The Solent Forum

Working in parnership for the future

Roles and Responsibilities

Coastal Roles and Responsibilities

Central Government Departments and National Agencies

Currently, coastal issues come within the remit of many central government departments, the most important of which is the Marine Management Organisation. Responsibilities are as follows:

Marine Management Organisation (MMO)

The MMO is an executive non-departmental public body, created under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  The MMO is responsible for:

Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities

With the introduction of the MMO the 12 Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs) that regulate inshore fishing activities will in England be replaced by Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities.  These will have more clearly defined duties, including protection of the marine environment, and will be given greater powers for enforcement.  Parts of the sea bed will be protected, not only for conservation but to preserve key spawning grounds. The Environment Agency will have new, flexible powers to better conserve and manage migratory and freshwater fisheries.

Local Government

Local authorities such as district and county councils have many responsibilities on the coast both as managers and regulators and in many cases also as the landowner. For example, Hampshire County Council is a coastal landowner and the Harbour Authority for the River Hamble. Details of the Solent's local authorities can be found in our members directory.

Responsibilities include:

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is the leading public body for protecting and improving the environment in England and Wales. It's job is to make sure that air, land and water are looked after by everyone in today's society. Its responsibilities include:

The Flood and Water Management Act, 2010 received Royal Assent on the 08 April 2010. This Act gives the Environment Agency an overview of all flood and coastal erosion risk management.

Natural England

Natural England is a public body committed to conserving and enhancing the natural environment. Its role is to work for people, places and nature, to enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas; promote access, recreation and public well-being; and contribute to the way natural resources are managed so that they can be enjoyed now and in the future.  It is the government's statutory nature conservation adviser.


Non-governmental organisations (NGO's) campaign to conserve and enhance the special attributes of an area. They range from the very small local groups to large national organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB. Some are topic specific, such as the Maritime Archaeology Trust and others work cross-sectorally for example, the Solent Protection Society.  They play an important role in helping to raise issues and involve local communities in coastal matters. 


Landowners generally own the land down to the mean high water mark or mean low water mark; land below this and 50% of the foreshore is owned by the Crown Estate. Landowners can be either private individuals or companies, charitable bodies such as the National Trust or local and harbour authorities such as Hampshire County Council. Sometimes privately owned land is leased on to bodies such as local authorities, ports and harbours, conservation bodies or other statutory bodies.

Management or development of the land will require the permission of the landowner, the owner will also have responsibilities to take care of the land in a certain way when it is subject to protected area status or planning constraints. As well as landowners permission, many activities also require statutory consents from government. See our coastal consents guide for further details.

Crown Estate

The Crown Estate owns virtually the entire seabed out to the 12 nautical mile territorial limit, including the rights to explore and utilise the natural resources of the UK continental shelf (excluding oil, gas and coal).  The Energy Act, 2004 vested rights to The Crown Estate to license the generation of renewable energy on the continental shelf within the Renewable Energy Zone out to 200nm.

It also owns around 55% of the foreshore (the area between mean high and mean low water) and approximately half of the beds of estuaries and tidal rivers in the United Kingdom.  It does not own the water column or govern public rights such as navigation and marine fisheries.

Harbour Authorities

The rights and responsibilities of port and harbour authorities derive from the legislation that creates them and gives them powers. The authority can only operate within its powers. Most harbour authorities are governed by their own local legislation, which is specific to each authority and tailored to meet their individual needs. Under these local acts and regulations, the authority is responsible for administering the ports and coastal waters within its jurisdiction, for the main purposes of ensuring the navigation and safety of vessels using them. Ports and harbours have a legal responsibility over the marine environment as local lighthouse authorities under the Merchant Shipping 1894 Act.

The Department of Transport has responsibility for the safety of navigation within the Western Solent, as this currently lies outside the jurisdiction of any of the harbour authorities.

Details of the Solent's harbour authorities can be found in our members directory.

Trinity House

The safety of shipping, and the well being of seafarers, have been the prime concerns of Trinity House since it was granted a Charter by Henry VIII in 1514.

It has three distinct functions:

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