What do we do with the reports on Marine Licence Applications which we publish every month on this website?
Every month our council considers these applications and decides whether SPS should respond to the consultation invitation. Often, of course, there is no need for SPS to get involved but sometimes we respond, usually with requests for more information, suggestions for improvement, better mitigation of any adverse consequences, and proposals for conditions which should be imposed on granting the licence. In the extreme case we might oppose the whole application although this has not happened in recent years.
MMO consider us a serious contributor to their decision-making process, we do get responses, and sometimes they adopt our suggestions. Here are two recent examples of our intervention
Totland Pier MLA/2020/00142
We submitted robust comments to MMO, as follows:-
- This is for a major development in the centre of a Marine Conservation Zone. Although the attached paper says that it will have no effect on the protected features, the government maps (Needles MCZ feature maps published by DEFRA) show subtidal sand, seagrass beds and stalked jellyfish in Totland Bay very close to the location of the pier.
- The application is of course designed to attract more visitors to Totland Pier which will inevitably cause more disturbance to the protected habitats. !5 yachts staying overnight, mostly without holding tanks, will be discharging untreated sewage into the bathing waters of Totland Bay.
- We are not sure about the disposal of sewage from the restaurant, which is planned to have 120 dining seats and many more casual seats for drinking etc. The paper addressing the Water Framework Directive says that the only water entering the sea will be surface water discharge (presumably from rain). But we were unable to find any reference to sewage disposal by means of a drain connecting the restaurant to the Isle of Wight main sewage system.
- We are very interested in protecting the view from the sea. This application is for a large building with a footprint of 240 sq. metres, 2 storeys high, 100 metres offshore. It will be extremely prominent and make the view from the sea more urbanised than it was before. We are also opposed to the extension of the pier head by 43%.
- We consider that the mooring area should be marked with lighted marks in accordance with Trinity House regulations because the area in question is often used by leisure sailors who are taking advantage of the back eddies when there is an adverse tide in the Needles Channel.
- The application states that the moorings are for small to medium sized boats. What is the maximum length boat that can be put on these moorings? When the moorings are full, or when larger boats arrive, where may they anchor and what controls will enforce that?
- We consider that the moorings should be eco or advanced moorings of an approved design which will do minimum damage to the sea bed. Will Natural England be involved in this approval?
- The sea grass according to their chart extends in a northwesterly direction from about 100m off the end of the pier. The mooring area they propose is some 50mx150m to the northeast of the pier head but there will be a huge temptation for boats to just drop anchor in the seagrass bed when the moorings are all taken, or if they wish to avoid paying for a mooring, despite the ‘training’ the applicant is offering. The sea grass beds move over time. As a result of the above points we do not consider the potential effect on Needles MCZ to be insignificant.
- Relevant Marine Plan protection Policies which this application does not avoid or even mitigate adequately – S-BIO-1. S-DIST-1. S-MPA-1. S-MPA-2. S-NIS-1(possibly). S-SCP-1. S-WQ-1.
- We are of the opinion that MCZs should be one of the most strongly protected of all the many marine protected designations. If this application were to be accepted, what hope would there be for all the other coastal sites with a lower or no specific protection?
MMO responded as follows:-
“Many of the points in your consultation response have been addressed by the applicant in the communications that we have facilitated between yourselves and them. My letter therefore addresses the outstanding concerns you detailed in your email of 09 June 2020, to the then Case Officer, David Morris. You had outstanding concerns about impacts on the MCZ.. Based on the comments from consultees, yourself and on scientific advice, we have placed a number of conditions on the licence which we have determined will mitigate the impacts of this proposal. You can examine the licence conditions in detail on the Public Register; in brief summary, the conditions restrict the piling methodology, require alternative mooring anchors that are less damaging than block-and-chain, and require all seagrass near piling locations to be translocated in accordance with an expert approved plan. You expressed a desire for cooperation between the Isle of Wight Council and MMO on this application. The council was consulted but they did not provide any comments. You said that you would like the project to be monitored while it is in progress. The application will be subject to MMO’s monitoring procedure, which inspects ongoing projects both on a scheduled basis and in response to intelligence received from the public”.
Solent Gateway dredging MLA/2020/00272
We commented as follows:-
“The Solent Protection Society is concerned that this, and other, Marine Licence Applications do not give enough attention to finding beneficial uses for dredged material. The Environmental Appraisal recognises that dumping at sea is a last resort but says merely “No immediate opportunities for the re-use of the maintenance dredge material has been identified”. There is no indication that they have actually looked. Could the dredge material be used to replenish salt marsh which is being eroded, or replenish sea grass beds? Such uses do not even need to be beneficial, just not harmful. The ABP Mer report mentions Disposal Site W1085 Lymington Habitat Restoration but does not say that its use in this case has been considered. We feel that MMO should insist that applicants should take more seriously the need to find alternative uses and, if they cannot find one, should give details of all alternative”
And MMO replied as follows:-
“Following your representation the MMO requested further consideration of the Waste Framework Directive, to which the applicant submitted a document entitled ‘Solent Gateway Consultation Note_21Sept2020’ which is available to view on the public register alongside this application. The MMO is satisfied that this report contains sufficient consideration of the directive and concurs with the conclusion that disposal to sea is the most suitable option for this project.”
The Consultation Note is an 8-page document prepared for Solent Gateway by ABPMer. It says that Lymington Marshes could only take about 13% of the dredgings from SG, that it would be uneconomic and, if Lymington Marshes could accept more material, this could be provided from Lymington harbour.
We feel that MMO are treating SPS as a serious and legitimately interested party, our responses often cause them to require further information from the applicants, and do have an effect on their decisions.
Paul King – 3 Nov. 2020