Applying for a marine licence consent that has multiple phases
Adaptive management may be used to address areas of uncertainty that remain after completing a robust environmental assessment, or where the environmental baseline is likely to change. In some cases, adaptive management might include phased projects to manage the potential environmental effects.
Consents with multiple phases
Applicants for marine licences can choose how to apply for multi-phase projects. You should consider the needs of your project, in combination with the points below, when deciding how to apply.
There are three options:
- Applying for an individual marine licence for each phase.
- Applying for a single marine licence for a multi-phase project where it is possible to assess the environmental effect of the entire project.
- Applying for a single marine licence for a multi-phase project where phases are defined for the purpose of addressing residual uncertainty after initial environmental assessment.
It is more straightforward to apply for a marine licence for projects that do not use phases within the consent. Where possible, where the environmental effects of the whole project cannot be assessed, we encourage applicants to apply for an individual consent for each stage. If you wish to apply for a single consent for a phased project, your project must fit our requirements for phased consents. You must check our position statement to confirm that your project meets these requirements.
Applying for a marine licence for each phase
If there is uncertainty about the environmental effects of the project due to the nature of the project, it may be appropriate to apply for a single phase of the project. This is because the environmental effects are likely to be more limited in the initial phase, and information can be collected from the initial phase to inform applications for subsequent phases of development.
To use this approach, each phase must be functionally independent of subsequent phases to avoid project splitting under Environmental Impact Assessment regulations. It is acceptable for later phases to build on earlier phases.
We encourage applicants to use this approach in cases where it is difficult to assess what the environmental effects of the full project might be, or there is considerable uncertainty about the effects.
To assist the evidence base, data will be collected during the licensed activity to inform the application(s) for subsequent phases of development.
Some original baseline data will only need to be collected once. It may be possible to use information collected to inform the first application in the subsequent phases, if this information remains valid. The collection of baseline data will be proportionate to the development phase. Therefore, subsequent phases may require additional information.
As long as the applications are functionally independent of subsequent applications, each application will be assessed on its own merits. This may involve cumulative or in-combination assessment with previous phases.
These projects can be dealt with as independent or separate licence applications for each phase and according to our marine licensing processes.
Applying for a single marine licence for a multi-phase project where it is possible to assess the environmental effect of the entire project
Where a project has multiple phases defined by technical, administrative or funding reasons, it is more appropriate to apply for a single marine licence for the project as a whole, to ensure that consent for the entire project is achieved as efficiently as possible.
Your assessment should include assessment of the effects of the project as a whole.
You should ensure that all the phases of the project are appropriately / adequately defined to a level that allows us to comprehensively assess the effects of the project. This includes timescales, and whether any phases overlap.
These projects can be dealt with according to our marine licensing processes.
Applying for a single marine licence for a multi-phase project where phases are defined to address residual uncertainty after initial environmental assessment
If there is uncertainty about the environmental effects of the project as a whole, the project can be divided in smaller scale phases with the aim of gathering the necessary information to reduce this uncertainty.
Although we recommend you apply for a marine licence for a phase at a scale of project that can be assessed as having no significant effects on the environment, we recognise that you may wish to apply for the project as a whole.
You must provide enough information with the application to allow us, as the regulator, to carry out - where necessary - a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), Water Framework Directive (WFD) compliance assessment and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consent.
These environmental assessments must be conducted for the project as a whole, during the formal consenting process. In the case of HRA, a project cannot be consented unless the regulator is satisfied that there will be no adverse effect on site integrity of any European Site, or the derogation requirements of the Habitats Directive can be met (Article 6(4), or the “IROPI tests”). In some cases it may be possible to ensure that no adverse effect occurs through the use of carefully controlled phases in the consent, which could in some circumstances lead to permission to proceed to later stages being refused.
If you wish to apply for a single consent for a phased project, your project must fit our requirements for phased consents. You must check our Position Statement to confirm that your project meets these requirements.
You will also need to read our guidance on applying for Marine Licences using adaptive management plans.
Whilst the effects of a smaller phase of the project are likely to be smaller than the effects of the larger project, the project, as a whole, must be assessed when determining a consent. The use of phasing is not considered to be a mitigation measure in itself, as the use of phasing alone would not reduce the environmental effects of the whole project. It must therefore be clear how phasing will be used in an Adaptive Environmental Management Plan to reduce the overall risk of environmental effects from occurring.
In some cases, it may be possible to use data collected in early phases to inform the management measures to be taken, including whether the project may proceed to the next stage, or must remain at the current phase. NRW’s policy is that this should be limited to cases where all of the following apply:
- There is a clear definition of the maximum extent of each phase.
- The phases are ‘modular’. For example, the deployment of more devices, or larger devices in later stages. Building infrastructure capable of the maximum capacity of the whole project and using phasing to limits the capacity being used in the initial phase is NOT considered an appropriate use of phasing.
- Decommissioning of the project would involve complete, or near complete, removal of all structures, at any point of the project.
- It is possible to conclude that the first stage of the project will not cause adverse effect of site integrity (AEOSI) of any European Site during a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).
- The applicant has identified what data will be collected and how it will be collected.
- The data to be collected cannot be collected prior to the project and that the collection of this data will reduce uncertainty of the assessment. This approach is not a replacement for proper environmental assessment.
- The applicant has identified how the data will be used to inform progression to the next phase of the project.
The NRW permitting officer must be able to conclude that AEOSI will not occur for the whole project either because there are sufficient mitigation measures in place or because it is possible to stop development of the next phase until NRW Permitting Service has confirmed that the HRA conclusion of no AEOSI remains true if the project proceeds to the next phase. Projects with phased consents are not guaranteed to progress to full development.