A Strategic Approach to Cumulative Effects

Rachel Barker
NIRAS Consulting Ltd, St Giles Court, Cambridge, CB3 0AJ

T: 01223 803744
M: 07714 101842
E: reb@niras.com
W: www.nirasconsulting.co.uk

Cumulative effects can be considered as the combined effects of past, present and reasonably foreseeable activities over time, on environmental, economic and social receptors. An individual effect alone may be considered insignificant, but multiple additive effects, from any number of sources, could result in a significant effect, either positive or negative.

Under the Marine Policy Statement (MPS) the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has an obligation to ensure potential cumulative effects are taken into account in its decision making. In accordance with the principles of sustainable development, there is a need to consider the environmental, social and economic effects of marine activities at both the project and plan level. The identification and evaluation of potential environmental, social, and economic effects of marine activities allows for effective management measures to be put in place to minimise or remove negative effects. Currently, there is no guidance available or system in place to ensure consistency in this process, and so the MMO commissioned NIRAS Consulting Ltd to develop an initial high level consistent approach to scoping in cumulative effects, specific to the needs of MMO functions. The main aim was to provide MMO with an overarching methodology that could be used as part of its day to day operations. The approach needed to be applicable for all marine plan areas and all relevant MPS sectors.

The project provided a review of current evidence into cumulative effects assessment processes focusing on scoping; results of extensive consultation undertaken as part of the project; guidelines for the management of contribution to cumulative effects and mitigation; and a framework to identify and scope cumulative effects at a strategic level, that aims to be proportionate and achievable in practice. In addition to the report, an evidence database was produced collating current evidence relating to potential high level pressures on environmental receptors resulting from marine activities.

The report was published in December 2014 as part of the MMO evidence programme.  The full report can be found here.