Show you care about our seas enough to ask for more democracy in UK marine licensing

Marine Licensing is the process for getting planning permission to dig, dump or build something at sea. However, communities currently have no rights to challenge the regulator’s decisions.

If you want more protection for our seas, please reply to an important Department of Environment (DEFRA) consultation, before the deadline of 25th February 2015.

Unusually, DEFRA acknowledge they gave too much power to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) when they delegated responsibility for Marine Licensing to the MMO in 2010. Currently there is no right for the public or their representatives to appeal or to request a Public Inquiry into any marine licence decisions. The decisions rest solely with the MMO.

Now DEFRA are minded to allow more democracy into the Marine Licensing process, allowing planning bodies to request that certain cases should go to Public Inquiry.

The proposals need your support, to counteract the probable lobbying by the dredging industry who will want to water down the proposals.

Of course, the proposals don’t go far enough. However, it’s a matter of pushing against a half-open door, rather than the usual brick wall, so if we all push together, we can open that door further. We need DEFRA to see that there are a lot of people watching what they do on this, especially just before a General Election.

The briefing below has some suggestions for key points to make, to help tailor your response, especially if you know as little about this topic as I did before I started delving.

PETITION: There is also a community Avaaz petition on this topic — obviously if you send in a tailored reply, that will have far more weight, but please sign the petition as well.

The petition is addressed to Liz Truss, UK Secretary of State for Environment, “DEFRA consultation on Marine Licensing”.
Click here to find out more and sign.

Let DEFRA know that you care about our seas. Don’t delay, we only have till 25th February.

Details to help with a tailored reply to the consultation

In 2010, the UK Department for Environment (DEFRA) delegated its responsibility for marine licensing to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

However, in an unusual move, DEFRA has now admitted that it gave the MMO too much power, because communities were given no right to challenge MMO decisions.

DEFRA has now issued draft proposals to add some democracy into the marine licensing process, but only for large projects, and only if the sites are within 6 nautical miles of shore. Only Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) would get the power to request Public Inquiries.

This consultation is very different, because DEFRA are already minded to make marine licensing a bit more democratic. It’s like pushing against a half-open door, rather than a brick wall. If we push hard enough we might be able to gain a better deal.

We all need to show our support for these proposals, as the big dredging companies are probably lobbying to get them watered down. However, the proposals don’t go far enough.

Referral to Public Inquiry should be allowed for all cases which may pose an unreasonable danger to the environment.

The consultation documents are available at
https://consult.defra.gov.uk/fisheries/mlr-cases-for-sos-determination

Please respond to the consultation before the deadline of 25th February.
Send a personalised email:
To: email hidden; JavaScript is required
Subject: Ref: DEFRA Consultation “Marine licensing: Recovery of cases for Secretary of State determination” of 14th January 2015

Points you might make include:

  • The proposals are encouraging, but don’t go far enough.
  • There should be an automatic Public Inquiry into any potentially harmful activity proposed within a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).
  • Referral to Public Inquiry should be allowed for all cases which may pose an unreasonable danger to the environment.
  • Distance from shore should not stop a contentious case from being allowed to go to public inquiry.
  • Anyone should be allowed to request a Public Inquiry, not just local authorities.

If you prefer to post a paper reply, the address is
DEFRA
Area 8B, 9 Millbank
c/o Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Email: email hidden; JavaScript is required

Background:

Since 2010, the MMO has granted Licences for many huge offshore dredging sites, taking very little of objections from coastal communities or evidence of potential harm to the environment.

Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ):

This would be an ideal opportunity for DEFRA to give better legal protection for these fragile areas, yet there is no mention of MCZs in the proposals.

Marine Conservation Zones are designated so as to give them some legal protection from harm, usually because of their special and often unique habitat. Very few areas have been designated as MCZs. When they are, it is because they are vulnerable and their special features need legal protection from harm.

A pre-application for dredging within a MCZ is currently being considered by the MMO. There is already dredging right next to this MCZ, which is a prime black bream spawning ground. No potentially damaging activities should be allowed in a MCZ without a rigorous independent examination into the implications. This can only be achieved by a full Public Inquiry.

Distance from shore:

DEFRA’s proposals limit the ability to ask for a Public Inquiry, to sites within 6 nautical miles of shore. There would still be no right of appeal for sites further out, however significant the proposed activities. Huge offshore dredging plans usually involve dredging 45 million tonnes over 15 years, that’s three million tonnes per year, at many sites around our coasts.

Only Planning authorities allowed!

DEFRA’s proposals would only allow Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) to challenge the MMO’s licensing decisions. This is too restrictive. Anyone who can show sufficient grounds for concern should be allowed to request a Public Inquiry.

Please also sign and share the Avaaz community petition at:
The petition is addressed to Liz Truss, UK Secretary of State for Environment, “DEFRA consultation on Marine Licensing”.
Click here to find out more and sign.

PETITION WORDING

As citizens concerned about the state of our seas, we applaud the UK government’s recognition that the UK marine licensing system needs to be more democratic.

However, the draft proposals are too restrictive.

We urge the government to allow any UK citizen to request a Public Inquiry on any marine licensing case which could cause unacceptable environmental harm.

In addition, all Licences for potentially damaging activities within a Marine Conservation Zone should automatically be subject to Public Inquiry.

Please spread the word — pass it on to your networks and websites, print articles, post it on your Facebook page, Twitter etc.


Please do share this

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • email hidden; JavaScript is required
  • RSS