Press release

New agreement will encourage investment and cut red tape for coastal infrastructure developments and projects

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Ports, marina builders and coastal developers to benefit from reductions in red tape thanks to new coastal concordat

Ports, marina builders, and other coastal developers will benefit from a streamlined approvals process and reductions in red tape thanks to a new agreement between regulatory bodies. The agreement was launched today (11 November 2013) by Business Minister Michael Fallon and Marine Environment Minister George Eustice.

The coastal concordat, whose development was led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), following a Department for Business Focus on Enforcement review of coastal projects and investments, will improve and simplify how regulation works. It will put an end to overlaps between regulators, duplication of information requirements, and delays to economically important coastal developments.

It will also help improve sustainable growth and marine protection by agreeing the most efficient ways of managing projects, and ensuring all aspects of planning and environmental legislation are identified quickly and at an early stage.

The concordat, is a ground-breaking agreement between Defra, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Department for Transport (DfT), the Marine Management Organisation, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Local Government Association’s Coastal Special Interest Group and National Parks England.

The concordat is based on 5 principles aimed at ensuring that:

  • applicants seeking regulatory approval will be provided with a single point of entry into the regulatory system, guiding them to the organisations responsible for the consents, permissions and licences they need
  • regulators will agree a single lead authority for coordinating the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive or Habitats Regulations Assessments
  • regulators will dispense or defer regulatory responsibilities where legally possible and appropriate
  • competent authorities and statutory advisors will agree up front the likely environmental and habitats assessment evidence requirements for a project
  • regulators and statutory advisors will provide coordinated advice to applicants

The concordat responds to the findings of the Focus on Enforcement Review, which examined the industry’s day-to-day experience of regulation at the coast and gathered views on how current enforcement practices could be reformed to remove unnecessary red tape.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said:

Overlaps between land-based and marine planning regime requirements can cause confusion, costs and delays for business. A single company told us that delays to approvals had increased their direct costs by as much as £1 million, putting at risk around 2,000 jobs.

UK ports face serious competition from overseas ports. Today (11 November 2013) sends a clear signal that our ports are open for business, and that we are determined to continue attracting the important jobs and investment ports generate here.

Marine Environment Minister George Eustice said:

The coastal concordat will make achieving essential coastal development a much simpler process. This more straightforward approach will benefit businesses, while also enabling sustainable growth and helping to protect the marine environment.

Andy Smith, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Coastal Special Interest Group said:

On behalf of communities around the coast, the LGA greatly welcomes the coastal concordat, with its commitment from the main government bodies whose permissions are needed for coastal projects to work with Local Planning Authorities to simplify and speed up the process for projects to get the multiple consents they need.

The LGA will encourage and assist Local Authorities’ Planning Departments to play their part in working jointly with the other regulators on this sorely needed reduction in bureaucracy for projects round the coast, large and small.

Tim Thomas, Head of Employment Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said:

Today’s announcement is good news for business. Time spent navigating the maze of overlapping business regulations, each overseen by different organisations, is time-consuming and unnecessary. Businesses need clarity and certainty as delays damage both business confidence and investment plans.

The concordat announced today should serve as a future blueprint, with government seeking single points of contact for businesses needing approvals from several regulators, and ensuring that regulators collaborate to remove cost, delay and red tape for business.

Cllr Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport at Southampton City Council, said:

This has been a very welcome initiative locally, especially given historical issues that have arisen through a lack of cohesion across regulatory parties in the past. This scheme has enabled planning for a major Southampton city waterfront development to become joined up and effective by working across regulatory bodies. It has led to a streamlined approach for progressing the necessary consents, while ensuring full scrutiny also takes place, which I know will be of great benefit to other areas around the UK.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Focus on Enforcement review of Coastal Projects and Investments examined the impact of national and local regulatory authorities’ actions on commercial development and investment on the coast. The review focused on the interaction between the land-use planning and marine licensing regimes, and business’ experiences of those.

  2. The review found that while relationships between regulators and developers are generally positive and professional, and found examples of good practice – for example the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) approach to customer feedback – there were areas of concern that could hold back investment and have a negative impact on economically significant developments on the coast, potentially putting investments at risk and losing the UK jobs. Findings included: the relative weights given by regulators to growth and environmental concerns; overlaps between regulators leading to delays; the applicant’s experience of the system and confidence in navigating it.

  3. The review’s findings, and the response by Defra and the relevant regulators, were published in January 2013. They can be seen at ‘Government takes action to cut red tape for coastal projects and investments’

  4. The Focus on Enforcement Report highlighted the economic significance of projects on the coast, as follows:

No estimates exist of the total economic or employment contribution made by the coastal businesses in scope of the Review. However there are some very significant elements, for instance:

  • the ports sector contributes £7.7 billion to UK GDP. Ports are important to many other parts of the economy, too, as they move 75% of UK imports and exports by value. Their importance is recognised in the National Infrastructure Plan1
  • The UK has more than 50% of global offshore wind generation capacity. The industry is set to grow 5 fold by 2020, the largest offshore wind growth plan in the world. Specialised port facilities are essential to support both construction activity and longer term operations and maintenance. Construction port activity for UK offshore wind farms in expected to be worth £171 million in 2020
  • GVA for the core coastal marinas sector was in the range £500-700 million

5.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set 4 ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’, published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.