SEPA grants licence for Loch Fitty project

date12 February 2013

Scotland's environmental regulator has granted a licence for the Scottish Coal Company Limited's (SCCL) project to drain Loch Fitty, the start of a project that will reinstate the loch to a higher standard than it is at present.

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The licence has been granted following Scottish Ministers' decision not to call the application in for consideration.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was first approached by SCCL in 2009. As is common in large, complex cases SEPA took part in lengthy pre-application discussions to ensure that the applicant understood the application process and what information SEPA would need to have to be able to consider it. An application was submitted in December 2011 for the draining of Loch Fitty and associated restoration activities.

The loch is currently assessed as at overall 'poor ecological status' (this is largely due to excess levels of phosphorus) and has:

  • water quality classed as 'poor';
  • high levels of phytoplankton, which can cause algal blooms which pull oxygen from the water;
  • morphology (the shape of the loch banks and beds) classed as 'moderate';
  • a fish population which is in a poor condition;
  • elevated levels of nutrients and metals in sediment.

SCCL's proposal will temporarily remove the loch, causing it to deteriorate to 'bad' ecological status while the work is ongoing. However, the loch will be re-instated once work is completed and, after restoration, is predicted to achieve "good" ecological status.        

The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations (commonly known as CAR) licence issued by SEPA contains conditions which SCCL must adhere to in order to minimise impact on the environment. In addition to complying with their licence conditions, SCCL will be required to operate at all times in accordance with a Monitoring and Management Plan which will be agreed with SEPA. Additional monitoring and inspection will also be undertaken by SEPA throughout the duration of the works

As part of the determination process SEPA completed a consultation and advertising exercise on the application last year, which took account of all relevant responses from statutory bodies and interested parties, including members of the public. SEPA was also a statutory consultee to the planning application to Fife Council. Planning permission was granted by Fife Council in Aug 2011.

Colin Anderson, SEPA's Area Manager, said:

SEPA is Scotland's environment watchdog and we have a responsibility under the Water Framework Directive to ensure that where lochs are in poor condition, like Loch Fitty, they are improved as soon as possible. When all the positive and negative aspects of the proposal are taken into account, SEPA is of the opinion that, on balance, this proposal will result in a better water environment longer term and that the proposal is therefore consentable.

"SEPA carefully considered every aspect of the proposal when determining SCCL's application for a licence and specialist advice was sought from officers throughout. With a proposal of this nature there will of course be some negative aspects, such as the concerns expressed by local residents in relation to the temporary loss of a local amenity. However, the proposal offers the opportunity for a loch that is currently at 'poor ecological status' to achieve "good" status about 10 years earlier than other options available to us would allow.

"We now hope to work constructively with SCCL, Fife Council and the local communities to ensure that this project continues to provide the best possible option for the improvement of Loch Fitty."

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Notes to editors

More information on the Water Framework Directive and the CAR Regulations is available on our website: