Some activities in UK inshore and offshore waters require a marine licence to be undertaken in a lawful way. These activities include construction, alterations or improvement of structures, dredging, deposits, removal of any materials, incineration of materials or scuttling of vessels or floating containers.


The government organisation responsible for marine licensing in English inshore and offshore areas and Welsh and Northern Ireland offshore areas is the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). An application for a marine license will be the first step to ensure that any works are undertaken legally. The MMO, their scientific advisors and consultees will make a decision based on the assessment of the potential environmental impacts of those works. The licensing process – from when an application is made to the issuing of a marine license - may take between six to eight weeks for small-scale projects, to more than one year for large-scale projects that may have a significant risk of adverse environmental impact.  

The environmental impact assessment must be consistent with the perceived risks and potential impacts of the project. For small works, such as maintenance of sea walls, a desktop assessment using existing data and information may be appropriate to support an application for a marine license. For the licensing of projects such as capital dredging, construction of large structures or any works that may alter the existing coastal profile, a comprehensive environmental impact assessment may be required. This is likely to require the acquisition of new data on the status and distribution of local biological populations, habitats and coastal processes.   

Marine licensing in England and Wales is regulated by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 ( 

The MMO is part of the process regulating nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) in English inshore and offshore waters and Welsh offshore areas under the Planning Act 2008. NSIPs applications are examined by The Planning Inspectorate (PINS), which will provide recommendations to the Secretary of State. 

The team at MPM Environment Consulting has extensive experience in marine licensing. This includes working with the regulator, their scientific advisors and consultees, engineering and construction firms and applying for marine licenses on their behalf. We also have experience in participating as expert witness and advisors during public investigations for nationally significant infrastructure projects in England and the Republic of Ireland. 

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