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However, that future will need very careful planning. I do not want by bringing up these issues to suggest that my support for the Bill is any less: I want merely to illustrate just how careful the planning needs to be, particularly in the Bristol Channel. The area is one of the richest for biodiversity, because, as the Minister will know from our previous discussion around Lundy, it contains the first no-take zone, which is likely to be enlarged. It contains an awful lot of other areas that are likely to be designated as highly protected marine conservation zones. It is an area where the Government are consulting on all kinds of marine energy projects, such harnessing the tidal power of the Severn and wave power from the Atlantic. North of Lundy will be the Atlantic Array, which will be one of the biggest wind farms in Europe. The shipping lanes to Bristol are extremely busy and well used. I am happy to say that the area is very popular for recreational activities such as surfing and sailing, as well as all sorts of other things.

I return to fishing. There are the south Wales fishermen and the north Devon fishermen, and two sea fisheries committees, each dealing with their particular region. If life were perfect, it would not be difficult for those two sea fisheries committees. However, I will give a small illustration of how far from perfect life is for them. A poster has been put up in south Wales addressed to fellow anglers and small boat commercial fishermen saying that the north Devon fishermen have been taking all their bass. The South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee and the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee have been very conciliatory. They are trying their hardest to resolve the situation, as is the Welsh Assembly Member, who I believe is going to meet the sea fisheries committee. I mention that simply to illustrate that the pressures between recreation and commercial fishermen,

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together with all the other things that I have listed, mean that the marine area is under great pressure. Psychologically, it is almost an enclosed area.

My amendment asks the Minister whether it would not be better to have a joint planning commission for the Bristol Channel rather than giving both authorities the headache of trying constantly to resolve the inevitable tensions that arise. I hope that some of what I have mentioned gives an illustration of how life is already difficult. What we should not do with the marine Bill is make life any more difficult. As we legislate, we should be trying to resolve such difficulties.

We will be discussing other estuaries in later clauses, which might require a different, microcosm approach to planning. However, the Bristol Channel is dealt with by the Welsh Assembly and the English authorities, so it is very different. I am not qualified to talk about the Solway Firth, but I am sure others are. My purpose in moving the amendment is to ensure that we aim as we legislate to make life easier for such areas and not more difficult. I beg to move.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: Coming from the other side of the Bristol Channel, I would like to speak about the potential issues arising and the necessity of resolving them. Amendment 86H states:

“A joint planning commission shall be established for the Bristol Channel”.

Amendment 86J, which relates to the same clause, states:

“Sub-regions of the marine planning region may be defined at any time”.

I agree with the desirability of establishing a joint planning commission for the Bristol Channel. Many points have been made, especially on the tidal range, which clearly is the same on either side. The demarcation between both sides of the Bristol Channel must be respected. Clearly, the 12-nautical mile limit will have some objective part to play lower down the channel. At the same time, agreement jointly on planning issues is highly desirable. We must also respect the profound differences on each side of the channel, especially from an environmental protection point of view.

Amendment 86J helps to respect this by creating sub-regions, which would greatly take account, for example, in the Wye and Usk estuaries, which already have environmental protection, of migrating fish. If one contrasts that with the situation in the Somerset Levels on the other side of the Bristol Channel, one can see that there are very great differences. Clearly, sub-regions within the proposed commission would be highly desirable.

The Minister has discussions with Welsh Ministers in the devolved Assembly. Where is the current Welsh zone delineated in the Bristol Channel? Perhaps he could enlighten us as to what kinds of discussions have taken place to try to ensure co-operation among those who live on both sides of the channel.

6.15 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am pleased to speak to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, as it rightly draws attention to an area that will potentially

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suffer from all the conflicts of interest, confusions over responsibility and lack of communication that we are concerned the Bill might be ignoring. The development of the Bristol Channel and the possible building of a Severn barrage have been contentious for a while now, involving a bewildering array of public bodies, non-governmental agencies and industry bodies.

