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BMF Members Give Feedback On Marine Bill

by Robin Pilgrim,, London

16 May 2007

British Marine Federation (BMF) members have been given the opportunity to influence the development of the UK's new Marine Bill.

At a recent event, Dave Bench, who heads up the DEFRA Marine Bill Team, went through the government proposals in detail.

The White Paper was broken down into four key sections, namely:

1. Planning in the Marine Area
2. Licensing Marine Activities
3. Marine Nature Conservation
4. Setting up a Marine Management Organisation

The event examined how the Bill will potentially affect both the UK marine industry and its customers.

Under the proposals, the government would set up a new Marine Management Organisation, which would take on the licensing of activities, such as dredging and marine construction, currently carried out by Marine Consents and Environment Unit. Ahead of this move, MCEU recently became part of the Marine and Fisheries Agency.

The new organisation is likely to be sited outside of London, and would also be responsible for Marine Planning, which is central to the Bill.

According to the BMF:

"Crucially, through lively discussion, it became clear that it was not intended to recreate a land based planning system offshore. Instead, such planning would be based on bringing together relevant information about both the marine environment and socio-economic activities. The resulting plans would reflect priorities based on relevant government policies. So where will marine leisure fit in future government priorities?"

"How marine planning will work in practice is still to be decided. What's clear is that there's an opportunity to speed up the marine consenting process and there was discussion of keeping the amount of work linked to getting consents in proportion to the scale of development involved. This would be a real step forward if it could be made to work in practice."

It continued:

"There are controversial aspects, for example the suggestion to introduce byelaw making powers, for the regulation of some unlicensed activities, potentially including motorised recreation. With these powers would come a system of enforcement - current suggestions include a system of fixed penalty notices for offences committed under these proposed nature conservation byelaws!"

"BMF has serious concerns about the practicality of these proposals, and also wants to ensure that sound science is at the core of what's proposed. Importantly, DEFRA recognise that education is preferable, although view the Bill as an opportunity to gain the above powers. Securing the future funding for the BMF and RYA's joint campaign the Green Blue is now looking crucial."

Those attending the event also considered the regulatory impact assessment that has been produced alongside the White Paper.

The Federation concluded by announcing that:

"BMF will be co-ordinating the views of our members to ensure we put in a robust response and continue to influence the Bill as it is drafted."

Comment on the matter is invited ahead of the deadline of June 8.

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