Headlines: April 9th, 2008

The Government is facing a call to outline clearly what local government’s role will be in planning offshore facilities, such as wind farms, to ensure there is greater integration with the planning of what happens onshore. The call has come from the Local Government Information Unit following the publication of the long awaited draft Marine Bill.

It is also warning councils that they will need to ensure that commitments from Defra to provide them with more funding to support fisheries wont be affected by future cutbacks to pay for other priorities.

The Bill would see the emergence of a unified planning system, designed to foster simpler licensing of installations. It would also set up a new agency, the Marine Management Organisation, with responsibility for enforcing environmental laws and regulating development at sea. The head of the LGiU’s Centre for Local Sustainability, Dr Andy Johnston, said, “The bill calls on local government to establish how to integrate onshore spatial planning with marine planning. The MMO will license sea facilities whereas local government will be responsible for licensing onshore facilities so there is a need for joining up the two areas of licensing.”

The Bill also contains legislation for a coastal path around England . Dr Johnston thought this would be welcomed by many local authorities as the new agency would provide support for rights of way officers. But he added, “The MMO can’t liaise with every coastal local authority – they won’t have the resources nor, I fear, the inclination.”

The proposed legislation would also remove the funding opt out clause for local authorities and establish Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities to replace Sea Fisheries Committees. Local authority support for the new bodies will be compulsory whereas up to now councils have been able to opt out of funding sea fisheries committees.

Dr Johnston also warned, “There is a sting in the tail
for local authorities. Most local authorities will want to play a full part in managing coastal fisheries but will have to be sure that Defra’s commitment to provide extra funding is gilt edged and not liable to cuts if another outbreak of foot and mouth puts a strain on their resources.”