The Government has announced that the designation of the country’s first Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) will be delayed until 2013 while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs commissions significant additional work to support MCZ designation.
This will include an in-depth review of the evidence base for all the regional projects’ site recommendations. This will involve further seabed and habitat monitoring.
Environment minister Richard Benyon told Parliament: “We are likely to be able to designate some MCZs fairly quickly where the supporting evidence is adequate. However, for others we anticipate that more investigation will be needed before they can progress towards designation.
“Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee will provide the MCZ impact assessment and their formal advice in July 2012. This is six months later than previously planned. We will give careful consideration to all the advice received before undertaking formal public consultation on MCZs by the end of 2012.”
He added: “This consultation will include all sites recommended by the Regional Projects with clarity on how and when work on them will be taken forward. It is envisaged that the first MCZ designations will take place in 2013.”
In a separate but related move, Natural England has called for comments on proposals for a possible new Special Area of Conservation (SAC) between Studland and Portland, off the Dorset coast.
The proposed marine protected area, which will form part of the ‘Natura 2000’ European network of marine protected areas, is over 330 square kilometres – approximately half the size of the New Forest National Park – and it contains a wide range of diverse, rare reef features.
The consultation period ends on 24 November
17 November 2011