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We are happy to meet applicants prior to formal application to discuss procedures. We strongly advise that any proposal is, as far as is practical, the subject of extensive consultation locally. If the proposed order consists of works then the applicants are advised to consult with our standard consultees. The consultees at present are:

  • Natural England
  • Environment Agency
  • The Crown Estate
  • English Heritage
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • Trinity House
  • Department for Transport
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
  • Highways Agency
  • Network Rail
  • local authorities
  • neighbouring harbour authorities.

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Environmental statements

If an applicant considers that their proposed works may be subject to the environmental impact assessment process, the applicant may request a formal screening opinion from us. This will determine the need for an environmental statement. The applicant may also request a scoping opinion which will guide the applicant on the issues the environmental statement should address. In order to arrive at this decision we will consult with those listed above, with the applicant and with any other appropriate bodies.

Due to the nature and scale of harbour developments, it is likely that an order to authorise works will require an environmental statement. This has led to it being normal practice for the applicant to submit a scoping report setting out their view on the requirements of the environmental statement without requesting a formal screening opinion.

Environmental statements should also contain sufficient information for a determination to be made on whether a proposal is likely to have a significant effect on a European site and to allow an appropriate assessment of any such effect to be made.

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Draft orders

We are willing to comment on draft orders but we may not be able to provide a definitive response before the applicant is ready to proceed to formal application. We will not delay application in that event. Applicants should seek their own legal advice as we cannot offer definitive legal advice on draft orders.

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Formal application

The application should be accompanied by a statement setting out why the order is necessary and how the requirements of the Harbours Act 1964 have been met. Section 14(2) (b) states that the making of the order must be “desirable in the interests of securing the improvement, maintenance or management of the harbour in an efficient and economical manner or of facilitating the efficient and economic transport of goods or passengers by sea.”

Applicants may wish to note that if there is no inquiry, the statement accompanying their application may constitute their only opportunity to put forward their case for the order.

Six copies of the order and any annexed documents and maps should be included with the application, along with the appropriate fee. Where an environmental statement is required to accompany the application, we request that 14 copies are provided.

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The applicant must publish the order once in the London Gazette and once in each of two successive weeks in one or more local papers. We can advise on the wording of the advertisement.

The advert must:

  1. give notice that application has been made
  2. provide information on the need for an environmental impact assessment
  3. contain a concise summary of the proposals
  4. give a general description of any land proposed for compulsory acquisition
  5. name a place where the draft order and environmental statement may be viewed at reasonable times
  6. invite anyone to write to us with objections or representations within 42 days of the date the order was first advertised.

If a statement setting out the case for the order has been sent to us with the application, it would be advisable to make this publicly available with the draft order and environmental statement.

If the order would authorise the compulsory acquisition of land or the extinguishment or diversion of a footpath or bridleway, there are additional requirements for giving notice.

Original copies of the adverts must be sent to us.

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Objections and representations

The Harbours Act 1964 allows 42 days from the date the advertisement first appears for objections and representations to be made. During this time, we will be conducting our own consultations.

Objectors, who may include any of our consultees, must state the grounds for their objections. If there are any objections that cannot be resolved then a public inquiry may be held.

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Modifications to applications

An applicant may, after submitting a formal application, propose changes to the draft order - most commonly to meet objections. There are consequences to be considered, however, if an applicant is considering proposing amendments to an order for which a formal application has been made. For example, where amendments affect the environmental impact assessment and the environmental statement this may require a revised assessment and environmental statement and reference back to the parties, or a reopening of an inquiry.

Where we propose to make an order with modifications that we believe substantially affect the character of the order, we shall take steps to inform the applicant and other people likely to be concerned and will allow a reasonable period for comment upon the modifications before making the order.

We cannot accept a modification to an order which would authorise the compulsory acquisition of land not described in the original application, unless all parties consent.

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Discontinuing an application

The applicant may at any time ask for the application process to be discontinued.

We are required not to consider an application unless the applicant has complied with the appropriate procedural requirements (Paragraph 9, Schedule 3 of the Harbours Act 1964).

Where there are outstanding objections, it may also be decided that, rather than causing an inquiry to be heard, the application shall not proceed further (Paragraph 18(1), Schedule 3 of the Harbours Act 1964).

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Public inquiries

Although there are no rules in the Harbours Act 1964 governing inquiry procedures, they are run on similar lines to general planning inquiries. An inquiry may be held where there are objections to an order that have not been resolved.

In the event of receiving objections, applicants should consider whether they want to take time to negotiate with objectors with a view to getting the objections withdrawn or immediately ask for an inquiry. There is nothing to prevent discussions with objectors continuing even after a request for an inquiry is made.

An inspector will be appointed to conduct the inquiry, with possibly an assessor to help. The applicant must find a suitable venue for the inquiry which includes consulting rooms for both objectors and applicants. We will publish details of the inquiry in the same papers as used for publicising the original application, and will usually give not less than six weeks’ notice of an inquiry.

Where there are related applications for consents, such as applications under the Town and Country Planning acts or Transport and Works Act 1992, we are happy to discuss arranging for a single inquiry to consider all applications.

Once the inquiry is over a decision letter will be issued to the applicant.

Public inquiry costs

We recover the costs of holding an inquiry from the applicants. Applicants will be required to reimburse us after the inquiry has been held and the inspector’s report received, when the full costs are known. The costs of a public inquiry and report can vary considerably. These costs are in addition to the fee payable upon an application.

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Order made

An order will usually be made within a short period of the decision letter being issued, depending on the complexity of the order and any modifications to it. The applicant must publish notice of the fact that the order has been made (we can advise on content) in the same publications and to the same people notified of the original application.

Applicants must copy the adverts and notices to us.

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The timescales for the various stages outlined above will vary in line with a number of factors, in particular the complexity of the proposal, the degree of public interest, and the nature and numbers of objections.

The only statutory period is the 42 days allowed for receipt of public comments following formal application. As a guide only, applicants can expect a screening and scoping opinion in respect of an environmental statement to be given within 12 weeks of request and an inquiry to be set up within 4 to 6 months of request. A period of around nine months from the date of inquiry should be expected before our final decision is made, although this can vary depending on the complexity of the issues involved.

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Contact information

Marine Licensing Team
Marine Management Organisation
Lancaster House
Hampshire Court
Newcastle upon Tyne

Tel: 0300 123 1032
Fax: 0191 376 2681
Email: harbourorders@

Guidance documents

Marine licensing guidance 4: Harbours Act 1964 (PDF 230 KB)

This document is in the portable document format (PDF) for downloading. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be freely downloaded from