The noble Baroness is quite right to say that any final decision must involve the proper consultation of all those involved and should have a clear and objective understanding of the costs and benefits. However, I am not sure that relying on setting up a new joint planning commission, which is what the amendment proposes, is the best way of ensuring this. It could be; after all, the development of the Bristol Channel may be unusual in its complexity. However, it is not unique, and I hope that a final decision can eventually be made once the feasibility study is completed under the planning structures that are already in place. I am sure that joint working will be a feature of management between all competent authorities within the United Kingdom. Legislating for a successful formula is probably not the best way of bringing it into being.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: This has been a good debate. I ought to start by emphasising the importance of marine plans. They will guide decisions on licensing applications and other issues and, I hope, provide users of the sea with more certainty. Clearly, the process of developing marine plans will bring together coastal managers and users’ communities and enable them to work together and shape the direction of plans from an early stage. We want people to be offered a chance to be involved in the planning process. A participatory planning approach from an early stage will be laid down within the statement of public participation, which we have already discussed. We hope that potential problems and conflicts between marine users will be highlighted at an early stage in the development of marine plans, thus giving much greater opportunity to resolve those kinds of issues and preventing unnecessary delays.

I fully accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that in relation to those potential conflicts the Bristol Channel presents some very real challenges. I also accept her point about the strategic importance of the Bristol Chanel to the UK Government, to Wales and to people living in the region. It is important that we get this right in terms of consistency of approach. There is no disagreement with her at all about what she is seeking.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, referred to the work that my other department, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, has been doing, although with a great deal of input from Defra in relation to Severn tidal power and the feasibility study that has been undertaken. We will shortly publish an interim three-month consultation seeking views on a proposed shortlist of five schemes. As part of that, we are keen to consider innovative schemes that may be less environmentally damaging. However, we acknowledge that the tidal reef and tidal fence are not sufficiently developed technically for more detailed evaluation. We are committed to considering their progress before taking a decision

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in 2010, after a second public consultation on whether or not to support a Severn tidal power scheme. An additional £500,000 of public funding is being provided to help their development alongside the feasibility study.

That focuses attention on the substantive point of the noble Baroness. The desire and need for a consistent approach to planning across the administrative borders is well taken. It is in the interest of both the UK and Welsh Assembly Governments to ensure that technical and legal differences in legislative and policy competence do not give rise to problems for those working in and enjoying the marine area. The noble Baroness gave a good illustration with some of the problems that the fishing industry can encounter if it perceives a difference in approach between two different Administrations. The point is well taken.

On the other hand, as the noble Lord made clear, we must also respect the devolution settlement. If the Bill does nothing else, it certainly does that. That is why my response may be a little disappointing to the noble Baroness. However, I say at once that we fully intend to work co-operatively with the Welsh Ministers to produce a coherent management framework for the Bristol Channel. I would be happy to follow up with a letter on how these discussions have gone so far. I assure the noble Lord that fruitful and constructive discussions have taken place, and we want to continue that.

We want to provide a seamless experience for users of the Severn estuary while respecting the competence of each Administration to develop and implement policies for their parts of the UK. This debate on the Bristol Channel could easily be a debate about the boundaries between Scotland and England. Indeed, we shall come on to a discussion on that later.

The Bill provides a number of reassurances that neighbouring planning authorities will need to co-operate with each other. Before planning commences, notice of intent to plan must be given to any neighbouring planning authority; that is in paragraph 1 of Schedule 6. Steps must be taken to ensure that plans are compatible with any other related marine plan area or land plan, as in paragraph 3 of Schedule 6. There are various other reassurances in that schedule about the involvement of interested parties in consultation.

Any marine plan for the Bristol Channel will affect both Welsh and English interests. Both we and Welsh Ministers will of course consult widely on both sides of the border when time comes to plan in the Severn. Cross-border groups, such as the Severn Estuary Partnership, have long experience of bringing together diverse interests and working together across the border, and I assure the noble Baroness that their advice will be invaluable in helping to ensure that Welsh and English proposals for the Severn are coherent and workable for sea users.

