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We are all at sea over what happens off our coastline

IT is time for UK governments to take a serious look at how we manage the seas. The current position is shambolic.......The sea is particularly important to Wales because she has a disproportionately long and beautiful coastline and also has a disproportionately high dependency on the tourism industry.

IT is time for UK governments to take a serious look at how we manage the seas. The current position is shambolic.

Marine management is uncoordinated and so are the mechanisms by which consents for various uses of the sea are issued. Pressure on the marine environment has grown hugely over recent years and is particularly intense near the coastline. The Assembly Government's ill-considered support for a Severn Barrage is only the latest example of governmental disdain for our seas.

The sea is particularly important to Wales because she has a disproportionately long and beautiful coastline and also has a disproportionately high dependency on the tourism industry.

This is why the proposed Marine Bill is so important to Wales and why the National Assembly, through its Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee should try to shape it in the interests of Wales.

The proposed Marine Bill is also important from a constitutional standpoint because the National Assembly, for the first time, is involved in deciding what should go into it - rather than... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

IT is time for UK governments to take a serious look at how we manage the seas. The current position is shambolic.

Marine management is uncoordinated and so are the mechanisms by which consents for various uses of the sea are issued. Pressure on the marine environment has grown hugely over recent years and is particularly intense near the coastline. The Assembly Government's ill-considered support for a Severn Barrage is only the latest example of governmental disdain for our seas.

The sea is particularly important to Wales because she has a disproportionately long and beautiful coastline and also has a disproportionately high dependency on the tourism industry.

This is why the proposed Marine Bill is so important to Wales and why the National Assembly, through its Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee should try to shape it in the interests of Wales.

The proposed Marine Bill is also important from a constitutional standpoint because the National Assembly, for the first time, is involved in deciding what should go into it - rather than simply considering the Bill after it has been drafted. It is a test of the law making potential of the National Assembly.

The Marine Bill will also be a test of the Westminster Government's commitment to devolution. I will be pressing for the maximum amount of power to be devolved to the National Assembly but I acknowledge that the arrangements which will have to be established between Wales, England and the European Union will be more complex as a consequence. Cross border consequential impacts are greater and less controllable at sea than on land. We know a lot less about the marine environment and boundaries at sea are not so obvious, especially under the water.

The Marine Bill will have to legislate for some form of overall policy statement backed up by some form of management structure to deliver it.

On land, Wales is already developing the concept of "spatial planning" which has the aim of co-ordinating policy across departments of and strategies across functions. We need a similar approach at sea.

There is also a mature system of development control (I would argue overcomplex) on land, delivered through local planning authorities. I believe that the principal aim of the Marine Bill will be to create a similar (but hopefully less bureaucratic and inflexible) system of management for our marine environment.

The need for a Marine Bill has become urgent because there is so much more interest in "doing things" at sea. It is not just shipping and fishing anymore. For example, we are looking to the sea increasingly for our energy, whether this be from offshore wind farms, tidal lagoons or oil and gas deposits. We are also seeing greater demand for marina based leisure activity. And there is the added complication arising from the impact of climate change and higher sea temperatures.

The Marine Bill will also have to tackle the hopelessly disorganised consenting arrangements. The current system of issuing permission and licences is incomprehensible. Where there is currently chaos the Bill will hopefully bring order.

The Marine Bill will have to outline what body should have the responsibility to deliver the policy statement, set up the management structure and streamline the consenting process. This could well be where devolution makes things difficult. Even at this early stage the "language of consultation" is suggesting that the Westminster Government is likely to set up some sort of non-governmental body to manage the seas off the coast of England. In Wales such an arrangement seems unlikely, bearing in mind the current administration's determination to bring every function under its direct control.

At present, how the relationship between fishing and the Marine Bill will work out is unclear. Policy on river and sea fishing is the subject of separate consultation. However, I cannot see how there can be a new Marine Bill, designed to bring a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to the marine environment, without regard to fishing.

I hope the Marine Bill will give real force to the law which protects nature and the biodiversity of our marine environment. There is already a complex system of designation of important sites which is driven, to a large extent, by European Union directives. A disproportionately high percentage of the Welsh coastline is already subject to some form of designation.

Perhaps the need for a Marine Act to support nature and conservation interests is greater in England but I hope this will not lead to a complacent approach to this aspect of the Bill in Wales. The designation system needs to be backed up with sharp teeth.

The recent out-of-the-blue announcement by the Labour assembly Government, backed up by the Secretary of Sate for Wales, of their support for a Severn Barrage was deeply shocking to anyone who takes the natural world seriously.

It may be that proper assessment of the environmental impact of a Severn Barrage will make it a possibility but for a Government to gives its support without consideration of the impact on the environment is depressing.

Pressure on our natural world has never been greater and this is particularly true of our marine environment. The Marine Bill is important and timely.

Glyn Davies is a farmer and Conservative AM for Mid and West Wales, who chairs the National Assembly's Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee


Source: http://icwales.icnetwork.co...

JUN 20 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3165-we-are-all-at-sea-over-what-happens-off-our-coastline
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