• Coastal and offshore Development
  • Offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation
  • Military activities
  • Aggregates extraction

Coastal and offshore development

Development, including coastal defence is generally focused around existing coastal settlements. WAG commissioned a study in July 2006 looking at a strategic & sustainable framework for coastal regeneration along some 386 kms of coastline (which includes the Cardigan Bay SAC). Water-based development within the SAC is generally associated with existing harbour facilities at Aberaeron, New Quay and Cardigan. In the DTI Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy Resources, Cardigan Bay is identified as a suitable wind farm location but was not considered ideal for wave or tidal energy.

How will proposals for coastal and offshore development be managed within the SAC?

The planning system is operated primarily by local authorities; Ceredigion County Council (CCC), Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA). Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs) set out a strategy for sustainable coastal defence. All coastal development with the potential to cause unfavourable effects on the site’s features (including sea-defence, land-claim, or power generation plant construction) will be treated as a Plan or Project and subject to Appropriate Assessment.

Offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation

Whilst there are currently no oil and gas exploitation structures within Cardigan Bay (the nearest being in Milford Haven) it is thought that the Bay may hold some gas reserves that could be exploited in the future.

Licenses for Oil and gas exploration are issued by the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR, former DTI) following two phases: The issuing of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) under the Environmental Assessment Directive (2001/42/EC) and the carrying out of an Appropriate Assessment (AA), as outlined in the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC).

Licenses provide licensees with exclusive rights to a block and associated data but are not in itself a green light to carry out any work in the field. If after evaluating the data made available through the license a licensee wishes to proceed with a proposal a detailed application has to be submitted to BERR. The proposal will be evaluated by BERR in accordance with the Plans & Projects procedures of the Habitats Directive and in consultation with the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) to determine whether the project can go ahead and will have no adverse effect on the features of the site.

During the 24th Licensing Round in 2006 two companies made a joint application for a license in blocks 107/21, 107/22 and 106/30 of the SEA 6 (see enclosed map as well as the BERR website for further details). During the AA phase some shortcomings were identified through consultation with CCW such as the lack of a mechanism to regulate seismic surveys within 12nm from the coast. BERR have addressed these shortcomings and an amended AA for Cardigan Bay was published in 2008. This excluded the blocks within the SAC from licensing for oil and gas exploration at present, citing that not enough was known about the use of the site by bottlenose dolphins to be certain that they would not be affected.

Military Activities

The operators QinetiQ aim to manage the Range at Aberporth as a safe testing area for the MOD (Ministry of Defence) and other customers, and provide a variety of navigation, tracking and data processing facilities. Trials may involve the use of ships, aircraft and target structures at sea. Trials are carried out on a regular basis and all operators are required to abide by procedures outlined in the Aberporth Range Standing Orders. These procedures have been amended to include measures to ensure the area of risk is clear of dolphin, other cetacean or seal prior to a weapon firing trial. The revised Management Scheme identifies an action to refine these procedures to include the use of a hydrophone for cetacean detection.

Aggregates extraction

Aggregate extraction has the potential to cause a change in the topography and characteristics of the seabed. The reduction and or removal of sand supply could have an impact on sub-tidal sandbanks, which are a feature of the SAC. No marine aggregate extraction is currently occurring within Cardigan Bay nor is likely to occur in the near future. Management of the SAC will ensure that any future proposals for aggregate extraction with the potential to cause unfavourable effects on the site’s features are subject to Appropriate Assessment as a Plan or Project.