As for why the Bill makes no provision for joint planning, I earlier implied that it is because of the need to respect the devolution settlement. Our problem may seem technical but is actually substantive. Any cross-border planning power or joint plan authority would give each Administration an effective power, by refusing to adopt the joint plan, to prevent or limit the

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discretion of the other authority to adopt policies in relation to their own part of the region, or the Bristol Channel in this case. In this case, it could affect the adoption of policies by the UK Government on the English side of the Severn estuary, and the adoption by the Welsh Ministers of their own policies in relation to the Welsh side. Legislative provision requiring such a joint plan authority would need to be acceptable both to UK Government and to the devolved Administrations but, as I have said earlier, the situation may arise in our other border estuaries with Scotland. This is not something that we have sought to cover in legislation, preferring to commit to working together, especially in cross-border situations.

Another problem is that the region belonging to the joint plan would have to be defined in the Bill. We do not want to specify the Bristol Channel as a specific marine plan area in the Bill. This is partly because the seaward extent would be unclear, but also because we might want the opportunity to consider all the other factors that might influence the location of plan boundaries within the Severn.

Nothing in the Bill prevents two authorities from choosing to plan for adjacent regions at the same time, making use of the same cross-border advisory groups. However, the end result would always be two separate marine plans. We must follow the devolution settlement and the respective statutory responsibilities of the UK Government and Welsh Administration.

I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that that is not just a pedantic point. It goes to the heart of how the Bill has been constructed. If she were then to say, “Well, accepting that, how can you assure me that the two bodies will work together?”, of course the proof will be in the eating. However, from all that I have learnt in the preparation of the Bill, and from meetings and discussions that took place last autumn between the devolved Administrations and the UK Government, there is no doubt about a commitment to working together and ensuring that there is coherence. That is not to say that it will not be difficult; particularly in the Bristol Channel, it will be a challenge. However, there is no reason why we cannot succeed. One must respect the devolution settlement in the requirement of the two bodies to be able to produce their own marine plan. I hope that it will be done with absolute consistency so that users of the sea will be in no doubt about the coherence of the plans that are ultimately adopted.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank my noble friend Lord Livsey for his support in speaking to the amendment. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for contributing. He is quite right that this is about the complexities, and absolutely not just about the barrage and the planning for it.

Has the Minister’s department asked the Welsh Assembly if it would like a joint planning commission for the Bristol Channel? It would be fair to do so.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: It is not for my department to ask the Welsh Assembly that question. We should certainly be working with Welsh Ministers, and officials

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should be working together. I have already promised to follow up the question about how well we are working together.

Unfortunately, we still come back to the problem that, because of how legislation is set out and the requirements of the devolution settlement, we will still have to end up with two plans. The question is whether we can make them consistent. That is the challenge.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I thank the Minister for that reply and for going into some detail on my amendment. He rightly anticipated that I would be disappointed with his reply, as Defra had accepted the Severn Estuary Partnership’s proposal to establish the Bristol Channel Strategic Coastal Group to look at coastal issues and coastal flooding. That relatively new group is operational and covers an area from Hartland Point to Sharpness and, on the Welsh side, out to St Ann’s Head, including Lundy. He mentioned the difficulty around seaward extent but I had hoped that the establishment of such a group might set a precedent that could be followed through into the establishment of a commission.

6.30 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The noble Baroness will be aware of the difficulty that I have with her proposal. However, it may be helpful if I undertake to set out in more detail for her and other noble Lords how we think work on the two plans might be undertaken so there is a consistency of approach. I do not know whether she would find that helpful.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: That is a tremendously helpful offer. I realise that I am being slightly obtuse because I cannot see why we could not ask the Welsh Assembly whether it would welcome such a commission.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I do not want to prolong this. I am sure that discussions will continue to be held on how we can ensure that this measure works coherently. Clearly, if we or the Welsh Assembly Government have ideas about how collaboration may be most effectively undertaken, they should be put on the table and considered. The issue we have is about changing the legislation. We think that we have to stick to the mantra of two separate plans because of the separate statutory responsibility. I have no doubt whatever that any constructive ideas that are put forward about how we can work together will be seriously looked at.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I very much welcome the Minister’s helpful suggestion about giving as much detail as possible. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 86H withdrawn.

