Minister orders further investigations

The public consultation expected next spring into the controversial Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) project is being put back by at least six months.

In a written statement, the Environment Minister, Richard Benyon MP, said: ‘It is clear from the SAP (Science Advisory Panel)’s advice that there are a number of gaps and limitations in the scientific evidence base supporting the MCZ recommendations.’

He added, ‘An adequately robust evidence base will be essential when we come to implement management measures.’

Mr Benyon is having his Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commission further studies into some of the sites recommended for special protection by the four regional MCZ project groups.

The additional investigations mean that the process will take an estimated six months longer than planned, with the formal public consultation now scheduled for the end of 2012 and the first MCZ designations being made in 2013.

Click for full statement

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Image: Dorset’s Studland Bay, one of the most contentious proposed MCZ sites