This page is designed to give applicants wishing to undertake work around the coast a summary of the different types of coastal consents that may be needed, additional factors to consider and links to more information. The two main types of development consent required for coastal or marine works are planning permission for infrastructure to the boundary jurisdiction of the local planning authority (LPA) (generally above the Mean Low Water Mark (MLWM)) and a Marine Licence for works below Mean High Water Springs (MHWS). For developments taking place in the intertidal zone or across the land/sea boundary, for example a slipway, both planning permission and a Marine Licence will be required. The LPA jurisdiction can extend into main rivers and estuaries, for example on the River Hamble, so planning permission from the LPA may also be needed for marine works where this occurs. The two systems work independently of each other and are administered by local planning authorities and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) respectively. In addition to these there are usually several other important permissions, summarised below.
Marine Licences, Planning Permission, Harbour Works, Wildlife Licence, Landowner Consent, Flood Defence Consent, Environmental Permitting, SSSI Works Notification, Harbour Orders, Fishing Vessel Licences and the Role of The Infrastructure Planning Commission.
The information in this page is for guidance only, it has no legal basis and specific queries should always be directed to the consenting authority.
The marine licensing system under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA) has been in force since 6 April 2011. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for marine licensing in English inshore and offshore areas and for Welsh and Northern Ireland offshore areas. The inshore areas include any area which is submerged at mean high water spring tide up to the territorial limit. They also include the waters of every estuary, river or channel where the tide flows at mean high water spring tide. Even waters in areas which are closed permanently or intermittently by a lock or other artificial means against the regular action of the tide are included, where seawater flows into or out from the area. The offshore areas include waters beyond the territorial limit in so far as they comprise the exclusive economic zone and the UK sector of the continental shelf. It also includes the bed and subsoil of the sea within those areas. The MMO will provide up to two hours free pre-application advice to applicants. You can apply for the licence online on the MMO website. Applications are dealt with using the MMO Marine Case Management System.
A Marine Licence constitutes a statutory consent; its terms and conditions must be complied with in full and are also binding upon any agent or subcontractor who undertakes the activity on behalf of an applicant. Applicants can appeal within six months of the issue of a licence against a decision made on the application; this can include an appeal against the inclusion of any provision within the licence or the length of licence granted; see the the Marine Licensing (Licence Application Appeals) Regulations 2011. The MMO does not issue retrospective licences; if someone undertakes unlicensed works then it would refer this to its enforcement team to investigate. Use the MMO Public Register of Marine Licences to look at past applications. This is helpful to see what type of information the MMO require for the submitting of an application for a Marine Licence. You should also view the MMO page on Service Standards for timescales for the various stages of licence processing.
There are six categories of activities that may need a licence. These are:
Certain activities are not subject to the full marine licensing process, but instead go through a shortened and simplified process. The usual consultation stage is replaced with standard conditions as long as the application meets the general fast track eligibility criteria and specific requirements for the activity type. A fast track licence can be issued for several activities and locations over a period of time. For example, placing racing buoys for several seasons, repainting structures or resurfacing a slipway in a marina.
If a Licence is issued it can contain conditions that have to be met before works can begin. These can include provisions on when the work can take place, or stipulations on the construction methods. For example, piling works should be carried out during the period 1st December to the 15th March inclusive to prevent disturbance to migratory salmonids. If piling works are required outside of this period vibro piling techniques must be used.
Section 75 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 provides an exemption for dredging or the disposal of dredged material carried out by or on behalf of a harbour authority in certain circumstances. Further information about the exemption and the qualifying criteria which must be met can be found in the exemptions guidance. There is an exemption for low volume dredging in certain circumstances. A licence may not be needed if the low-volume dredging meets the conditions specified in the exemptions guidance.All other navigational dredging applications are subject to the full marine licensing process.
Dredging activities need to be assessed for potential impacts on marine protected areas such as European Marine and Ramsar sites. The Maintenance Dredging Protocol for England (MDP) seeks to improve the assessment process for licence applications by the production of baseline documents.
A baseline document should bring together all relevant, readily available, current and historical data on dredging activities. This helps authorities assess maintenance dredging activities and identify any likely significant effect, taking into account in-combination effects of dredging proposals. It must analyse the potential effects (if any) that dredging activities could have on the features of the European sites. View the MDP for Southampton Water.
Together the exemptions orders 2013 and 2011 list 34 activities which may be exempt from requiring a marine licence.
In addition there is an exemption in Section 75 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for certain dredging activities, or the disposal of dredged material carried out by or on behalf of a harbour authority.
