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Introduction   Process   Land lease   Navigation   Marine environment  

Cables at sea   Cables on land   References  


The planning system is a potential barrier to many renewable projects. Currently, the Government is endeavouring to develop a planning system compatible with its commitment to renewable generation, whilst at the same time ensuring that the interests of bodies such as Scottish Natural Heritage and the MoD are protected. The government is:
  • Working with the DTI to create a procedure for offshore consents out with the 12 mile limit

  • Consulting on measures to improve the section 36 consents process

  • Conducting seminars on renewable energy policy and planning issues for local planners (in partnership with Renewables UK).
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Planning process for undersea developments

In order to complete any installation on the seabed a large number of permissions and consultations are required. While the time and cost of completing each of these stages should be in the relatively small, in practice it can be costly and take up to a year or more due to the necessity of dealing with many organisations and the expense of compiling specialised informational and data.

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Land lease

Almost all of the seabed around the UK is owned by the crown and as such is administered by the crown estates; therefore any development is required to lease the desired amount of land. While the crown estate is concerned primarily with obtaining income, they are required to check that full public liability insurance and indemnity are in place along with proof that the developer is financially strong enough to see the project through to completion - including any required decommissioning. They also impose various environmental constraints to protect the site. Payments to the crown estate are usually set at around 2 3% of the developments annual income. Under the devolution agreements, the Scottish Executive is responsible for the adjacent waters of the Scottish coast up to a 12 nautical mile limit. Focus for wind projects so far in Scotland has been on onshore and offshore-island based wind, with only one project being considered offshore beyond the territorial limit in the Moray Firth. This means that new marine implementations still have an opportunity to secure key sites.

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Navigation and shipping

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions administers section 34 of the coastal protection act 1949, which is concerned with the safety of navigation. Once the DETR are satisfied that a project presents little or no danger to shipping, the secretary of state issues a permit for the development to proceed. The DETR consults with the Marine and Coastguard agency (on shipping movements) Trinity house (on site marking) and the Ministry of Defence (on military movements in the area).

Development permission can be granted under the transport and works act, 1992, instead of CPA if an exclusion zone is required but this is a more complicated, more expensive route. However this method is better from a legal viewpoint as it offers better protection against lawsuits for causing nuisance or obstruction.

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Marine environment and usage

The ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) administer the food and environment protection act (FEPA) 1995, the purpose of which is to protect the marine environment, human health and other sea users. A marine current turbine development would require a FEPA license.

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Cables at sea

Sub sea cables may be subject to the telecommunications act of 1984, which is administered by the DTI. In practice this refers to a few named companies and would therefore not affect a marine current turbine development. However the DTI also administer Section 36 of the Electricity act 1989, which requires consent for project exceeding 50 MW.

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Cables and electrical connectors on land

The crown estate owns the foreshore but may have a leasing agreement with the local council. Once past the foreshore agreements with landowners are required for the cable routes. Planning permission, following standard procedures, would then be required from the local planning authority for all developments on land.

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  1. The Crown Estate (2004), Our Portfolio - Marine, The Crown Estate.

  2. All Energy Opportunities (2003), Speech - Scotland's Renewable Energy Future, All Energy Opportunities conference.
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