We want to see a cleaner, healthier marine environment that will be a better place for people, wildlife and businesses. We'll achieve this by protecting and improving the environment in our work and by working in partnership with other regulators, businesses and local communities.
Long-term environmental objectives for water within the estuarine and coastal environment are set out in statutory River Basin Management Plans, as required by the Water Framework Directive.
Developments in estuarine and coastal waters should be strategically and sensibly placed - their environmental impact needs to be managed and reduced where possible. They may require permissions from us, as well as from other organisations.
Find out more about our roles and responsibilities within estuarine and coastal waters
Regulating estuarine and coastal development
Development in estuarine and coastal waters is mainly controlled through local authority or planning inspectorate controlled planning and the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) marine licensing system. We are consulted where those applications fall within our remit.
We have also developed guidance for the planning and marine licensing systems for local authorities and the MMO:
Permits, licences and consents
When a developer applies for planning permission or marine licence for their proposed activity there are some circumstances where they'll also need consent from us.
Flood defence consent
Flood defence consent may be required for works within estuaries and work that might impact on sea defences under our control. The Marine and Coastal Access Act enables us to dis-apply this consent on a case-by-case basis where we agree that a marine licence covers the relevant flood risk issues.
This may be required when depositing dredged material on land, unless the primary purpose is to provide commercial supplies for use in construction where it is not categorised as waste. If marine sediments are extracted or placed below mean high water springs (MHWS), it is licensed by the MMO. A permit would be required if the dredgings are used as landfill e.g. land reclamation for a port.
A permit may also be required for landfill further in land, for example if the dredged material raises ground levels beyond the land reclamation area to protect the site from flooding.
An exemption can be applied for to allow dredging to be placed on the banks of the waters from which it was dredged, which can include works in estuarine and coastal areas but is subject to time, size and quality limits. This work may affect flood risk elsewhere and may also require flood defence consent.
A permit is required for ship breaking anywhere out to 12 nautical miles (nm) and the activity is exempt from a marine licence. A permit is also required for any ship or offshore platform that keeps, holds or disposes of a radioactive source out to 12nm.
We also issue abstraction, transfer and impoundment licences for inland waters which include any natural or artificial tidal river, stream or other watercourse, reservoir, dock, channel, creek, bay, estuary or arm of the sea.
We strongly advise applicants to consult us as early as possible for pre-application advice before submitting applications. This will help developers get the best value from our advice by identifying and responding to any key issues that could affect planning and permitting decisions locating and designing developments.
We've developed new advice on developments requiring planning permission and environmental permits to provide flexibility to parallel track planning and permitting applications with support and advice from the Environment Agency. This approach should help to reduce costs and administrative burdens and increase certainty over planning and permitting decisions.
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