If you are undertaking work to maintain or refurbish an existing structure you should check with the MMO to determine whether or not a Licence is required. Licences are normally only required for works or activities that 'construct, alter or improve'.
A licence is not required for the deposit, removal or works activity carried on by or on behalf of a harbour authority for the purpose of maintaining any harbour works. The exemption is subject to the condition that the activity is carried out within the existing boundaries of the works being maintained.
Under Article 12 of the 2011 order a licence is not required in respect of activities carried out in the course of a fishing operation:
In certain circumstances the deposit or removal of moorings, aids to navigation, markers and buoys may be exempt from requiring a licence. Specifically there are exemptions for:
Where the qualifying criteria contained in the relevant exemption is not met the deposit or removal of such objects may be suitable for fast-track processing. Read the exemptions guidance for more details on the specific conditions.
A new feature of the marine licensing system is that decisions that may affect the UK marine area must be taken in accordance with appropriate marine policy documents. Marine Plans will interpret and present the national policies within the Marine Policy Statement and apply area specific policies to a Marine Plan area. The Solent lies within the south plans marine area. Marine Plans must be used for all planning decisions for the sea, coast, estuaries and tidal waters (which sometimes extend a long distance inland), as well as developments that impact these areas, such as infrastructure. All public authorities are responsible for implementing the South Marine Plan through existing regulatory and decision-making processes.
Sediment analysis is an evidence requirement for dredging marine licence applications. The chemical testing which is carried out is dependent on the historical chemical analysis records for the location, the proposed activity and other environmental considerations. Before you apply for a licence, contact the MMO for their specific analysis requirements for chemical and physical determinands (something being tested for) and to agree a sampling plan. You may use existing analytical data on the physical and chemical properties of sediments during an application. The information must be reliable and collected within 3 calendar years of your valid marine licence application being received and accepted by MMO.
Most new buildings or major changes to existing buildings or to the local environment on land need consent, this is known as planning permission. Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1990 defines what development is and hence whether planning permission is required. It is required for any development that falls within the Local Planning Authorities (LPA) jurisdiction, this is normally land above the mean low water (MLWM) but some LPAs boundaries do go out across rivers and estuaries; you may therefore need planning permission for works within a river or estuary, contact your LPA for advice. The LPA is responsible for deciding whether a development should go ahead; use the Solent Forum Directory to find your relevant LPA.
For developments that cross the land/sea boundary the LPA and MMO will take a decision as to who should be the lead authority for the application depending on the exact nature of the proposals.
Applicants should view the local planning documents applicable to the site pre-application and ask the LPA for details of any relevant studies that may have been published, for example, on slope stability. These documents will show what types of development are likely to be permitted at a location and are available to view at the planning department of the LPA. You may also wish to speak to a local planning officer if you have queries, there is sometimes a charge for this service. Another source of information is the The National Planning Policy Framework which sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.
The replacement of existing infrastructure (rather than repair) is likely to require planning permission, particularly if the work improves or alters the existing infrastructure. Local planning authorities regularly receive applications for replacement piles, slipways and pontoons where there jurisdiction extends into a river or estuary. Repair works such as essential maintenance or, for example, the resurfacing of an existing slipway are unlikely to require permission.
Local authorities have different definitions on what constitutes repair and what constitutes replacement. You must check out the definitions with your local planning authority and where their boundary jurisdiction lies before commencing work.
Planning permission will be required if any part of the jetty infrastructure is within the local planning authority's area of jurisdiction. Subsequent maintenance activity will not require planning permission. But if you alter or improve the jetty in the future you will need to apply for planning permission once again. If you construct a building on the jetty, you will also need to obtain Building Regulations approval.
As the jetty will go out beyond MHWS you will also require a Marine Licence from the MMO (amongst other permissions).
You can make certain types of minor changes to structures without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called "permitted development rights". They derive from a general planning permission granted by Parliament. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 details what is considered to be permitted development, for example, new works on industrial land subject to a height limit of 15m that do not materially affect the outside appearance. Such permissions are still subject to the the Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994. In some 'designated areas', such as conservation areas permitted development rights are more restricted. Your local planning authority will advise on whether your plans are considered to be permitted development or will need planning permission; permitted development can still be subject to conditions, limitations and exceptions. Many of the conditions require prior submission of a notice of intent to carry out the development, to enable the planning authority to control certain aspects of the development, such as siting or design. For developments in European Marine Sites (most of the Solent) if developers are uncertain whether their proposal is likely to have a significant effect on the site,it is advisable to seek an opinion from Natural England.
