UK Government seeks views on compensatory measures for development impacts on Marine Protected Areas

The Government has today (Thursday 22 July) opened a consultation on compensatory measures for unavoidable development impacts on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Our marine environment faces increasing pressure from human activities and climate change. The government wants to ensure that a consistent level of protection is afforded to the unique habitats, species and features that form our MPA network, as they would if they were on land.

The UK is committed to protecting at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 and the coastline is surrounded by an extensive network of MPAs covering 38% of the UK’s seas. The MPAs are designated to protect a range of habitats and species and are one of the primary tools used to protect and restore the marine environment.

No development should adversely impact our MPA network. However, while on land compensatory measures to alleviate the pressures from unavoidable developments in protected areas are well-understood, compensation is significantly more challenging in the marine environment. This consultation is designed to bring parity to developments on land or at sea.

Where development is unavoidable and will cause adverse effect on MPAs (during either construction, operation or decommissioning), developers or other marine users may need to secure ‘compensatory measures’. Potential measures will depend on the features affected, but could include actions to increase seabirds populations or reduce disturbance of the seabed. Establishing a clear framework for compensation will ensure that the best outcome for nature and habitats can be secured.

The government is now seeking views on best practice guidance for developers on the principles for the design and implementation of these measures in a consultation that runs for 10 weeks.

The Government recognises the importance of preventing destructive practices to protect habitats and tackle biodiversity loss. Encouraging rich and diverse oceans is a significant part of ecological recovery and a key part of the Government’s 25 year environment plan.

The consultation is seeking views on:

  • Approaches to implement compensation, it’s preferred that measures are implemented within the MPA site
  • Substance of proposed compensation to address the impact of the activity
  • Next steps to deliver compensation measures effectively
  • The role of ‘Net Gain’ which aims to enable developments to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

Our network of Marine Protected Areas now cover 38% of the UK’s seas and we want to ensure that a consistent level of protection is afforded to the unique habitats, species and features in these protected sites.

Negative impacts on the MPA network through development should always be avoided, but if this is not possible, it’s important that effective compensation is implemented ahead of development to ensure that nature has space to recover and thrive. We welcome views from developers and environmental groups on this proposed guidance.

The government continues to lead on protection of the marine environment with the launch of this consultation following the announcement to pilot Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) which would see a ban on all activities that could have a damaging effect on wildlife or marine habitats in selected sites.

Information from the consultation will be used to structure guidance and ensure that future developments take into account industry needs.

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