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Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Section 125: General duties of public authorities in relation to MCZs

355.This section places a general duty on public authorities (defined in section 322) to carry out their functions in the manner that they consider best furthers – or least hinders – the conservation objectives set for MCZs. This duty only applies so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of a public authority’s functions and only where such functions may have a significant effect on the MCZ.

356.If a public authority thinks that the exercise of its functions will or might significantly hinder the conservation objectives of an MCZ, it has to notify the appropriate statutory nature conservation body (Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, or the Countryside Council for Wales, depending on where the MCZ is).

357.Subsections (4) to (8) provide that a public authority must inform the appropriate statutory nature conservation body if it intends to carry out an activity which might significantly hinder the conservation objectives for an MCZ. This duty does not apply if standing advice from the relevant statutory nature conservation body applies. This means that statutory nature conservation bodies may issue standing guidance on routine activities (such as harbour works) and that public authorities do not have to notify them every time they plan to carry out such activities. Where a public authority has notified the appropriate statutory conservation body under subsection (5), the statutory nature conservation body has 28 days to provide any advice, after which public authorities may decide to go ahead as planned. However, this 28-day rule does not apply if the body notifies the authority that it need not wait or if the situation is urgent.

358.Subsections (9) to (11) require a public authority to inform certain bodies when it considers that an offence (in relation to which it has functions) that will or may significantly hinder the achievement of an MCZ’s conservation objectives has occurred.  The bodies it must inform are the relevant authority (which is the enforcement authority for the area in which the MCZ is situated) and the statutory conservation body (which is the body competent to assess the effect of any act and advise the enforcement body).

359.Subsection (12) requires public authorities to have regard to any advice issued by the statutory conservation bodies under section 127.

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