Some coastal landowners have permissive development rights for privately owned coastal defences. Please refer to the 'North Solent Shoreline Management Plan Information Note for landowners, planners and developers on privately owned coastal defences' for more information.
The Planning appeals process is designed for anyone who has applied to their council or national park authority for planning permission, but is unhappy with the resulting decision, or the lack of a decision (which should normally be made within 8 or 13/16 weeks). The appeals page on the government's planning portal will tell you how to go about appealing a decision.
Building Regulations are required for the erection of new buildings, the material change of use of a building or for the extension or modification of existing buildings or their services. Planning rules determine whether you are allowed to go ahead with a building project and Building Regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those buildings. Meeting the requirements of the Building Regulations is the responsibility of the person carrying out the building work and, if they are not the same person, the owner of the building. They are required for coastal developments that are wholly or partly located above mean low water (MLWM). This is the local planning authority boundary. Applicants need to contact the Building Control section of the local planning authority in the first instance.
Building consent is not needed for structures below the MLWM, except for buildings on piers. However the LPA does have powers to take action against structures such as pontoons that it deems unsafe.
The Planning Portal is the Government’s official planning website. Every local authority in England and Wales accepts planning applications via the Planning Portal. In this Portal you can make an application for a range of consents, learn how to apply and view and continue with applications you have already started. You can also make an application directly to the LPA and this is advised for those more complex projects that will have lots of files and documents of supporting evidence.
In general, planning permission would not be needed for works of maintenance or minor works required to enable continued use of existing structures while they are structurally sound. However, new construction works, or works of improvement (such as increasing the height, width or length of the defences), demolition or removal of defences will almost certainly require planning permission and may require various other consents and licences depending upon the type, location and timing of the proposed work. The General Development Order 1995, does allows new works on industrial land subject to a height limit of 15m and that do not materially affect the outside appearance.
Following a series of prolonged south westerly storms that resulted in scouring and drawdown of beach levels, a section of seawall collapsed at Milford-on-Sea in Aug 2008. All conditions and approvals were sought retrospectively due to the emergency nature of the works; works were advertised in a local newspaper and notices sent to statutory consultees.
Planning permission was sought from New Forest District Council Planning Department for various elements including rock groyne and rock revetment and underpinning of seawall. Natural England consent was obtained for construction of rock revetment and groyne and recharge. As works pre-dated the Marine Management Organisation, a FEPA (1985) licence and Coast Protection Act (1949) approval were obtained from the Marine Fisheries Agency for placement of materials below Mean High Water. A footpath closure notice was also required from Hampshire County Council as the seawall collapse and construction works meant the local footpath and access was restricted or not available during period of works. Landowner consent was also obtained as lands affected by collapse and works are leased from a private estate.
Houseboats fall outside of planning control unless moored for so long in the same place that they can be regarded as bringing about a material change of use of land. The permanent mooring of a boat for residential purposes, where there was not one previously, is likely to be a material change of use of land and planning permission would, therefore, generally be required. Similarly, works associated with the mooring of the boat might require planning permission if they amount to operational development. With regards to shoreside ancillary infrastructure, for which a houseboat is reliant on, this will require planning permission (if it hasn't already been consented/existing as a houseboat mooring). Ultimately, it is for the local planning authority to decide whether planning permission is required. Flood Defence Consent may also be required for mooring fixings, ask the Environment Agency to advise.
There are several major industrial installations around the Solent coast and the Health and Safety Executive can advise that planning permission should be refused for development for, at or near to a hazardous installation or pipeline, or that hazardous substances consent should be refused.
In addition to the main two types of consent required for development in the coastal zone (planning permission and Marine Licence) there are certain other permissions that may well be required. These are explained below.
Harbour Authorities grant licences to construct, alter, renew or extend works within the harbour up to the mean high water springs mark. Works should not affect rights of navigation or other public rights. The licences are granted under the relevant Harbour Act or Harbour Order which are unique to each harbour. Applicants must contact their Harbour Authority and gain a licence before the commencement of work. For the contact details of Harbour Authorities in the Solent please use the Solent Forum Directory.
The Harbours of the Solent are managed by a variety of different organisations, some are privately owned, others are Trust Ports and one is managed by a Local Authority. The Harbour Authorities that manage them all have different roles and responsibilities, based on the specific legislation that gives them their powers under their individual Harbour Acts or Orders. Applicants must therefore contact their local harbour authority to see whether the works they wish to undertake requires Harbour Works consent. This is particularly the case for small scale works and repair or replacement work as different local circumstances can apply. Harbour Authorities are also a good source of information and advice and can assist developers and those wishing to undertake works in helping to tailor their application for local conditions.
