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European Marine Sites Management Schemes

Lymington Harbour
Lymington Harbour © Lymington Harbour Commissioners

Establishing management schemes for European Marine Sites is optional for relevant and competent authorities under the Habitats Regulations, 2017; the Regulations do however place a general duty on all statutory authorities exercising legislative powers to perform these in accordance with the Habitats Directive.

A management scheme can provide an effective framework for management and partnership working especially on large or complex sites such as the Solent. Experience has shown that many Relevant Authorities find it difficult to deliver their statutory functions on their own; particularly when managing non-licensable activities. In the Solent, the Solent Marine Sites Management Scheme was established as the framework for Relevant Authorities to work in partnership to fulfil their statutory duty; the Solent Forum provides the Secretariat for this Scheme.

Whilst only relevant authorities have the responsibility for establishing a management scheme, government policy recommends that other groups including owner and occupiers, users, industry and interest groups be involved in developing the scheme. To achieve this the Solent Marine Sites Stakeholder Group was established.

The primary focus of a management scheme is to monitor and manage activities taking place within European Marine Sites. However, it may also provide guidance for the assessment of plans and projects, particularly those of minor or repetitive nature. A plan or project is any operation, which requires an application to be made for a specific statutory consent, authorisation, licence or other permission. Not all types of plan or project fall within the statutory functions of relevant authorities, some are consented or authorised by other statutory bodies, termed competent authorities (e.g. central government departments).