Answer to Rhoda’s Parliamentary Questions on Environmental Impact Assessment

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how many applications for activities that require to be screened in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 have been (a) received and (b) approved by each Forestry Commission Conservancy office in each year since 2012.

Roseanna Cunningham: Since 2012 the number of applications received for activities that required screening in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 was 979.
Since 2012 the number of applications approved for activities that required screening in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 was 967.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how many applications for consent under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 have been determined by Forestry Commission Scotland since 2010, and how many (a) were determined not to require assessment, (b) were refused, (c) required environmental impact assessment and (d) required appropriate assessment of their effect on European wildlife sites.

Roseanna Cunningham: Since 2010 the number of Environmental Impact Assessment cases determined by Forestry Commission Scotland was 1466. The number of applications determined not to require assessment was 1440. The number of applications determined to need an Environmental Impact Assessment and subsequently consent was not given, was zero. The number of applications that subsequently required environmental impact assessment was 26. The number of applications that required appropriate assessment of their effect on European wildlife sites was 3.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how many woodland expansion proposals have been consented without an approved environmental impact assessment by each Forestry Commission Scotland conservancy since 2010 for new woodland planting on (a) sensitive and (b) non-sensitive sites.

Roseanna Cunningham: All applications that require Environmental Impact Assessment consent need to submit a full Environmental Statement. Therefore, since 2010 no woodland planting on sensitive and non-sensitive sites have been consented without an approved environmental impact assessment (Environmental Statement).


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how many woodland expansion proposals have been consented without an approved environmental impact assessment by each Forestry Commission Scotland conservancy since 2007 for woodland planting (a) below two, (b) between two and 10, (c) from 10 to 100 and (d) above 100 hectares.

Roseanna Cunningham: All applications that require Environmental Impact Assessment consent need to submit a full Environmental Statement. Therefore, since 2007 no woodland planting has been consented by Forestry Commission Scotland without an approved environmental impact assessment (Environmental Statement) for any woodland, whether below 2 hectares, between 2 and 100 hectares, or above 100 hectares.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what assessment criteria and procedures are used before consent for new woodland planting is issued to ensure that significant negative environmental effects will not arise.

Roseanna Cunningham: Schedule 3 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999, states the Selection Criteria for Projects having significant effects on the environment – this includes the characteristics and location of the project. The procedures used by Forestry Commission Scotland are contained in the published guidance available at the following website:

http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/images/corporate/pdf/EIAGeneral09.pdf



Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how it records the potential cumulative impact of new commercial afforestations and how these records help to inform decisions for assessment criteria.

Roseanna Cunningham:The cumulative impact of projects is taken into account during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) determination screening phase. Information on existing woodland creation projects is recorded and is available to Forestry Commission Scotland staff and the public through the publically available web browsers at the following:

http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/supporting/communication-consultation/map-viewer-guidance


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how it assesses the (a) site and (b) cumulative environmental impacts for proposals for woodland expansion.

Roseanna Cunningham: Forestry Commission Scotland assesses the site of proposals for woodland expansion and their environmental impacts using the Selection Criteria (stated in Schedule 3 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999) and the information supplied by the applicant. The cumulative impact of projects is taken into account during the Environmental Impact Assessment determination screening phase.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what guidance is available to Forestry Commission Scotland staff to enable them to determine what a “significant impact” is, as defined under Article 3 of the EnvironmentaI Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) 1999 Regulations.

Roseanna Cunningham: Forestry Commission Scotland provides internal guidance to staff in the form of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Code, which contains information on all of the steps in the Environment Impact Assessment process and on policy and legislation. Within this document, guidance is provided on assessing sensitivity, magnitude and significance. Forestry Commission Scotland also provides a training course to staff using this guidance.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what steps it has taken to determine the effectiveness of environmental impact assessment guidance issued to Forestry Commission Scotland area office staff to ensure that the purpose of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 is met.

Roseanna Cunningham: Forestry Commission Scotland Internal Audit services are used to test for compliance with procedures under the Environmental Impact Assessment legislation. The last audit was carried out in 2014 and this gave substantial assurance that guidance was being complied with and that objectives were being achieved.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government whether Forestry Commission Scotland staff involved in determining screening applications under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 are required to hold chartered forester status and, if not, how their competence to assess such applications is assured.

Roseanna Cunningham: Forestry Commission Scotland does not require staff involved in determining screening applications under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 to hold chartered forester status. Forestry Commission Scotland staff are appointed on merit through fair and open competition. They are assessed against the essential criteria for a specific job. For woodland officers, this includes a forestry or equivalent environmental qualification. In addition, Environment Impact Assessment determinations are reviewed and countersigned by a senior member of the Conservancy team to ensure consistency, and to ensure that expert advice has been used where needed.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what training it provides to Forestry Commission Scotland conservancy office staff with regard to the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 and what the content is of such training.

Roseanna Cunningham: Forestry Commission Scotland provides bespoke Environmental Impact Assessment staff training which covers all aspects of Environmental Impact Assessment legislation, procedures, and assessment.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what environmental checks are in place for woodland planting schemes that do not require an environmental impact assessment.

Roseanna Cunningham: All woodland planting applications are screened against the Environmental Impact Assessment legislation. Those that do not require an Environmental Impact Assessment but are seeking grant funding are carefully assessed to ensure compliance with the UK Forestry Standard.


Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government how Forestry Commission Scotland is meeting (a) national and (b) international biodiversity obligations across the forest estate.

Roseanna Cunningham: Forest Enterprise Scotland, an agency of Forestry Commission Scotland, manages Scotland’s National Forest Estate (NFE) on behalf of Scottish Ministers. FES uses - at a national level - the National Strategic Directions publication, which sets out how the conservation of biodiversity is delivered across the NFE in line with the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004). In prioritising biodiversity related work programmes, Forest Enterprise Scotland is guided by the Scottish Forestry Strategy, as well as the biodiversity guidelines contained within the UK Forestry Standard. The actions taken, and progress achieved, are reported annually in the published Forest Commission Scotland Annual Review, as required by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011). In addition, the independent certification of the NFE under the UK Woodland Assurance Standard provides assurance that the management of biodiversity on the estate follows industry best practice. The delivery of Scottish Biodiversity Strategy objectives on the NFE also contributes to the international biodiversity targets set out in the EU Biodiversity Strategy and in the Convention on Biological Diversity's Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 (Aichi targets). To ensure that the EU Habitats and Birds Directives are met, all nature conservation features of special interest on designated sites on the NFE are also monitored in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage under the national Site Condition Monitoring programme.

Rhoda Grant : To ask the Scottish Government what monitoring is in place to ensure that new woodland planting schemes are delivering biodiversity outcomes.

Roseanna Cunningham: The Scottish Government requires that all new woodland planting schemes, funded under the Scottish Rural Development Programme Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS), comply with the UK Forestry Standard and its Forest and Biodiversity Guidelines. Under the FGS applicants can propose to deliver specific biodiversity outcomes. Those applications are monitored to ensure that the biodiversity-related works the applicant proposed are completed. Site inspections are on a sample basis. A failure to carry out the required works can result in a breach of the FGS terms and conditions and monies may be recovered.