The majority of works within the River Hamble Harbour Authority's jurisdiction require Harbour Works Consent. This consent is considered by the River Hamble Harbour Management Committee which then advises the River Hamble Harbour Board before the Board make the final decision. A public online consultation is held for each application for Harbour Works Consent which goes before the Board and this allows interested parties to have their say. The Harbour Board will consider the potential impacts of the works upon safety and ease of navigation and the environment when making their decision. The cost of this consent will depend on the size of the project.
Maintenance works and replacement of structures on a like-for-like basis are consented under the Harbour Masters delegated powers. This means that an application does not have to go before the River Hamble Harbour Management Committee and Harbour Board and so there is a reduced application fee. For very small maintenance works, consent is not required. The Harbour Authority recommend that people contact the harbour office for advice before undertaking any work.
A landowner's permission/consent will nearly always be required for any activity that disturbs the land or affects the owner's potential use of their land. The Crown Estate owns approximately fifty percent of UK foreshore, defined as being between mean low and mean high water, and almost all of the sea bed below mean low water. Examples of other owners are Local Authorities, Port Authorities, Defence Estates, National Trust and private individuals. The Crown Estate requires that all other necessary consents are obtained before it will issue landowner consent, however it is happy to receive applications whilst other consents are still being processed. The Crown Estate's Managing Agent for the Solent region is Chesterton Humberts based in Southampton and they are the first point of call for Crown Estate licences and leases in the Solent.
Land Registry searches can be made for the foreshore in the same way that they are made for land. There are some large scale plans of Crown Estate ownership. It is usually not possible to search on the sea bed as it cannot be registered.
The main exceptions to the above are activities that rely on the public rights of fishing and navigation. Anchoring may also be excluded when carried out in the course of navigation, but moorings will require landowner consent.
The Crown Estate grants a block lease or licence to a mooring body, such as a harbour authority, boat club or fairways committee for moorings. These bodies provide local administration and sometimes the mooring tackle and other facilities and make appropriate charges to the boat owners. Boat owners pay the local market rate for a mooring, which depends on a number of factors such as the type of mooring, the length of boat and location. This fee is paid to the mooring operator. The mooring operator pays a ground rent to the Crown Estate for the right to lay the moorings.
The MMO is responsible for issuing wildlife licences for activities that that would affect a UK or European protected marine species and the enforcement of wildlife legislation in the English and offshore Welsh marine area. Legislation includes the consent of wildlife licences under sections 9 and 10 of MCAA, the Conservation of Seals Act (1970), the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010) and the Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations (2007). The legislation exists to protect marine species and habitats from offences related to intentional taking, injuring or killing, or disturbing certain listed species, and intentional damage to habitats that support those species.
Examples of protected species include: otters, badgers, bats, great crested newts, seahorses, marine turtles and dolphins, porpoises and whales. Wildlife licenses are provided free of charge. Natural England are responsible for issuing wildlife licenses landward of the mean low water mark and aim to issue licenses within 30 working days. The Marine Management Organisation are responsible seaward of the low water mark and aim to issue wildlife licenses within six weeks. The requirement for a wildlife license does not depend on the species being located within a Marine Protected Area (MPA), however typically marine protected species (such as seahorses) are present within MPAs.
Flood defence works such as a managed realignment, might cause ditches with water voles to be flooded, this would kill the voles so a Wildlife License would be needed. The issuing of the Licence may require certain conditions to be made such as the voles to be trans-located.
Guidance on obtaining a licence for offshore activities or development that may impact on Offshore European Marine Sites is available from the JNCC.
If the work that you intend to carry out lies with a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) then you must formally notify Natural England of your intentions (applicants don’t need to do this directly if they are applying for other consents as those bodies will automatically consult Natural England as a statutory consultee). On receipt of your notice, Natural England must consider the likely impact on the special features of the SSSI. The legislation provides it with four months to decide whether to, issue consent, issue consent with conditions or refuse consent. Notices for an operation that will not damage the special interest, are likely to be consented. In some circumstances conditions or time limits may need to be attached to the consent to make sure that a notified operation is not undertaken in such a way, that damages an SSSI. See Natural England's Guide for SSSI Owners and Occupiers for more information.
To see whether your location for works has been designated as an SSSI, visit Natural England's Nature on the Map website.
