There is alarm amongst port authorities about the prospect of Marine Conservation Zones being designated either within or near to port areas when decisions are announced later this year on which sites will receive formal designation.
There are currently 31 sites on which a decision will be taken over the coming months, some of which could have a major influence on port traffic. There are further sites, not due for designation in this first round, but which could be designated at a later date. The dilemma facing the ports affected is the prospect of planning blight and the influence that a designation might have on future investment and development.
In a recent letter to the Defra Minister, Richard Benyon and the Ports Minister, Stephen Hammond, both the British Ports Association and the UK Major Ports Group reiterated the serious concerns set out in their response to the original consultation which closed at the end of March. These concerns centred on the robustness of the data underpinning site selection, the apparent underestimation of socio-economic impacts and the lack of hard information in the consultation about possible management measures needed to protect the sites.
It was this lack of information that made the consultation extremely difficult to respond to. This is compounded by the fact that further features can be identified within a site for protection without any extra further consultation.
Above all, the industry believes that the introduction of MCZs, many of them within already highly protected areas, could place major restrictions on growth at a time when the economy needs optimal investment and development. The ports associations will be making further representations to Ministers in advance of decisions.