WHILE SOME LICENSING ARRANGEMENTS appear to work, the Seabed User & Developer Group has firsthand experience of the difficulties and complexity of many consenting regimes.
These can often be applied in an over precautionary manner and often with overlapping responsibilities between regulators, leading to a lack of clarity or consistency.
The absence of clear, overarching policy objectives for the marine environment also causes confusion and results in delays that waste time and resources for industry and regulators alike.
Against a background of widely shared concern about the regulatory processes that exist, we believe that rationalisation and improvement of regulation, licensing and other approvals is an absolute prerequisite for the success of the Marine and Coastal Access Act.
We welcome the Act’s commitment to deliver better regulation, and believe there should be greater emphasis on consistency, plus a more proportional approach to regulation based on the risk and significance of the activity being regulated – see the note on the SUDG view on the precautionary versus proportionate approach in the downloads section.
This would see low-risk activities subject to a “lighter touch” without removing the need for full assessment of larger and more potentially damaging schemes. The effectiveness of any regulatory process is as dependent on the systems that deliver it as it is on the regulation itself. Therefore, the mechanisms to implement the regulations will be equally important in delivering the desire for better regulation.
This will require clear guidance to be produced for regulators and applicants alike, and represents an opportunity to deliver greater consistency across industry environmental impact assessment processes by drawing upon existing good practices as a model. SUDG is working hard with Government and the conservation and regulatory authorities to find better and more cost effective ways of understanding and working with legislation and we will continue to do so as time goes on. For example, we are currently working very closely with Natural England to look at agreed ways of applying their extensive work on the likely impacts of activities in Marine Protected Areas.