Applying for a marine licence

How do I apply for a marine licence?

Where appropriate, the application should be submitted with supporting documents such as drawings, environmental assessments and location plans. All applications (apart from Band 1 low risk activity applications) must also be accompanied by a WFD assessment,

All dredge and/or disposal activities must be accompanied by a sediment sampling and analysis results and a biosecurity risk assessment. Both forms are available on the marine licence application forms page of our website.  

How much do marine licence applications cost?

Marine licence applications fall under 3 different payment bands:

Band 1

Low risk activities that are subject to a simpler licensing process. Read more about types of activities that are considered Band 1

Band 2

Types of Band 2 activities include:

  • Small to medium scale construction, alteration or improvement of works eg coastal defence works, bridge repairs
  • Some removal activities using a vehicle or vessel eg removals from the seabed, pier demolition
  • Maintenance dredging activities (unless part of a wider construction scheme) eg maintenance navigational dredging

Maintenance dredging includes material recently deposited by sedimentation processes in harbour, estuary or sea area.

Band 3

Band 3 are defined as complex applications that:

  • Have estimated project costs for marine works over £1 million; and/or:
  • Are required to have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA);
  • Are activities involving both construction and dredging elements, including maintenance dredging

Types of Band 3 projects may include:

  • Large construction schemes
  • Marine renewable developments
  • Marine aggregate extraction
  • Capital dredging campaigns
  • Applications for multiple activities, such as construction with dredging elements

Capital dredging includes geological material dredged from previously unexposed layers beneath the seabed and surficial material from areas not recently dredged i.e within 10 years.

Read more about marine licensing fees and charges. 

How are applications determined?

Welsh Government has developed the first Welsh National Marine Plan, adopted on 12 November 2019. The plan sets out Welsh Government’s policy for the next 20 years for the sustainable use of our seas. We must make decisions in accordance with the marine plan, unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise, and applicants should take into account the plan when making their applications. All applications (apart from Band 1 low risk activity applications) should demonstrate their proposed activities are in line with the marine plan. A template is available on the marine licence application forms page of our website. 

For certain applications involving the construction, alteration or improvement of works, we must consider the effects of the intended use of the works once complete. For example, in considering an application for a jetty extension that will enable access for bigger vessels, we must consider the effects that the bigger vessels will have on the environment. For maintenance dredge and/or disposal applications we will consider a licence term of up to 10 years where appropriate evidence is provided. This evidence might include bathymetry data, hydrodynamic data or modelling, details of the frequency and timing of sediment release and analysis on alternative uses of the sediment. Additional conditions may be placed on these licences including breakpoints, sampling requirements and monitoring.

What organisations do we consult with?

When an application for a Marine Licence is made, we consult with a range of organisations to seek advice on the impacts of the project and any mitigation measures or conditions that should be included within a licence to minimise potential impacts.

Consultees vary depending on the type of application, but may include:


  • Internal Natural Resources Wales departments
  • External technical advisors such as; Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). JNCC are consulted on applications for activities beyond 12 nm offshore

Navigational / other

  • Trinity House
  • Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • Royal Yachting Association
  • Ministry of Defence
  • The relevant Local Harbour Authority
  • Department for Transport
  • The Crown Estate / Swangrove Estate. The Crown Estate / Swangrove Estate are the owners of the foreshore / seabed in the majority of cases
  • The relevant Local Planning Authority


  • Local Archaeological Trusts
  • Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Welsh Government consultees

  • Marine Enforcement Officers
  • Marine and Fisheries Division
  • Transport Policy, Planning and Partnerships
  • Flood and Coastal Risk Management Branch

Is there a public consultation?

In most cases applicants are required to place a public notice of their proposals in a local newspaper. This notification will direct interested members of the public to a public building where the applicant must arrange for copies of the application and supporting documents to be available. The notice will also provide the public with contact details so that they can make any representations concerning the application to us. 

We will provide the applicant with the text that must be used in the notice after an application is received.

Seeking pre-application advice

The quality of the information provided in your application is key to how long it takes us to determine a marine licence. A good quality application should provide enough information for us to assess the likely impacts of the proposed activities.

Your application should demonstrate clearly that you have considered the impacts your works may have on the environment including designated sites and historic assets. It should also consider the potential risk to navigation and other marine users.

Your application should also highlight any mitigation you will put in place to minimise or avoid potential impacts. You can find further information on what should be submitted as supporting information on the marine licence application forms page of our website

We strongly encourage you to engage with NRW’s marine advisory service: and other consultees.

Resolving issues with consultees before you submit your application will reduce the risk of delays.

Fitness checks of applications

We believe that meaningful pre-application engagement helps strengthen marine licence applications and reduces risks and delays in the determination process.

Although it is not compulsory in the marine licensing process in Wales, a structured and meaningful pre-application engagement with the right consultees can help you identify potential issues with your application at an early stage, clarify the information required and inform the design and methods to be used. This will improve the quality of your application and support a smoother determination process.

We advise that pre-application engagement is done in a meaningful way, seeking the views of relevant consultees and stakeholders, allowing enough time for them to raise their views. Where possible, you should seek to resolve all relevant issues raised by consultees prior to submission of your application. We recommend you conduct this pre-application engagement in a timely manner, so that it remains valid. We therefore encourage not to allow too much time to lapse between the consultation and the submission of your application.