A coastal landowner wishes to improve the condition of a track running across his land as it is in poor condition. Although the works will occur within land which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the works do not require planning permission. Before carrying out the works, the land owner contacts his local Natural England (NE) office for further advice on the works. The NE member of staff confirms that the works has the potential to damage the SSSI and that a formal Consent is required. The landowner completes a notice form which outlines the works he wishes to undertake and sends this to NE. The land is an important area for overwintering birds and for breeding birds in the summer and so is sensitive to disturbance. However as long as the works occur after August and before October the works can proceed without harming the SSSI features, therefore a Consent is issued on this basis. The landowner is then able to lawfully undertake the works without damaging the SSSI.
The principle aim of a Flood Defence Consent (FDC) application is to ensure that the proposed works will not increase flood risk to the area or prevent access, for maintenance purposes, to coastal defences. In carrying out the determination of an application the Environment Agency also considers any environmental issues and FDC may not be granted in cases where there is an unacceptable impact upon designated habitats or species.
The requirements for a FDC are included within three different pieces of legislation:
Usually any coastal works will require FDC under the Water Resources Act 1991 and/or the Southern Region Byelaws. The FDC application process is separate from and in addition to any planning requirements. The fee for a FDC application is £50.00, and the forms can be obtained from the Local Environment Agency, Development And Flood Risk team.
Following changes to the Marine and Coastal Access Act, administered by the Marine Management Organisation, the Environment Agency can in certain circumstances disapply the requirement for FDC where a Marine licence is also required. Applicants are therefore advised to contact the Environment Agency before submitting an application for FDC to check requirements.
Where a development is proposed within an area shown to be located within a flood risk zone a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) will need to be submitted with the planning application. The FRA will need to assess the flood risk to a development over it's lifetime and provide mitigation measures to demonstrate how the development would remain safe in flood risk terms. The Environment Agency's flood zone maps can be used by the public to identify whether a site is located within a flood risk area. If a site is located within a risk area it is advisable to contact the local Environment Agency, Development & Flood Risk team, to gain further site specific information.
If you are going to make a discharge to surface water (for example a river, stream, estuary or the sea), or to groundwater (including via an infiltration system) then you may need to apply for an environmental permit to make that discharge. The Environment Agency is the consenting authority.
If the water is clean surface run-off, for example, from a roof, road, pathway or clean hardstanding area, you do not need a permit. You just need to make sure your discharge stays clean and uncontaminated. If you want to discharge to a public foul sewer (or a drain that connects to one) you don’t need an environmental permit, but you should contact your sewerage undertaker, which is usually your local water company. If you want to discharge treated sewage effluent, to a river, stream, estuary or the sea and the volume is 5 cubic metres per day or less you might be eligible for an exemption rather than a permit. All other types of discharge will probably require a permit and advice should be sought from the Environment Agency.
Landowner permission can also be required for rights to use the land over which the discharge is made, as this activity may restrict further use of the land.
From 1 April 2010, the MMO inherited responsibility from the Department for Transport for certain functions under the Harbours Act 1964 (the Act). This includes responsibility for harbour revision orders, harbour empowerment orders and harbour reorganisation schemes in England and Wales. Harbour revision orders (HROs) are used to amend existing legislation. The authority engaged in improving, maintaining or managing the harbour or a person appearing to have a substantial interest or body representative of persons appearing to have such an interest may apply for one of these orders. Harbour empowerment orders (HEOs) are used to construct a new harbour or to gain powers to improve, maintain or manage an existing harbour where no such powers or effective powers exist. Those harbour orders that authorise a development are commonly called works orders. Where a harbour order is sought which would authorise a harbour authority to undertake works, a marine licence may also be required. In these situations the MMO will try to process the applications for the harbour order and the marine licence simultaneously. Download the 'Marine licensing guidance 4, Harbours Act 1964' from the MMO website for more information.
The MMO maintains a public register of Harbour Orders applications and decisions.
The Marine Management Organisation issue and administer vessel licences that all UK fishing vessels are required to have in order to fish for profit. Fishing licences can be transferred subject to existing licensing rules. All commercial UK fishing vessels also need to be registered with the Registry of Shipping and Seamen, which is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency based in Cardiff.
The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is the independent body that examines applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects. These are the large projects that support the economy and vital public services, including railways, large wind farms, power stations, reservoirs, harbours, airports and sewage treatment works. The proposed Navitus Bay Windpark off the coast of the Isle of Wight is an example of a Solent located development that will be under the jurisdiction of the IPC.
The IPC was created to implement a streamlined process for deciding nationally significant infrastructure projects. In England, it examines applications for development consent from the energy, transport, waste, waste-water and waste sectors. Changes following the last election mean that the IPC in the future will become a Major Infrastructure Unit with its own special character, within a revised departmental structure that includes the Planning Inspectorate.