The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Coastal Governance

Coastal governance is complex and covered by many different bodies and organisations, we have summarised the position below including statutory and non-statutory bodies.

Coastal Roles and Responsibilities

Government Agencies/Public Bodies

Marine Management Organisation

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for licensing and regulating marine activities in the seas around England and Wales. The MMO monitors fish quotas, licenses marine construction, and deals with marine pollution. It is an executive non-departmental public body, created under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  There are two offices covering the Solent at Portsmouth and Poole.

Where necessary the MMO can make byelaws to control non licensable activities, it can also make emergency byelaws. 

Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authorities (IFCAs)

IFCA duties include Fisheries Conservation and the protection of the marine environment, with powers for enforcement and the ability to make by-laws.  Two IFCAs cover the Solent, the Southern IFCA (based in Poole) and Sussex IFCA (based in Shoreham).

Natural England (NE)

Natural England (NE) is the statutory adviser on the natural environment to the government, helping develop laws, policies, and plans. It regulates work affecting protected species and sites and is a statutory consultee for proposed development on protected sites.  NE has 12 area teams, the Solent is covered by Thames Solent (which includes Isle of Wight) and the far western edge of Sussex. Area team staff lead on delivery within their geographic region including (but not limited to) sustainable development, monitoring, conservation advice and condition assessments.

Natural England plays a vital role in protecting biodiversity and our most important habitats, and in providing benefits to people’s health and wellbeing by promoting and advising on responsible access to the nature that it protects.

Environment Agency (EA)

The Environment Agency (EA) regulates and monitors water quality, water resources, and fisheries; looks after inland river, estuary, and harbour navigations; and has conservation and recreation responsibilities. They are also responsible for managing flood risk from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries, and the sea, and are responsible for regulating major industry and waste activities.

The Agency’s responsibilities align to the terrestrial environment within England. In addition, for regulating emissions to the marine environment within 3 nautical miles and for Environmental Permitting Regulations up to 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

The organisation plays a vital role in protecting the public from pollution and natural disasters such as flooding and ensures that a wide range of business sectors and activities abide by the environmental standards set by the government.

RFCCs also play an important role in helping to protect communities from flooding and coastal erosion. They help the Environment Agency and partners to understand local issues better, and to balance local and national priorities. The Solent is covered by the Southern committee.

Trinity House

Trinity House is responsible for the safety of shipping, and the well-being of seafarers.  It is the authority for lighthouse and deep sea pilotage.

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.

The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat)

OFWAT is a non-ministerial government department. They are the economic regulator for the water and sewerage sectors in England and Wales

Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA)

MCA is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport (DfT) providing a 24-hour maritime and coastal search and rescue emergency coordination and response service for the United Kingdom. They produce legislation and guidance and provide certification to ships and seafarers.

Hants Marine Police Support Unit

This Unit polices the marine communities of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. 

Central Government Departments

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:

Non Statutory Organisations

Harbour Authorities

Most harbour authorities in the UK are now constituted as private companies (or subsidiaries of such a company). Some are trust ports, originally established by private Act of Parliament and now operate under Harbour Revision Orders. They are therefore also constituted as private entities. The rights and responsibilities of port and harbour authorities derive from the legislation that created them, they are governed by their own local legislation, which is 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, their main purposes is to ensure the navigation and safety of vessels.

The Queen's Harbour Master (QHM) Portsmouth is the regulatory authority of the Dockyard Port of Portsmouth, an area of approximately 55 square miles that encompasses Portsmouth Harbour and the Eastern Solent. ABP Southampton has statutory harbour responsibility for Southampton Water. 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.


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.

Water Companies

There are 11 Water and Sewage Companies in England and Wales. Southern Water covers the Solent. Portsmouth Water is the one water supply company.


Academic institutions play an important part on driving research and understanding of the coastal and marine environment.  Local institutions in the south involved in coastal and marine work include Portsmouth University, University of Southampton, Southampton Institute and Bournemouth University.

Recreational User Groups/Trade Bodies

User groups such as the Royal Yachting Association are an important part of the coastal stakeholder picture particularly for recreation and tourism. There is a user group for nearly every recreational activity, they provide a great source of information and support for recreational users.

Trade bodies such as the British Marine Federation (BMF) work in the collective interests of its members in a particular industry. In the case of BMF this is the leisure boat industry. They provide an excellent way to gain industry input on issues and feed information back to local business.

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