Marine environmental quality and protection
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The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 transpose the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive and apply to the marine strategy area. The marine strategy area includes both inshore and offshore region areas and is defined as:
(a) the area of sea within the seaward limits of the territorial sea adjacent to the United Kingdom, and the sea bed and its subsoil in that area of sea;
(b) any area of sea within the limits of the renewable energy zone and the sea bed and its subsoil in that area of sea; and
(c) the sea bed and its subsoil within the limits of any areas designated under section 1(7) of the Continental Shelf Act 1964 (so far as not falling within the area mentioned in paragraph (b)).
The Directive requires Member States to put in place the necessary management measures to achieve what is referred to as 'Good Ecological Status' in their marine waters by 2020. The Welsh Ministers are under a duty to exercise their relevant functions so as to secure compliance with the Directive. Also under the Regulations, the Welsh Ministers are:
- under a duty to establish and implement a monitoring programme for the environmental status of marine waters;
- under a duty to develop and publish a programme of measures necessary to achieve or maintain good ecological status to include spatial protection measures;
- under a duty to ensure that the programme of measures is made operational by 31 December 2016 or one year after the publication of the programme of measures, whichever is the earlier;
- have a power to issue directions and guidance to authorities for the purposes of implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003 transpose the Water Framework Directive. The purpose of the Directive is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters and the Regulations have effect up to one nautical mile into the sea measured from baselines. The Welsh Ministers are under a duty to exercise their functions so as to secure compliance with the Directive. Natural Resources Wales (and the English Environment Agency for cross border river basins) is the competent authority for the purposes of the Directive. Its responsibilities include setting objectives, monitoring, producing and implementing a programme of measures designed to achieve 'good' status. The Welsh Ministers have a power to approve environmental objectives, programmes of measures and river basin management plans submitted to them by Natural Resources Wales and, in respect of cross border river basin districts, the Environment Agency.
The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) Regulations 2009 transpose the European Environmental Liability Directive. The purpose of the Directive is to establish a framework based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle to prevent and remedy environmental damage. The Regulations apply to the Inshore Region (except water damage which is limited to one nautical mile into the sea measured from baselines). The Welsh Ministers are the enforcement authority for environmental damage at sea except where the activity that caused damage is permitted by Natural Resources Wales or the Environment Agency. The Welsh Ministers have enforcement powers to serve prevention notices and carry out works in place of an operator and are under a duty to establish whether environmental damage has occurred, notify operators of damage and serve remediation notices. The Welsh Ministers are the appellate body in respect of certain notices and have powers to issue directions to other enforcing authorities. It is anticipated that the Regulations will be amended by the Welsh Ministers (pursuant to powers conferred by the European Communities (Designation) (No. 2) Order 2014) so as to include environmental damage to marine waters as defined by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 partly transpose the EIA Directive. The Directive seeks to ensure that the authority giving consent, e.g. the NRW when granting a marine licence, for a particular project makes its decision in the knowledge of any likely significant effects on the environment.
Welsh Ministers and NRW are appropriate authorities for the purposes of the Regulations. Their functions include:
- screening to establish if an Environmental Impact Assessment is required;
- advising as to the information to be included within an Environmental Statement (known as scoping);
- publication of the Environmental Statement and application;
- consultation on the proposed activity;
- provision of information to other EEA states;
- consultation of EEA states;
- consideration of representations from the public and consultees; and
- making an EIA consent decision.