.

In 2017, Welsh Government committed to identifying a small number of new of Marine Conservation Zones to complete the Welsh contribution to the wider UK network of Marine Protected Areas.

As this work develops, Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales will develop a process to incorporate the requirements of sections 125 – 128 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act (duties on public bodies). These duties include the assessment of development impacts on MCZs.

Public bodies (including the regulator) have a duty to exercise their functions in a way that best furthers the conservation objectives of the MCZ; or where this is not possible to minimise anything that would hinder the achievement of objectives for the site.

Developers should therefore address the potential impact of their project on the any MCZ that might be affected in the EIA and include within the ES the information necessary to allow the decision-maker to assess the implications for the conservation objectives of the site(s). 

National Nature Reserves (NNRs)

Natural Resources Wales selects and designates National Nature Reserves in Wales under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, or under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are managed for the purpose of research, study and/or preservation of flora and fauna or geological and physiographical features.

All National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in Wales are legally protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Most are also declared under the Habitats Regulations  as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA) or Ramsar (wetlands). These designations provide further legal protection.

Find out more about National Nature Reserves NNRs.

You should identify if the development is likely to have an impact on an NNR. If so, this will need further assessment in the EIA.

Environment (Wales) Act 2016 – Section 7

Under Section 7 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, the Welsh Government has defined the species and habitats that are of principle importance for maintaining and enhancing biodiversity.

You should identify whether your development is likely to have an impact on Section 7 species and habitats. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA

Section 6 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 requires public authorities to “seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity” and “promote the resilience of ecosystems” within their functions. You should explore opportunities for habitat improvement and creation, as well as increasing resilience (connectivity, diversity, condition).

Find information about the Section 7 marine habitats and marine species.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) - Schedule 5 List

Species on the Schedule 5 list of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000), are protected from “reckless or intentional disturbance”. This includes all cetaceans, turtles and some fish species.

You should identify if the development is likely to have an impact on Schedule 5 species. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA.

Seascape and landscape

The importance of seascape and landscape are set out in Planning Policy Wales and the Wales National Marine Plan. Decision-makers need to take account of these.

Our Advisory remit focuses on designated landscapes. These are National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our advice will focus on impacts to these areas.

Other landscape interests may be relevant to your assessments, such as local and historic landscapes. Local Planning Authorities and National Park Authorities can advise on locally important landscape features. CADW and the Welsh Archaeological Trusts can advise on historic landscape.

The need for a detailed Seascape and Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (SLVIA) will depend on the development location and design.

Some marine developments may have very limited effects on seascape, such as a fully submerged tidal energy device may not require further assessment in the EIA.

You should identify if the development has the potential for significant effects on seascape and landscape. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA.

We strongly encourage you to seek advice as to whether seascape and landscape is likely to be an issue before deciding the final location and design.

Find out more about seascapes and landscape.

We have provided information and guidance on seascape and landscape character assessment. This includes National Marine Character Areas and LANDMAP.

Find our evidence reports on Seascape and visual sensitivity to offshore wind farms (Reports 315, 330 and 331).

Access the Register of Landscapes of Historic Interest in Wales.

Water quality

Marine developments can impact on elements of water quality. These can include:

  • Water clarity
  • Temperature
  • Oxygen Levels
  • Nutrients
  • Microbial Patterns
  • Salinity/Conductivity
  • Ph
  • Chemicals

Water quality is mostly protected under the Water Environment Regulations 2017. 

Marine developments and associated work can impact on water quality directly. Impacts may arise from works within the marine environment or those of terrestrial origin. Releases of contaminants from sediment should also be considered in line with OSPAR guidelines for the management of dredged material.

You should identify if your development has the potential to affect water quality. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA.

Hydrodynamic modelling can help when assessing impact to water quality. We strongly encourage you to get in touch with us before undertaking modelling so we can advise on the most suitable type for the development.

You will need to consider climate change related effects such as increasing sea surface temperatures on thermal plumes, sea level rise on discharge points, the potential for ocean acidity and changes in oxygenation in your assessment. This can help developments be more resilient to climate change and minimise and mitigate impacts.

Changes to water quality, physical processes and biodiversity may also need to be considered in WFD Compliance Assessments.

A WFD Compliance Assessment is the process for determining how a new development may impact a WFD water body or WFD objectives. A WFD Compliance Assessment is an additional requirement to EIA, but they should be coordinated where possible.

The WFD Compliance Assessment will need to describe:

Our guidance for assessing activities and projects for compliance with WFD is available on request.

Find information about marine licensing and the WFD.

Find guidance on carrying out a WFD Compliance Assessment on the Gov.UK website.

For developments containing a discharge, you should follow surface water pollution risk assessment guidance.

Find our guidance on numerical modelling to support water quality assessment.


Development in certain locations can increase the risk of flooding. This can have serious consequences for people and the environment. If the development is in an area at risk of flooding, you will need to demonstrate the flood risk and consequences are acceptable.

