Heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and can be vulnerable to a wide range of human activities and natural processes. They have therefore been recognised by UK Government policy such as the UK Marine Policy Statement 2011. This policy sets the direction for the preparation of marine plans and marine licensing and states the need for marine cultural heritage assets to be protected, conserved, and managed according to their significance. The licensing process is a mean to support this policy. Marine licensing lies with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
Questions this practice may help answer
- Is a Marine License needed when planning activities directed at heritage assets on the foreshore and at sea around England?
- Why is marine licensing of those activities relevant for maritime spatial plans?
The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA 2009) established a new marine licensing system which came into force on 6 April 2011. The purpose of marine licensing is to help protect the marine environment including archaeological and historic sites in the UK marine area. Historic England acts as independent advisor to the MMO during the licensing process on applications that may have an impact on the historic environement. The licensing processes are a useful information for the MSP authority in England, also MMO, when planning in the English area of the UK Territorial Sea (out to 12 nautical miles) and the adjacent UK marine area which is not the responsibility of any other UK Devolved Administration.
Aspects / Objectives
Historic and archaeological sites within the marine environment are an extremely rich source of knowledge about the past, whether or not they are afforded statutory protection by heritage protection legislation. These sites may include submerged and intertidal prehistoric remains including palaeo-landscapes, shipwrecks and aircraft wrecks, foreshore fish traps, and ports and harbours, as well as the legacy of coastal military defences, all of which contribute to historic landscape and seascape character. In addition to its cultural importance, the historic environment is an asset of social and economic value. However, heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and can be vulnerable to a wide range of human activities and natural processes. The MMO carries out licensing and enforcement functions under the MCAA Part 4, on behalf of the Secretary of State in the English inshore and offshore areas, to protect these important sites and assets for the future.
The historic environment has been recognised by UK Government policy such as the UK Marine Policy Statement 2011. This policy sets the direction for the preparation of marine plans and marine licensing and states the need for marine cultural heritage assets to be protected, conserved, and managed according to their significance. Furthermore, within Sections 69 and 115 of the MCAA it states that in determining a marine licence application the appropriate licensing authority, which for England is the MMO, “must have regard to the need to protect the environment”, inclusive of “any site (including any site comprising, or comprising the remains of, any vessel, aircraft or marine structure) which is of historic or archaeological interest”.
When considering the types of activities to be undertaken on a wreck site or area that is of historic or archaeological interest, a list of marine licensable activities can be found in Section 66 of the MCAA, (Licensable marine activities). As a brief outline some activities used in the process of archaeological investigations that usually do require a marine licence include:
- using a rope, chain or lifting bag to recover objects powered by a vessels winch or crane;
- to carry out any form of dredging, including excavation using a water dredge or airlift, other than hand only dredging (ie fanning); and
- deploy and leave marker buoys for more than 28 days.
The failure to obtain the appropriate licence or breach of a condition held on a licence is an offence with a potential fine of up to a maximum of £50,000 in the Magistrate’s Court or a fine and/or imprisonment of up to two years on indictment.
Some activities are exempt from licensing control of either the Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) Order 2011 or the Marine Licensing (Exempted Activities) (Amendment) Order 2013.
These exemptions include:
- shot lines, which are considered by the MMO as temporary markers (see below) (Amendment) Order 2013;
Some exemptions to Marine Licensing for activities do not apply if they’re going to significantly impact a designated European marine site, a Ramsar site or a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) in England. There are no statutory timescales for the determination of a marine licence application although the MMO aims to determine a marine licence within a period of 13 weeks.
There is a fee applicable for a marine licence application.
The Marine Licence Application should follow a certain project design template with information about inter alia the project background, method statement, legislation, ownership, financial resources, team and historical background. Historic England’s maritime record available via http://www.pastscape.org.uk is a key source of information. Historic England also provides more sources for advice to assure a smooth licensing process. Maritime spatial planners of MMO and municipalities have full access to information about past and current licensing processes which can be taken into account for planning issues.
The licensing procedure is transferable to other regions and countries, when adapting the templates and online application services.
Historic England, national office
additional county offices