The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the devolved Administrations are launching today a public consultation on the draft UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS). As required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, I am laying the consultation draft before both Houses of Parliament, and placing copies in the House Libraries.
The MPS forms a key element of the coalition Government’s programme for implementing the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The draft MPS is UK-wide and has been developed jointly with officials in the devolved Administrations. The Marine Act provides for the introduction of marine planning in UK waters for the first time and the MPS is the first step in this new marine planning system.
The MPS is defined by the requirements placed on it by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, with the overall aim of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. The MPS will be the decision-making framework for the UK marine area and will guide the development of marine plans and licensing regimes across the UK. It will ensure that, going forward, decisions about the marine area are made strategically, according to a clearly set out vision, policies and objectives. The MPS therefore covers all major activities and sectors from renewable energy to nature conservation and from fishing to tourism. The MPS sets the policy context and direction in each of these areas and the considerations that must be given to each activity in the development of marine plans or when licensing decisions are taken. By bringing together the wealth of policy objectives for the marine area, and by setting out in one place the breadth of the legislation that exists for the marine environment, the MPS will provide clarity for regulators and developers. The aim of the MPS is to ensure the necessary consistency and coherence across the UK in the way we manage our seas, while providing the flexibility for marine plans to reflect the characteristics and needs of different marine areas.
The draft MPS is supported by an appraisal of sustainability (incorporating a strategic environmental assessment), a habitats regulations assessment, an equality impact assessment screening report and an impact assessment. These documents have also been published today as part of the consultation package, and copies will be placed in the House Libraries.
The public consultation being launched today invites comments on all the documents listed above. The consultation can be found online at: www.defra. gov.uk/corporate/consult/marine-policy/index.htm. The consultation closes on 13 October 2010. All interested parties are invited to participate in consultation events being organised by my Department and in the wider engagement programme set out in our revised Statement of Public Participation, which can be found at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/marine/documents/legislation/ukpolicy-publicpart.pdf. My officials will make a summary of the consultation responses available to Parliament at the end of the consultation period.
Paragraph 10(7) of schedule 5 to the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires the Secretary of State to specify the period allocated for legislative scrutiny of the consultation draft of the MPS. The relevant period for this purpose begins on 21 July 2010 and ends on 28 January 2011.
My Department is also launching today consultations on the marine planning system and the marine licensing systems in England. Together, these three consultations represent a coherent package of action that the Government are taking to improve the management of our seas.