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Councils' authority could extend into the sea

PUBLISHED: 08:30 19 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:02 22 October 2010

STEVE DOWNES

The sea could be handed over to the control of district councils, it was revealed last night.

Authorities that already look after planning in coastal areas are pushing to extend their reach to a strip of the North Sea up to 12 miles out.

The sea could be handed over to the control of district councils, it was revealed last night.

Authorities that already look after planning in coastal areas are pushing to extend their reach to a strip of the North Sea up to 12 miles out.

Led by the Local Government Association (LGA), councils are interested in the radical change being added to the government's marine bill, which is out for public consultation.

Currently, councils are only in charge of land up to the low water mark - from which point a host of organisations take over.

They say the system leads to confusion and a lack of "joined-up thinking" about the effects of things like dredging and wind farms on sensitive areas.

The LGA has written a paper

in response to the bill, in which

it suggests the idea of extending

the influence of councils.

Chairman of the LGA coastal issues group Godfrey Allenson said: "It seems a little bit crazy that developments like dredging and wind farms can take place close to the shore but local authorities have no say, but they are things that 20 or 30 years ago were not envisaged."

He said the LGA believed councils, which make planning decisions along the sea front, should also be responsible for what happens just off the coastline, as it would lead to decisions being made in the interests of local people, and to the better management of fisheries.

North Norfolk District Council's cabinet has already expressed interest in "close involvement" in managing the strip of sea.

Deputy leader Clive Stockton said: "We need to consider whether we would support local authority involvement up to the 12-mile limit.

"If we don't have involvement, we will have a mish-mash of responsibilities."

Peter Frew, the council's head of democratic, legal and property services, said: "It's something that's worth looking at as a way of overcoming how we manage the interface between land and sea."

The marine bill is being introduced in a bid to improve management of all the sea and coast's resources - including fish, sand and minerals.

It follows the government's election manifesto pledge to "introduce a new framework for the seas that balances conservation, energy and resource needs".

But the draft bill currently omits to mention the oil and gas industries as key players - a move labelled "barmy" by Mr Stockton.

He said: "One can't but feel a little bit uneasy when a bill that's being billed as very important goes on to omit one of the most important factors - oil and gas extraction."

Mr Frew said: "This claims to be an all-embracing proposal for the management of our marine environment.

"But it has some serious omissions. It doesn't include the oil and gas extraction industries, nor does it include the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

"That's seriously flawed, given the activities - particularly in the North Sea - of the oil and gas industries and the potential impact they could have.

"The lowering of the sea beds

from that action is potentially

greater than the lowering through dredging."


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