Planning & Environment

We celebrated the introduction of the new marine licensing system on 6 April with a seminar at our Aberdeen office along with Jim McKie of Marine Scotland and Dr Jonathan Benjamin of Wessex Archaeology (an expert on marine archaeology).

The new streamlined system is going to become increasingly important, as our seas are going to become increasingly crowded with development in the expanding sectors of offshore renewables, harbours and marinas, and fish farming, not to mention the demands of decommissioning oil and gas installations.

Although similar licensing systems have been (or in the case of Northern Ireland will be) introduced in other UK jurisdictions, the Scottish system is unique in a number of respects. Devolutionary politics has meant that the legal arrangements are complex: there are two Acts – a Scottish Act for inshore waters to twelve nautical miles out and a UK Act for waters beyond up to 200 nautical miles. There are also:

  • different licensing fees
  • different policy for Scotland
  • additional decision criteria (for inshore waters only)
  • decisions by Scottish Ministers (not an independent statutory body)
  • appeal against Ministerial decisions on their merits to a sheriff (where English and Welsh appeals go to ministers) – which appears to put the sheriff in a similar position to a reporter in a planning appeal, a unique arrangement.

In addition to determining marine licence applications, Marine Scotland is the (mainly) one stop shop for dealing with other licensing decision for marine development, including Electricity Act consents for renewable generating stations, European protected species licences, and licences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and the idea is that these can all be wrapped up in a single consenting process with the marine licence. Jim Mckie highlighted the introduction of the new system as an opportunity to do things better. The holistic consenting regime promotes a close working relationship with consulting bodies dealing with all these licences.

Jonathan Benjamin gave a practical insight into how the marine licensing system will need to take account of the presence of everything from World War Two wrecks to submerged landscapes with remains that are tens of thousands of years old. So look out for Cantref Gwaelod when siting your windfarm…

Planning & Environment