Coastal developments are most likely to have flooding impacts, but offshore developments may need to consider flooding if there are changes to physical processes or onshore elements.

You should identify if the development has the potential to increase the risk of flooding. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA

We can advise if a Flood Consequence Assessment (FCA) is needed and what it should include. We recommend you check the Development Advice Map for the level of flood risk.

Find guidance for completing an FCA in the Technical Advice Note 15 on Development and Flood Risk.

Land quality

Marine developments can have effects on land and sediment quality, particularly during construction and decommissioning.

The guiding principles for land contamination set out the extent of preliminary information needed to scope an assessment on land quality, which depends on the type of activity, site sensitivity and previous uses. Scoping can help identify if site investigation, risk assessments or remediation may be needed.

Sediment sampling and analysis may be required if material is being dredged or disposed of at sea, in line with OSPAR guidelines for the management of dredged material.

You should identify if the development has potential impacts on land and sediment quality or cause contamination. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA.

Our advice on land contamination only addresses impacts to controlled waters. These are territorial, coastal, inland water and ground waters. Local authorities can provide advice on human health impact from land contamination.

Air quality

Air quality impacts from developments will depend on the type of development and its location. Development impacts on air quality can be direct, such as new point sources of air pollution, or indirect, such as leading to increased vehicle or vessel emissions.

Air quality objectives set thresholds above which are considered to have unacceptable health and environmental risks. Air Quality Management Areas are set by local authorities for local scale management and identify areas of poor air quality.

You should identify if the development has the potential impact to air quality, particularly areas with existing poor air quality. If so, this will need to be assessed in the EIA.

Find information about how we provide air advice, modelling and risk assessment services.

Find air quality information, reports and datasets from Air Quality in Wales.

Climate change

Increased greenhouse gas emissions from human activity impact on climate change. This means severe, irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems are more likely.

EIA Regulations now require a description of the likely significant effects of the project on climate change.

You should identify the likely significant effects from the project on climate change and the vulnerability of your development to climate change that require further assessment in the EIA. For example:

  • Effects on climate change: increased greenhouse gas emissions from a new oil platform
  • Vulnerability to climate change: assessing for severe weather events for coastal nuclear power plants
  • Consequences of climate change: building sea defences can cause coastal squeeze from sea level rise in the future.

Find the latest science relating to climate change from the IPCC.

Cumulative and in-combination effects

Cumulative effects are those that are insignificant on their own but can become significant when joint with other changes over time or in one location. In-combination effects are those that originate from interactions between project and activities.

These effects can be caused by any size development or activity, not just major ones.

Mobile species, like marine mammals, birds and fish, and physical processes can cover a wide geographic area. This means development might have cumulative effects with others located far away.

You should identify the other development projects or activities that will be assessed for potential cumulative and in-combination effects in the EIA.

Find out about assessing cumulative effects and The Planning Inspectorate process.

Find assessment of cumulative effects guidelines for Ecological Impact Assessment from CIEEM.

Avoidance, mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures

Avoiding environmental impacts can be built into good development design and planning. This is the first step in following a mitigation hierarchy.

It is not always possible to avoid all impacts, so mitigation measures to reduce and minimise impacts may be needed.

Only where impacts cannot be avoided or mitigated should compensating or offsetting for losses be considered.

At the scoping stage of an EIA, usually only a general consideration of mitigation measures is possible. However, considering mitigation measures early means they can sometimes be integrated in the project design. For example, changing the development scale or location or using different installation methods detailed in a Construction Environment Management Plan. These can reduce the risk of potential impacts and potentially reduce the need for more information during consenting.

The Welsh National Marine Plan encourages projects to restore and enhance the marine environment. Where possible, these measures should be integrated into the development design.

We are happy to advise on mitigation and enhancement option in detail as the development progresses through the EIA. The cost of changing project design means that it is best to consider this during early planning.


Monitoring may be needed for a number of different reasons, such gathering environmental information to inform the EIA and post consent monitoring to validated EIA predictions. These should be considered at an early stage in the EIA process.

You should identify any monitoring that is needed to help inform the assessment. For example, to monitor the abundance and distribution of receptors to determine whether they are vulnerable to development activity.

Monitoring may be required after development activities have taken place or during operation to check that certain impacts do not arise where there is any uncertainty about the risk to the environment.

Where the effectiveness of mitigation measures are uncertain, it may be necessary to include monitoring to check whether they have been effective.

It is best to plan post-consent monitoring requirements at an early stage of the assessment so that they can be appropriately aligned with monitoring needed to inform the assessment. This will allow for detection of any effects using a ‘before and after’ comparison. Some monitoring can even be incorporated into the development project design. For example, tracking cameras on offshore wind turbines to monitor bird interactions.

Monitoring is a particularly important aspect of any adaptive approach introduced to manage impacts about which there is particular uncertainty.

Find out about using adaptive management for marine developments.

Marine licensing

For EIA marine developments that need a marine licence in Wales, NRW is the decision-maker. Read more about applying for a marine licence, including scoping and the EIA process.

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