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Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Designation of zones
Section 116: Marine conservation zones

328.This section provides a power for the Welsh Ministers, Scottish Ministers and the Secretary of State (hereafter referred to as “Ministers”) to designate, as the appropriate authority, areas as marine conservation zones (MCZs) by means of local orders.

329.Subsections (2) and (3) identify those areas within which an MCZ may be designated. These include English inshore waters and the offshore waters of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (where the Secretary of State is the appropriate authority), the Welsh inshore region (where the Welsh Ministers are the appropriate authority), and the Scottish offshore region (where the Scottish Ministers are the appropriate authority). Marine nature conservation in the inshore waters of Scotland and Northern Ireland is a matter for Scottish Ministers and Northern Ireland Departments to determine through their own legislation.

330.Subsection (6) states that the Scottish Ministers may not designate an MCZ without agreement from the Secretary of State.

331.Subsection (7) provides that an MCZ designated by the Scottish Ministers under this section is to be known as a marine protected area and that references in this Act to an MCZ designated by the Scottish Ministers should be read as a reference to a marine protected area.

Section 117: Grounds for designation of MCZs

332.This section sets out the circumstances in which Ministers may designate an MCZ. This must be for the purpose of conserving species of marine flora and fauna, particularly if they are rare or threatened, or for conserving or protecting marine habitats or features of geological or geomorphological interest. An MCZ may also be designated for the purpose of conserving the diversity of marine flora or fauna or habitat, whether or not they are considered rare or threatened (subsections (1) to (5)).

333.In this Act, the terms “geomorphological” (used in Parts 5 and 9) and “physiographical” (used in Parts 6 and 7) have the same meaning. Each term is consistent with the previous legislation in the relevant field.

334.Subsection (2) provides that the order designating the MCZ must state both the protected features and the conservation objectives for the MCZ. The level of protection for an individual MCZ will depend on the site’s conservation objectives, which may take account of relevant conservation, social and economic considerations. The conservation objectives will need to be clear to ensure that all public authorities understand the implications of the duties placed on them by sections 125 and 126.

335.Subsection (7) allows Ministers to take account of the economic or social consequences of designation. This ensures MCZs may be designated in such a way as to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems whilst minimising any economic and social impacts. Where an area contains features that are rare, threatened or declining, or forms a biodiversity hotspot, greater weight is likely to be attached to ecological considerations. Where there is a choice of alternative areas which are equally suitable on ecological grounds, socio-economic factors could be more significant in deciding which areas may be designated as an MCZ.

336.Subsection (8) clarifies that the reference to “social” consequences of designating an MCZ includes any consequences of doing so for sites of historic or archaeological interest.

Section 118: Further provision as to orders designating MCZs

337.This section sets out further requirements for MCZ designations, including the requirement to specify the boundaries of the designated area.

338.Subsection (3) provides for the inclusion in an MCZ of any island regardless of whether the land lies above mean high water spring tide. This will be particularly relevant where there are numerous small islands, transient sand banks or rocky outcrops (which would be impracticable to exclude individually). Islands which should be excluded from an MCZ may be identified in the designation order.

339.Subsections (4) and (5) allow Ministers to extend the boundary of an MCZ to include an additional adjacent area of seashore above mean high water spring tide if certain conditions apply. These conditions include the requirement that the feature(s) which comprise the grounds for designating the MCZ are also present in the extended area. This may be appropriate where a threatened species is also present in the area of land above mean high water spring tide and protection depends on extending the boundary of the MCZ.

340.Subsection (6) requires that an MCZ includes land whether or not it is covered by water (which will include the sea bed and foreshore) and in the case of an area within the seaward limits of the territorial sea or the exclusive economic zone, may include the water covering it (which includes the water column at sea, estuarial/transitional waters, pools and lagoons).

Section 119: Consultation before designation

341.This section requires Ministers to carry out public consultation before designating an MCZ. Subsections (2) and (3) require notice of a proposed designation order to be published. This enables parties likely to be affected by a proposed order to have the opportunity to have their interests taken into account.

342.Subsections (5) to (9) provide for consultation between the Ministers so that each has the opportunity to comment if their respective waters might be affected by the making of a designation order.

343.Subsection (10) requires the appropriate authority to make a decision regarding designation of an individual MCZ within 12 months of publishing the notice. Failure to designate a site within that time will mean that the process will need to begin again before an area may be designated as an MCZ.

344.Subsections (11) and (12) provide an exemption from the general consultation requirement if there is an urgent need to designate an MCZ, though Ministers would still be required to consult each other. In such cases, an urgent order may only remain in force for up to two years before the end of which consultation in accordance with subsections (2) to (9) will be required for an order confirming the designation.

Section 120:  Publication of orders designating MCZs

345.This section makes provision for Ministers to publish notice of the making of an order. The section requires that interested individuals are made aware of the publication and provided with a copy if they ask for one. The authority may charge a fee for providing a copy.

Section 121: Hearings by appropriate authority

346.This section allows Ministers to hold hearings before deciding whether to make an order under section 116 to designate an MCZ.

347.Subsection (2) gives Ministers discretion to give any person the opportunity of being heard by an inspector or other appointed person, either orally or in writing. Subsection (4) requires these representations to be reported back to the authority.

Section 122: Amendment, revocation and review of orders designating MCZs

348.This section allows an order designating an MCZ to be amended or revoked by a further order. Subsection (2) requires the appropriate authority to review any order if asked to by another appropriate authority or the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland.

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