Amendment 86J

Moved by Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

86J: Clause 47, page 24, line 13, at end insert—

“( ) Sub-regions of the marine planning region may be defined at any time.”

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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: This amendment should prove a little simpler because we shall not be looking at devolution issues. It attempts to address the complex matters that we have spoken of, particularly those arising in estuaries, whether big estuaries such as the Thames estuary or small ones such as the Camel estuary, which goes past Padstow. I tabled the amendment because there is no obvious provision in the Bill for a sub-regional approach to be adopted. Estuary forums have carried out valuable work in bringing together all the interest groups within an estuary, including local authorities—many more than three or four may be involved in the Thames estuary—and in creating a joint approach to the planning of their region. Therefore, I hope that a sub-regional approach will be permitted in the Bill. I shall not outline again all the complex issues that arise with regard to estuaries because everything that I said on the previous amendment applies to this one. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for moving the amendment and opening up this part of the Bill. I hope that my reply will be suitably constructive and will at least indicate that we have thought very seriously about the points that she raised.

As it stands, Clause 49(1) already enables designation— or, more correctly, identification—of marine plan areas within a marine planning region. Each marine plan may cover the whole or part of a marine plan authority’s region.

Each plan authority will need to determine the appropriate area to be covered by individual plans within the limits of the regions for which it is responsible. It is up to the planning authority to decide how it wants to subdivide its own region or regions. In deciding, it needs to take account of various factors including ecosystems, bio-geographic areas, current administrative boundaries, existing management processes, the information known about natural resources, the data available, the patterns of human activities and where marine planning can add value. For instance, areas of high activity such as busy ports and estuaries will be prime candidates for these smaller, more detailed plans, which can then abut a marine plan for a wider area. I am in no doubt that these smaller areas would fall within the particular type of circumstances which the noble Baroness indicated in her amendment. The most important thing will be to plan at a scale appropriate to the characteristics and impacts on the area being planned for, and we are committed to doing so throughout the Bill.

Identification of marine plan areas will need to be informed by good science and evidence and carried out in consultation with local regulators and other people with an interest. The Government are carrying forward work based on previous comments from the public and interested bodies to determine the criteria to be used for deciding the scale and scope for each individual plan area and the criteria for considering the order in which plans are developed. As we said in the response to the pre-legislative scrutiny report, for which we were grateful, we will want to consult further on this matter.

Some have already suggested to us that the plans should be “nested” or tiered—one plan perhaps for a wider area with more strategic content, and one in a

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smaller area within that with more detail. We are content to allow for this flexibility for the future; we do not want to rule it out. As for our current intention for the marine regions which are the responsibility of the UK Government or the MMO, however, we think that a single layer of plans for any given area of sea would be better. More than one layer of plans in a single area would mean that a decision-maker has to look at, and decide in accordance with, additional documents. Multiple layers of plans could also increase the scope for potential conflict between the layers, no matter how efficient the planners are.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. In the terrestrial planning system the kind of complications that he suggests would occur—if they are complications—are commonplace. It is absolutely commonplace in that system to have a local plan, for example, and within it not only area action plans but all kinds of other documents that are part of the local development framework. The system set up under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act provides for planning at a local level. It does not cause vast complications, because people do not have to access plans in different places; they are all together in one place and they complement each other. There is no real complication with this at all.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The noble Lord will recognise one complication—namely that terrestrial planning has a rather longer history than marine planning. We are involved in an interesting and challenging area which does not have quite the depth of experience, nor the authority with which to carry out the exercise, as the terrestrial area. I am not so sure that we can readily apply the read-over from the Planning Act, although I recognise the value that we can derive from the experience that led to that Act. Frankly, we are concerned with the development of incremental planning; it will build up over a period of time. It is not that we put in legislation anything that adds rigidity to the position. As far as possible, we have some element of recognition of the complexity of the position and there will be the necessity for build-up through experience.

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