Therefore, we strongly encourage you to seek relevant consultees advice in particular for the following projects:

  • All Band 3 applications requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Large infrastructure developments (Band 3)
  • Novel technologies, approaches (Band 2 and 3)
  • Aquaculture
  • Projects which could substantially interact with other legitimate users of the sea
  • Projects occurring in sensitive areas

The main consultees we recommend you reach out to for advice on your application are, but not limited to, the below organisations:

We also encourage pre-application engagement with communities if you think your project could have general public interest.

Where pre-application engagement has been conducted, a summary table of the pre-application consultation and outcomes should be presented in support of your application. This should include dates and names of the organisations consulted, summary of issues raised, and how these have been considered and resolved or not, and where the relevant information can be found in your supporting documents.

Upon submission, we will conduct an initial review of the application before it is accepted. We have a service level for this process of 21 days.

  • For applications which include a pre-application engagement outcome table, the checks will include a review of this table to understand how comments made by consultees have been taken into account (in some cases this will include confirmation from consultees).
  • For applications not supported by a pre-application engagement outcome table, we might consider it necessary to conduct a “fitness check” before accepting your application. This will consist of a structured consultation with a selection of key consultees on relevant topics aiming at assessing the approach taken, data requirements and methodology.

The outcome of the initial check will be either the acceptance of applications which are fit to undergo the determination process in a meaningful way, or the return of those applications that would not enable a thorough and meaningful assessment. However, it is important to note that even for accepted applications, the applicant may be required to provide further information after consultation, and this will be expected to be produced in a timely manner to allow continuation of the determination.

Timescales for determining a marine licence application

There are no statutory timescales for determining marine licence applications. However, we do have agreements on timescales in place called service level agreements (SLAs).

We recommend that you take these timescales into account when you make your application, and add in contingency time to make sure your works are not delayed if your licence is granted.

Our SLA timescales for determination are:

  • Band 1 applications – 6 weeks, but if we decide that a method statement is not required at the pre-application stage then we can usually determine an application within 4 weeks.
  • Band 2 application – 4 months.
  • Band 3 application – we do not have a SLA timescale. Band 3 projects are varied and often complex in nature so determination time can vary significantly.

The service level timeline starts once we receive a completed application. If we contact you to request more information to complete your application the service level timeline will not begin until we receive this.

If we do request more information you will have 10 working days to provide it. Should you not do so in time we will return and refund your application.

We do not have a service level agreement on timescales for Band 3 applications as these projects are varied and complex in nature. Timescales are highly dependant on the nature and location of the project, and the quality of the application. However, to help with your project planning we have listed some mean average and maximum times taken to determine different Band 3 marine licences from 2014 to the end of 2021 below. These times are not service levels and we may take longer depending on the information submitted.

Band 3 works type Average time (months) Maximum time to date (months)
Coastal Defence Schemes 5 5
Aggregates 12 25
Offshore Renewables 14 25
All other Band 3 applications which require an EIA 15 24
All other Band 3 applications which do not require an EIA 5 11

Are other permissions required if a marine licence has been granted?

A marine licence does not absolve you from applying for any other necessary consents or permissions that may be required prior to works being undertaken.

The following is not an exhaustive list and further advice should be sought from relevant bodies including the Local Planning Authority.

All intrusive works on the seabed within 12 nautical miles of the coast may require consent from The Crown Estate. E-mail for further information or clarification as to whether a small works consent is required. If consent is required, a short application form will need to be completed and the application will take up to four weeks to process.

If the location of the activity is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or requires access via a SSSI then a permission from Natural Resources Wales should be sought. Find more information on our SSSI guidance page.

If you want to carry out works in, over, under or near a main river, or in a flood plain or flood defence (including a sea defence), you may need to apply for Flood Risk Activity Permit.

Certain species are European Protected Species (EPS). In Welsh marine waters these include, but are not limited to whales, dolphins, porpoises and turtles. It is against the law to damage their breeding sites / resting places, or to deliberately capture, kill, injure or disturb an EPS without a licence. Terrestrial European Protected Species that may be affected by marine licensable activities (eg pier and bridge repairs) include bats and otters. Read more about European Protected Species (EPS).

Applying to grow or harvest aquaculture (seaweed and shellfish)

You need a licence to commercially grow or harvest seaweed.

Some activities to commercially harvest or grow shellfish are exempt and may not need a marine licence. Find out what what activities may be exempt from a marine licence.

What to include in the licence application

The licence application must include a location plan, descriptive drawings and any supporting environmental assessments. Including:

  • Navigational Risk Assessment (NRA) - contact the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Trinity House to help with this.
  • Biosecurity plan
  • Marine Mammal Entanglement protocol - contact our pre application advice service to help with this.
  • Details of any protected site features – contact our pre application advice service to help with this.
  • Evidence that you have consulted with the relevant organisations to prepare your application.

All applications (apart from Band 1 low risk activity applications) must also be accompanied by a Water Framework Directive (WFD) assessment.

We cannot process the application until all necessary supporting information has been received.

If the supporting information is not deemed sufficient, we will request further information or return the application until all information is provided.

After your application has been submitted

We may need to request more information or additional assessments so that we can understand the likely impacts of the proposed activities. 

If the proposed activity has a potential to significantly affect the environment, we may request that a the an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be carried out before a licence decision is made.

The Aquaculture Regulatory Toolbox for Wales for more information that might help your application.

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