Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Following Royal Assent of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, I am launching a public consultation on the revision to marine licensing fees and associated charges, including those relating to the marine Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regime, in Wales.
The UK marine licensing system was established through Part 4 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA) and is supplemented by a suite of Welsh secondary legislation. The Welsh Ministers are the licensing authority under Part 4 of the MCAA and in April 2013 delegated the majority of their licensing authority functions to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) through The Marine Licensing (Delegation of Functions) (Wales) Order 2013.
The existing fees and charging regime for marine licensing in Wales is not fit for purpose. It is out of date, and does not allow for the recovery of costs for certain services provided by NRW. The service provided by NRW is not sustainable and may ultimately result in a diminished service to customers in Wales if the gaps in fee charging powers are not resolved.
The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 provided the Welsh Government with new powers as the licensing authority to establish a fuller and improved charging regime.
We have undertaken an evidence gathering exercise, in collaboration with the Marine Licensing Stakeholder Group, specifically set up by NRW, in the first instance, to support the Marine Licensing Fees Review in Wales. Members of the group include industry representative bodies, other users and stakeholders of the licensing system in Wales, as well as the other UK marine licensing authorities.
The overall aim of the fees review is to provide a fit for purpose, robust, proportionate, fair and transparent regime for charging for costs associated with marine licensing and the marine EIA regime in Wales.
An informal workshop was held in February 2016 with a range of industry sectors including renewables, ports and aggregates, consultees in the marine licensing process, other users of the marine licensing system and wider stakeholders. The aims of the day were met and stakeholders provided positive feedback on the proposed new marine licensing fees proposals.
I have today launched a 12 week Formal Public Consultation on the proposals, with the intention of introducing a revised charging regime in April 2017. During the consultation period a further event will be held in October 2016 (detailed in the Consultation Document) to outline these proposals and I would encourage stakeholders to participate.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.