Marine & Coastal Access Bill OK, say BMF

The British Marine Federation (BMF) has welcomed the passage of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, which is due to become law today as an Act of Parliament. The BMF has been working throughout the formulation and passage of the legislation since March 2008, to ensure that Ministers and other policy makers have listened to and acted on the concerns of the leisure marine sector.


Howard Pridding, Executive Director of the BMF said:


“The BMF today welcomes the passage into law of this historic legislation designed to safeguard the natural habitat along our coastline, whilst also encouraging responsible leisure activities including recreational boating. Along with the Royal Yachting Association, we have been tireless in our efforts to ensure a balanced outcome that looked at both the socio-economic concerns of coastal areas and the need to preserve our unique marine heritage.


“Initially, there were fears about the impact of the draft legislation – especially around over burdensome licensing and unrestricted access to the coast. However, following our efforts we now feel content with the proposals and believe that they will not increase the regulatory burden for leisure marine firms. We welcome the establishment of the coastal path and the potential boost to tourism, but will also monitor the practical application of the law. BMF members look forward to welcoming even more visitors to enjoy our seas and coastline and the varied leisure activities on offer around the country.”


Following an 18-month campaign, the BMF was successful in securing crucial assurances from the Government on aspects of the Bill.


The key wins include:


  • The Government agreed to consult industry on changes to the marine licensing regime, including the exemption of maintenance dredging activities. Responses to the consultation, which was framed with BMF input, are now being considered by DEFRA before the publication of final proposals on the issue.  
  • The removal of a clause in the Bill specifically targeting recreational users on restrictions to activity in proposed Marine Conservation Zones. The Government accepted BMF and RYA objections that this measure was unjust and not legally viable.
  • Assurances from the DEFRA Minister responsible for the Bill, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, on the Parliamentary record, that the proposed coastal path will not impact negatively on boatyards and marinas and that Natural England will have a duty to consult business owners where there is any objection to the route.1
  • A continued commitment by the Government to take economic concerns into account when deciding on the areas to be declared as Marine Conservation Zones.

The BMF built political support from all parties on behalf of its members in both the House of Commons and House of Lords and developed a successful working relationship with the civil servants framing the legislation.


During the Commons stages of the Bill, Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs praised this proactive approach, stating:

“We in the Department have had a number of discussions with boating and marina organisations, such as the British Marine Federation…. I am glad that we have engaged with them extensively.”

Moving forwards, the Government will now need to develop secondary legislation and regulations to put many of the measures in the Act into practice. The BMF will be maintaining its positive dialogue with the key civil servants responsible for this process to ensure the views of the industry remain high on the agenda.


More information on the BMF’s viewpoint and its activity with regards to the Bill is available here: