Utility Week

UTILITY Week 22nd January 2016

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utILIty WEEK | 22nd - 28th January 2016 | 15 Policy & Regulation Market view U nder the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA) a marine licence is required from the Marine Manage- ment Organisation (MMO) in England, or Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in Wales, for a wide range of licensable activities up to the spring mean high tide mark. In river basins and estuaries this can cover a large area, with a marine licence required as far as the tide flows up river. The scope of licensable activities covered by the MCAA is huge and includes the con- struction, alteration or improvement of any works in or over the sea, or on or under the seabed; and the deposit or removal of any substance or object from the seabed. There- fore, it is not just new construction which requires a marine licence. Maintenance of existing infrastructure can also require a marine licence. A wide range of activities may be con- sidered an alteration or improvement even though the person carrying out the activity may not consider it such. Examples include: repairs to walls and banks; excavating any area below mean high water springs (includ- ing to maintain or replace pipes and cables); re-coating and replacement of piles or other structures; building, pipe and cable main- tenance; erection of scaffolding; and beach re-profiling. There are exemptions in place for some types of activity if certain criteria are met. However, most of the more useful exemp- tions (pontoons, moorings, harbour works) are restricted to harbour authority areas (or approaches) and therefore of limited use if infrastructure is not situated within such areas. Many large organisations (such as util- ity companies) have infrastructure located at multiple sites around the coast requiring regular maintenance. Most organisations apply for individual site-specific maintenance licences, incur- ring delays and application fees each time. In addition, when planning maintenance or improvement works, organisations some- times do not allow sufficient time to obtain a marine licence. They can then find them- selves needing to carry out works at very short notice, but not having the requisite marine licence in place. This can lead to the submission of an emergency marine licence application. Such licence applications are considered by the MMO/NRW as a matter of priority and can be granted within a few days, or even hours. There is also a specific exemption in respect of "a deposit, removal activity or dredging activity carried on for the purpose of executing emergency inspection or repair works to any cable or pipeline". This is sub- ject to the condition that "the activity may only be carried on in accordance with an approval granted by the [MMO or NRW] for that purpose". However, an emergency licence should be granted only where there is an imminent risk to human health, property or the environ- ment. Emergencies caused by a lack of fore- seeable maintenance, coupled with a failure to apply for a marine licence in sufficient time, may not be considered to meet the emergency marine licence criteria. Organisa- tions routinely submitting emergency licence applications are likely to find their emer- gency licence applications rejected, and they are told to apply under normal procedures instead. One way to minimise these is to apply for a ten-year multi-site regional licence to cover foreseeable low impact maintenance to all infrastructure in the region. Over the ten- year period this should save the organisation considerable time and money. The procedure is so effective the MMO is encouraging organ- isations such as utilities to apply for regional licences. MMO senior marine licensing manager Jayne Griffiths says: "As part of the better reg- ulation initiative, we are liaising with organi- sations with infrastructure in and around the coast to explore the possibility of long-term maintenance licences for low risk activities. "These licences will enable organisa- tions to get on with works without having to obtain individual consents and respond to situations as and when they arise, avoiding delays and reducing overall costs. We would encourage any organisation with such infra- structure to contact us to identify whether this will benefit them." Although the prospect of applying for such a licence may seem daunting, it need not be, if a suitable procedure is followed: 1. Carry out a review of existing infrastruc- ture situated below mean high water springs and foreseeable maintenance works. 2. Prepare an outline document (which includes site locations and an overview of maintenance activities) and submit it to the MMO/NRW for pre-application consultation. 3. It is highly recommended that this should include obtaining environmental advice from Natural England through its Discre- tionary Advice Service. Although a charge is levied for this, it will help the applica- tion proceed smoothly. NRW offer a simi- lar pre-application advice service free in Wales. 4. Pre-application advice from Natural Eng- land or NRW will identify any sites of environmental concern. These can then be discussed pre-application with the aim of addressing potential concerns. 5. The regional licence application (includ- ing overview method statements) can then be submitted to the MMO/NRW, the application advertised, and a 28-day pub- lic consultation held. 6. Once any concerns raised are resolved, the licence application will be determined. Lara Moore, associate solicitor, Ashfords LLP Marine asset licensing Many assets require a marine licence, even if they are located far upriver, creating a burden of paperwork for owners needing to undertake repair and maintenance. By Lara Moore. Regional licences can cover multiple sites

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