The purpose of the Evidence Plan process is to agree upfront the evidence that Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) need to supply for the various assessments (Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA), Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ)) for the Development Consent Order (DCO) and Marine Licence applications for Cardiff and future lagoons. Although the process has been established since 2012 in England, there is no formal mechanism that exists in Wales to support an Evidence Plan process. However, early agreement was reached with all the regulatory authorities that going through this process would be beneficial to all parties.
A key objective is to help reduce the need to be precautionary (and hence project risk) through the provision of appropriate evidence in a timely manner. The aims of an Evidence Plan process are as follows:
- To provide greater certainty to all parties on the scope and detail of evidence to be collected/provided
- To increase confidence in the scope/programming of technical studies
- To focus evidence requirements so that they are proportionate to the Project’s potential impacts
- Help address and agree issues earlier on in the pre-application process so that robust, streamlined decisions can be taken
- To provide an audit trail for agreements and disagreements on the evidence base requirements that can then be fed into Statements of Common Ground (SoCG)
An Evidence Plan Steering Group was set up in March 2015 which comprises representatives of the regulatory authorities, PINS and TLP. In addition, several Expert Topic Groups (ETG) have been established where the detailed discussions regarding evidence requirements take place. ETGs cover the following subjects:
- Coastal processes
- Intertidal & subtidal benthic ecology
- Coastal birds
- Marine mammals
The membership of the ETG has been expanded where relevant to include (for example) the RSPB and the Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA). Meetings have taken place over the last year to try and agree survey methodologies in order to collect the evidence to inform the assessments.
A final Evidence Plan, which sets out the mechanisms and approach towards reaching agreement on the evidence requirements is due to be published on the PINS website in early July 2016.