Overview of marine sector governance for Wales: how will this affect activities and projects?

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On 26 September 2023, the Welsh government published an overview of marine sector governance. This provides a summary of the governance arrangements, consents and licences required in Wales for various marine activities and projects. 

This article highlights the importance of obtaining all relevant consents and licences for marine activities and projects. The overview covers, in summary:

  1. Marine planning - the Welsh National Marine Plan contains policies to guide applicants wishing to propose an activity or development within the Welsh marine area and decision makers who consider such projects.
  2. Nature positive projects - marine planning policy in Wales encourages actions that aim to improve the quality, size or area of a habitat or species to be included, as part of a proposal for development where possible and appropriate. There are specific consents and/or licences which will be required depending on the nature and scale of the project, but these can include a marine licence, planning permission and landowner permission.
  3. Marine aggregates - all vessels involved in marine aggregate extraction operations in Welsh waters are required to operate an electronic monitoring system and obtain a marine licence and landowner consent. This is usually from The Crown Estate.
  4. Aquaculture - the specific consents and/or licences required for establishing and running an aquaculture business in Wales depends on the species involved, method of cultivation and its location. However, aquaculture activities, including the placing of seabed structures, will require a lease or licence from The Crown Estate or agreement of other landowners depending on location. A marine licence is also required for structures associated with and the cultivation of any fish, shellfish or marine algal species.
  5. Defence operations - consent for any marine activities or proposals within the Ministry of Defence’s danger or exercise areas will only be granted where the Ministry of Defence is satisfied that the activities or proposals will not cause unacceptable risk to defence and national security interests.
  6. Dredging and disposal - a marine licence must be obtained for dredge and disposal operations, unless harbour orders enable statutory harbour authorities to carry out works within their limits, in which case an exemption may apply. In addition, other permissions such as landowner consent may be required.
  7. Energy: low carbon – the consents required depends on the low carbon energy project. However, a marine licence and development consent order are two of the primary consents that can be required.
  8. Oil and gas production - oil, gas and carbon capture and storage infrastructure requires the appropriate regulatory consents and environmental approvals. This is to ensure that developers consult with other sea users to consider their interactions and seek to avoid, minimise or mitigate their effects.
  9. Fisheries - all commercial fishing vessels require a licence to fish in UK waters and are required to carry a vessel monitoring system device, to enable their activity to be tracked and monitored. The Welsh government also require a ‘catch record’ to be submitted for each fishing trip within 24 hours of the catch being brought to land.
  10. Ports and shipping - port sector governance is varied depending on the nature of the port or associated shipping activity. The majority of operational ports and harbours in the UK are run by statutory harbour authorities and their powers vary depending on the size and type of the port. Statutory harbour authorities may require a marine licence and/or agreement from The Crown Estate and planning permission for port developments. Any works that could impact on, or be considered a danger or obstruction to navigation should also be advised to Trinity House and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency as part of the consenting process. Work should also be advised to the appropriate harbour authority if inside statutory harbour area limits.
  11. Subsea cabling - governance arrangements depend on the type and location of the cable. However, a marine licence is required for the installation and removal of subsea cables in the Welsh inshore marine area and may be required for the installation and removal of subsea cables in the Welsh offshore area.
  12. Surface water and wastewater treatment and disposal - all water and wastewater infrastructure in the Welsh inshore marine area requires a marine licence and landowner consent. This is usually from The Crown Estate.
  13. Tourism and recreation - unlike other sectors, tourism and recreation generally does not require authorisation or permitting. The exceptions are proposed coastal and at-sea structures or developments, for example constructing or maintaining infrastructure. These may require permissions such as a marine licence or planning permission.

Ashfords advises on all legal aspects involved in coastal development, both inside and outside ports and harbours. This includes marine regulation, marine licensing, marine construction and infrastructure projects, harbour orders, transport and works act orders, development consent orders and environmental and planning laws. 

If you have any queries or would like further information on governance requirements, please contact our marine team.

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