Marine Licensing & Planning

Advising on compliance with marine licensing and planning matters and defending against any enforcement action.

Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 ('MCAA'),

  • the Marine Management Organisation is responsible for Marine Planning and Licensing in the English inshore and offshore areas and for marine licensing in Welsh and Northern Ireland offshore areas;
  • Natural Resources Wales has similar responsibilities in Wales in relation to the Welsh inshore areas
  • the Marine and Fisheries Division of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is responsible for the regime in Northern Irish inshore waters.

In Scotland, Marine  Scotland are responsible for the regime in Scottish inshore and offshore waters under the Marine Scotland Act 2010. 

Under the MCAA, a marine licence is required for 'licensable activities' taking place up to the mean high water spring tide mark - including tidal estuaries, rivers and channels, unless an exemption applies.  In addition, the scope of activities requiring a marine licence has been significantly widened and now includes:

  • Construction, alteration or improvement of any works in or over the sea or on or under the seabed (this description can encompass the maintenance of existing works)
  • Dredging
  • Deposit, removal or incineration of any substance or object
  • Scuttling of any vessel or floating container

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy retains responsibility for some licensing and planning decisions in relation to oil, gas and larger offshore renewables projects.

Carrying out licensable activities without a marine licence or in breach of the conditions of a marine licence can result in an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison (for the most serious offences). We have experience of successfully defending clients in relation to marine licensing enforcement action.  

Our marine Licensing and planning experience

  • Advising a government department in connection with the construction of a new Ferry Terminal in a UK port including, marine licensing, EIA deferrals and statutory harbour power related advice.
  • Advising in respect of a major mixed use coastal regeneration project, including the Harbour Empowerment/Revision Order, planning permission, marine licenses, other marine consents, and environmental consents.
  • Advising on a large flood defence scheme within statutory harbour limits, including in relation to the Harbour Revision Order, the marine licence required to authorise the scheme and interaction with the terrestrial planning regime.
  • Advising and acting for the RNLI in respect of the charity's marine licensing requirements for maintenance of all existing infrastructure across the UK (in excess of 240 sites). Successfully secured the grant of ground-breaking regional marine licences in England, Wales, and Scotland.
  • Advising in respect of planning permission, marine licences, other marine consents (including Wildlife Licensing), the Public Right of Navigation and EIA Regulation 10 Deferral connected to a number of multi-million-pound coastal developments.
  • Advising on the terms of construction documentation for harbour regeneration scheme and new marina involving the installation of a wave gate, pontoons, and marina building. In addition, advising on matters related to the lease, a licence of the seabed from the Crown Estate and marine licensing.
  • Advising a marine cable installation contractor in related to disputed variations under a FIDIC Yellow Book contract for termination and testing of 18 kilometres of core submarine cables in relation to an offshore windfarm.



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