Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Marine and Coastal Access Bill receives Royal Assent

England’s sea life and habitats will benefit from greater protection after the Marine and Coastal Access Bill received Royal Assent yesterday, creating the Marine and Coastal Access Act.  No other country in the world has successfully introduced a single piece of legislation to protect the marine environment.

The Act will create a new marine planning system designed to bring together the conservation, social and economic needs of our seas. A network of Marine Conservation Zones will be created that will protect rare and threatened species and habitats.  Four regional projects have started working with local groups and businesses to identify which areas will be designated as Marine Conservation Zones.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

“This historic, ground-breaking legislation fulfils the Government’s 2005 commitment to introduce a new framework for managing the demands we put on our seas, improve marine conservation, and open up access for the public to the English coast.”

Businesses will also benefit from a more streamlined consenting and licensing system through the creation of the Marine Management Organisation and a new range of sanctions will provide a more flexible approach to marine environment enforcement.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said:

“Our waters are some of the busiest in the world. The new marine planning system will ensure we make space in our seas for all its users and protect our underwater wildlife so that it will flourish in the years to come.”

The new Act will also create a single pathway around England’s coast. Mr Benn continued:

“Our island has a beautiful coastline that we should all be able to enjoy. The coastal path will allow everyone to access our coast and experience its beauty as well as providing a boost to regional economies through increased tourism. The first section of the coastal path will be completed in time for the lighting of the Olympic flame in 2012.”

The new Marine Management Organisation, a centre for professional and proactive marine management to be based in Newcastle, will regulate development and activity at sea and enforce environmental protection laws.  

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