Environment (Wales) Bill Part 5 - Urgent action needed to protect our seas

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 7 January 2016

Environment (Wales) Bill Part 5 - Urgent action needed to protect our seas The Environment (Wales) Bill is at a crucial stage with the Welsh Government.

Environment (Wales) Bill Part 5 - Urgent action needed to protect our seas The Environment (Wales) Bill is at a crucial stage with the Welsh Government. Urgent action is needed to ensure that the marine environment is better protected under Part 5 of the bill and we need your help. There are several key issues and these are explained below with the key technical words highlighted in italics. Without amendments, Welsh Government could be allowing greater damage and less protection for European Marine Sites. Most of these look like tiny changes but in law they mean a lot! The issues: Harm There is already European legislation which defines what harm can mean when undertaking a plan or a project in the marine environment. The bill could lessen the protection for marine wildlife because it removes the requirement to look at the risk of harm in the same way either singly or when combined with existing or other planned activities. There should be harmony between how the Bill and existing EU legislation define harm. This would avoid confusion and simplify the process. (Part 5, Section 76) The same applies for whether an activity appears to be causing harm but it doesn’t apply if it may cause harm. (Part 5, Section 74) Both risk and may cause harm are covered under 2 bits of legislation which means Welsh Government should always look to prevent harm, even if in doubt that there will be harm, until it is proven otherwise. This fully embeds the preventive and the precautionary principles. Site protection orders The bill allows for Welsh Government to issue site protection orders if activities appear to be causing harm, which sounds good but due to the wording in the bill, these could fail to provide protection. If a site protection order is issued, the activities should stop until it has been assessed for its impacts. At present there is no ability to cease activities, so harm could continue throughout the whole assessment process allowing further damage. When a site protection notice is set up, it will list which activities are being assessed and what you must not do (banned activities), so as to not harm the site further. However at present if you were to do the banned activities, you would be exempt from prosecution. This is because within the EB it is not deemed a criminal offence. (Part 5, Section 74) MCS Environment (Wales) Bill recommended amendments: (Additions are underlined) Part 5, Section 76 5F (1)(a) an adverse effect or risk of an adverse effect on the integrity of the site alone or in combination with other plans or projects. 5F(2) add Plan or project has the same meaning as under the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats of wild fauna and flora. Part 5, Section 74 5B(1) If it appears to the Welsh Ministers that harm to a European marine site has occurred or (remove is likely to) may occur, as a result of any activity. Part 5, Section 74 Create a criminal offence if a person fails to abide by the steps set out in the site protection notice. Part 5, Section 74 5B (2) A site protection notice is a notice which requires the grantees to take steps or cease any activities specified in the notice for the purpose of preventing harm (or further harm) to the European Marine Site. 5B (4)(c) specify the time by which, or the period for which, the steps specified in the notice must be taken and the activities specified in the notice must be ceased. Part 5, Section 74 5C(2) An appeal may be brought within 28 days of a site protection notice being served under 5B After 5C(3) insert new subsection: The provisions of a site protection notice are to remain in force pending the determination of an appeal Part 5, Section 75, 5E Insert a new sub-clause under 5E(2) The Welsh Ministers may vary or revoke the order without first serving a site protection notice for the purpose of fulfilling the requirements of Regulation 63 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. Part 5, Section 76 5F(1)(c) the disturbance of a relevant species, in so far as the disturbance could be significant in relation to the objectives of the Habitats Directive (remove: or the Wild Birds Directive (as applicable)).

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