The MMO has been issuing marine licences in
England under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 since 6 April 2011 for
licensable activities taking place up to the mean spring high-tide water mark. In
some river basins this can cover a substantial area. Licensable activities include
the construction, alteration or improvement of any works in or over the sea or
on or under the seabed and the removal of any substance or object from the
The complexity of the legislation surrounding
coastal development is widely recognised. Usually, unless a Harbour Revision
Order is in place which authorises the development, terrestrial planning
permission is required down to the mean spring low-tide water mark. Accordingly,
a number of coastal development projects require consent under both
regimes. Under environmental legislation
additional consent may also be required from other regulatory bodies.
Recognising this complexity, the government has launched its Coastal Concordat
to try to coordinate and streamline the consenting process. The new framework
sets out to provide a single point of entry for applicants, who will then be
guided to the other regulators responsible for the additional consents required
for the development.
Where a development requires Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA) consent, the Coastal Concordat appoints a single lead
authority and all the regulators are expected to coordinate their approach to
determine all their likely environmental evidence requirements. Despite this,
while the Coastal Concordat is still gaining traction, the situation remains
particularly complex for such developments.
However, within the legislation, there is the
potential for regulators to dispense with or defer regulatory responsibilities.
An example is Regulation 10 of the Marine Works (Environmental Impact
Assessment) Regulations ('the MWRs'). Under Regulation 10 if an EIA assessment
of the project has already been, is being, or will be, carried out by another
authority (e.g. a local planning authority in respect of planning permission) then,
when considering a marine licence application, the MMO has the ability to defer
its responsibilities to the EIA consent decision of that authority. The MMO screens the Environmental Statement
to ensure that it contains all the information required under the MWRs and can
then defer its decision.
It is therefore important that if applicants wish to request a
Regulation 10 deferral they ensure that any Environmental Statement prepared
for the development contains all the information required by both the terrestrial
and marine EIA regulations. An example
of an area which is often overlooked is marine noise caused by piling.
The successful grant of a Regulation 10
deferral can save an applicant significant time and expense because the project
does not have to go through the full EIA process for a second time. Yet, despite
its importance, the deferral process is not widely understood. The MMO is rarely asked for a Regulation 10 deferral and the grant of one
remains unusual, presumably due to a lack of awareness among applicants. Where
an appropriate Environmental Statement exists, applicants should raise the
possibility of a Regulation 10 deferral with the MMO as early as possible
during pre-application discussions.
has offices in Bristol, London and Exeter and is able to advise on all aspects
of marine planning and licensing and the interaction between marine licensing
and terrestrial planning (including listed building consent), environmental law
and harbour 'works orders'.
By Jake Frith