This is entry number 124, first published on 16 April 2010, of a blog on the implementation of the Planning Act 2008. Click here for a link to the whole blog. If you would like to be notified when the blog is updated, with links sent by email, click here.

Today's entry looks at the interface of the regime with the new Marine Management Organisation.  

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The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) formally came into existence on 1 April 2010, as a result of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. It will sit alongside the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) in a similar role of consenting infrastructure projects, amongst other things, operating like a mini-IPC for shoreline and offshore development, although rather than commissioners, it has a non-executive board, and is based in Newcastle instead of Bristol. The old Marine and Fisheries Agency has been subsumed into it (so no increase in the number of quangos!).

The MMO has a logo (above) and website. It takes on a consenting role for two types of project that would be nationally significant if they were above the Planning Act thresholds: harbours and offshore electricity generation.

The Planning Act threshold for offshore electricity generation is 100 megawatts. Thus if a project is to produce more electricity than that figure, the application must be made to the IPC under the Planning Act. If it is between 1 and 100 megawatts, it must be made to the MMO under the Electricity Act 1989 (instead of the Deparatment for Energy and Climate Change). Other consents (that can be combined into a Planning Act application) also have to be made to the MMO for below-threshold projects: a licence under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1990 and consent under the Coast Protection Act 1949.

The Planning Act threshold for harbours depends on the capacity of the harbour once built or expanded. If the harbour will be able to handle 500,000 containers per year, 250,000 roll on roll off vehicles per year, 5 million tonnes of other cargo, or some proportionate combination of these quantities, or if it is an existing harbour that will be enlarged by such an amount, then the application must go to the IPC under the Planning Act. If the application is for works to a harbour that will increase its capacity below these amounts, or is not for works but for say the constitution of the harbour authority, then the application must now go to the MMO under the Harbours Act 1964 (instead of the Department for Transport).

There is also to be an equivalent to a National Policy Statement for the offshore area around the UK - the Marine Policy Statement (MPS). This will be issued by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in summer 2010. Although it will not have the status of an NPS as such, it will be of relevance to decisions made by the IPC for harbour and offshore projects, which must have regard to it and any relevant Marine Plans (more local plans for certain areas of the sea) once they have come into effect (and not from 12 November 2010, as Westlaw says).

The MMO has been added to the list of consultees for pre-application consultation for applications to the IPC. It is easy to miss, because it has been added to the Planning Act itself rather than the schedule of consultees in the application regulations. If you have an older copy of the Act you may not realise this (I didn't, at first).

For its part, the MMO is to 'work closely with' the IPC on the applications it deals with.

The MMO and its assocated MPS can therefore be expected to play a conspicuous role in the work of the IPC in dealing with shoreline and offshore developments.