The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 is central to the government’s vision for “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.” It is intended to create a more integrated approach to effective marine management and the sustainable use and protection of marine resources. At the heart of the new system is the Marine Management Organisation (“MMO”), a centre of marine expertise designed to carry out a wide range of regulatory activity. The Act transfers to the MMO a number of licensing functions previously carried out by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (eg the licensing of fishing boats and the grant of consents under the Electricity Act 1989 for offshore energy generating installations. It gives the MMO the responsibility for a simplified licensing system which, subject to the separate consent procedure for nationally significant infrastructure projects under the Planning Act 2008, draws together current regimes in the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, the Coast Protection Act 1949 and the Telecommunications Act 1984 for marine works and other marine activity.
To provide a framework for decisions under the new legislation, the Act also provides for a new system of marine planning, based upon the terrestrial land use planning system. This involves the production of a Marine Policy Statement (“MPS”) by the UK government, which sets out overarching policy objectives for use of the marine environment. Consultation on a draft MPS has just finished and the final version is due in Sprint 2011. The MPS will be used as the basis for a system of marine plans covering the UK marine area. These will set out more detailed policies for the use of our seas. The MMO has just announced the selection of the East Inshore and East Offshore sea areas (between Flamborough Head in East Riding of Yorkshire to Felixstowe in Suffolk) as the first two English marine plan areas that will be developed from April 2011, with the remaining 8 to follow over the next 10 years.
The 2009 Act also provides for the establishment of a walking route around the whole of England’s open coast, the England Coast Path, the first section of which is intended to be in place at Weymouth Bay in Dorset in time for the Olympic and Paralympics sailing events in 2012.
On 1st November 2010 Landmark Chambers hosted the UKELA Autumn Seminar “Managing the Marine Environment”, at which 3 members of chambers gave presentations on the new legislation, along with representatives from the MMO. Richard Moules’ paper dealt with the coastal access provisions of the 2009 Act; Scott Lyness considered the issues raised by the new marine planning regime; and James Maurici considered the areas of the MMO’s work which may be most susceptible to judicial review proceedings. To read the papers please email us.