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7. NRW review


We will undertake a review of consenting and supporting evidence and advice, to ensure a timely and proportionate process including:

a.    An end-to-end review of the marine licensing, consenting and supporting advisory processes to remove barriers, drawing on the work of existing groups
b.    A review of resource needs and options for consenting and advisory processes to keep pace with the growth in renewables, including an urgent review of resource needs and options for NRW’s Offshore Renewable Energy Programme
c.    Identifying priority marine and terrestrial evidence gaps and mechanisms to fill them, to expedite the application process
d.    Reviewing and mapping the process for land based renewables installations to obtain an environmental permit, with a focus on emerging technologies
e.    Identifying options for releasing capacity and redirecting resource to agreed priority areas

We will report our findings during summer 2022, except for point b. which we will report on in spring 2022.    

Key highlights / milestones    

(a)    An independent review of marine licensing has been undertaken to consider where improvements could be made to the process. Officials have been working with Natural Resources Wales on the outcomes of the review to ensure the process is fit for purpose, supporting our ambitions for marine renewable energy and healthy seas. 

(b)    The review was completed and a proposed Service Level Agreement setting this out submitted to WG detailing the resources required to deliver the end-to-end service including advisory, evidence and consenting. NRW is in ongoing discussions with WG regarding funding and indications are that a proportion of the required funding will be made available. Those discussions also include identification of priorities for allocation of the available funding, recognising that the number of renewable energy proposals is already increasing significantly.

(c)    An updated set of priority marine and coastal evidence gaps has been published on the NRW website (Natural Resources Wales / Marine and coastal evidence priorities). A high proportion of these relate to offshore renewable energy. Some of these are being progressed by NRW (e.g. methods for modelling fish encounter and collision rates for tidal range developments), or likely to be progressed in 2023 (e.g. levels of marine mammal bycatch is there in the Welsh Zone) but resource constraints and the complexity of the evidence needs mean that only a small number of priority evidence need can be progressed under the current funding arrangements.

(d)    Multiple relevant decision-making bodies have been identified to work on this recommendation collectively.

(e)    Complete 

Next steps towards completion

Over the next 6 months our priority actions include:

(a) Publishing of the end-to-end review of marine licensing, which includes a series of recommendations for improvements to the process.

(b) Welsh Government will provide £0.95m of addition funding in 2023/24 to allow NRW to deliver the recommendations of the Marine end-to-end review.

(c) Progress of the fuller evidence programme, both marine and terrestrial, is dependent on the outcome of the business case. 
NRW will also continue to work with external partners on strategic offshore evidence initiatives.

NRW are investigating options for collaborative projects with universities but these are dependent on the universities being able to secure research funding.

(d) Further discussion with relevant decision makers to take this element forward.

(e) Complete

8. Marine strategic resource areas


We will, with NRW and key stakeholders, identify marine ‘strategic resource areas’ by 2023 and provide guidance to signpost appropriate and inappropriate areas for development of different renewable energy technologies. Our marine planning, licensing and marine conservation policies will work together to provide a pathway for marine renewable developments.

Key highlights / milestones    

Additional work has been undertaken over this period to consider approaches to environmental considerations (including reviewing findings of Habitat Regulation Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment screenings).  This has led to an adjustment in delivery timescales, with consultation on draft SRAs now expected in autumn 2023.

Key highlights over this period include:

  • Holding two stakeholder events to discuss our approach to reflecting environmental and cultural & socio-economic considerations;
  • Circulating baseline resource maps and validating these with stakeholders, displaying this mapping interactively on the Wales Marine Planning Portal;
  • Receipt of initial outputs of NRW environmental mapping exercise;
  • Undertaking additional work, in consultation with NRW, to review findings of Habitat Regulation Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment screenings;
  • Commencing work with regulators to discuss guidance requirements to support implementation of SRAs.    

Next steps towards completion

Over the next six months, our priority actions include:

  • Holding the final stakeholder mapping event;
  • Receipt of updated environmental mapping from NRW;
  • Developing guidance and supporting material to sit alongside SRAs;
  • Developing SRA mapping for consultation;
  • Preparing for consulting on draft SRAs later in 2023, including drafting potential Marine Planning Notice(s) for consultation. 

9. Offshore Advisory Powers (JNCC to NRW)


While we pursue the devolution of the Crown Estate we will streamline the process for developing the Celtic Sea renewable energy projects including delegating offshore advisory powers from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to NRW.    

Key highlights / milestones

Key highlights include:

  • Scoping and agreeing a draft plan between Welsh Government, NRW and JNCC; 
  • Identifying implications, including resource implications, for a transfer of responsibility.

Next steps towards completion

Subject to agreement between Welsh Government, NRW and JNCC, over the next 6 months our priorities include:

  • NRW and JNCC conducting a full review of delegation options in collaboration with JNCC Welsh Government, and Defra and in consultation with developers operating in Wales;
  • NRW and JNCC seek final decision via Welsh Government, NRW Marine Programme Board and JNCC Committee and potentially put plans into delivery