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Maritime Forum

Licensing Toolkit - England


Avg. duration: 20+ monthsValidity: Licence-specificLegal cost: highly variableAuthority in charge: MM0


Process PhaseDurationOverview of tasks
Preparation6-8 monthsProject definition like location, target size, type of equipment and techniques, potential impacts, etc.
Pre-engagement with stakeholders is mandatory for a "local level pre-engagement"
Documentation preparation where you fill in online application form and, if required, add supportive documents/reports
Process phaseDurationKey tasksChallanges
Project definition3 months
  • Define the project: Location, target size, type of equipment and techniques to be used. Farm size and equipment chosen will determine which band of fee to pay.
  • Find out whether the defined project requires an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
  • Consider using the Marine Information System for finding an appropriate farm location.
  • Seaweed fees are the same as for offshore wind, although seaweed farming is a very different business model. Besides, fees are highly variable and calculated on an hourly charge for governmental assistance (~£122 per hour). Make sure to plan your funding accordingly.
  • Small-scale farmers with limited funds face an inherent disadvantage when setting up an operation. Make sure to have sufficient funding for the length of the application process.
  • There is a lack of information upfront on the implications of site, size and equipment selection on the chances of success of the application. Try to learn from experienced farmers.
Pre-engagement with stakeholders2-3 months
  • Engage with key local groups (Crown Estate, Trinity House, local fishers, Harbour masters, IFCA, yachts). This “Local-level pre-engagement” is mandatory.
  • Unclear which key stakeholders to engage with or how to engage them and what evidence of engagement is required. Discuss your specific case with a representative of the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
  • Pre-engagement with local groups is meant to assist site selection but often ends up being a very negative/stressful experience. Make sure to plan enough time for social licensing and do not underestimate its importance.
  • It is unclear what happens if a key stakeholder refuses to engage. Engage with relevant stakeholders early and frequently enough.
Documentation preparation1-2 months
  • MMO implies that scientific evidence is required to support the application. Evidence must be regionally specific. However, UK/European scientific studies are not always applicable to your specific region. If tailored (scientific) reports are required, they can cost in excess of £20,000. Plan accordingly.
  • Supportive documents/reports required under each section of the application form are not specified. Learn from experienced farmers and discuss the required documents with the MMO.
  • There is no guide on the required level of detail in your application or what key details are to be included. Learn from experienced farmers and/or consult with MMO.
Process PhaseDurationOverview of tasks
Public consultation & licence draft13-27+ monthsApplication validation during which MMO validates your application
Advertisement and public consultation where you publish licence application and receive public comments
Remediation / address feedback where you address and, where possible, resolve all concerns raised by stakeholders
Licence draft including conditions by the MMO
Process phaseDurationKey tasksChallanges
Application validation1 month
  • Specific requirements and timing are not standardised across applicants, regions or applications, but rather depend on the MMO case team. Plan accordingly.
  • Often new and additional reports and documents are requested that were not indicated previously. This can significantly increase the duration of the licensing process. Plan accordingly.
Advertisement and public consultation>1 month
  • Place an advert providing details on your application at the physical site and in local newspapers. Upon publication, the public consultation phase follows (28 days).
  • In parallel, MMO also consults 16+ consultee bodies (e.g., Natural England, NFFO, CEFAS, MMO coastal).
  • The consultee bodies are supposed to respond in 2 weeks. However, delayed responses are not uncommon, which can delay the process. The resulting changes in the timeline create uncertainties regarding the end of the public consultation period. Plan accordingly.
Remediation / address feedback10-24+ months
  • Address and, where possible, resolve all concerns raised by stakeholders.
  • Scheduling feedback conversations with stakeholders can require a significant amount of time. Make sure to plan accordingly.
  • Stakeholder concerns/objections are not tested for scientific rigour and do not require evidence (unlike applicants). Engage with relevant stakeholders early and frequently enough to answer questions as they arise.
  • There is limited focus on the positive effects of your seaweed farm, positive consultee responses, or if the majority of consultees agree to the licence application. Rather, a single unresolved objection can strongly influence the official decision on your licence being granted. Beware of this, and ensure to resolve every objection with the relevant stakeholder as yearly as possible.
Licence draft including conditions1 month
  • MMO will draft the licence once all objections are resolved. This drafted licence will include conditions set by consultees.
  • Limited consistency from one applicant, application, or region to another. Also there is no indication to the applicant on the duration of the licence they could apply for.
  • You might need to submit additional reports and documents about your farm before the licence drafting. Plan accordingly.
Process PhaseDurationOverview of tasks
Installation1 monthLicense granted by DAFM
Pre-installation during which you need to lease the seabed from Crown Estate and plan farm installation
Installation of your farm within the parameters of your granted licence
Process phaseDurationKey tasksChallanges
License granted1-3 month
  • If consultee issues are resolved, MMO grants the licence according to its conditions.
  • The complexity of the licence and its conditions is dependent on the specific region, site selection, farm size and utilized farming methods.
  • Fees will be charged even if your licence application is rejected. The relevant band fee can change partway through the process. Plan your funding accordingly.
  • Plan the installation of your farm in compliance with the local regulation on installing seaweed farms (e.g., on deployed buoys, lines, etc.)
  • Lease the seabed from the Crown Estate.
  • Lengthy and expensive pre-surveys can be required for the seabed lease which can take months to years to complete. Installation is contingent upon survey results and there is no reassurance of a successful licence application even at this late stage in the process. Plan accordingly.
InstallationHighly variable
  • Install the farm based on the granted licence.
  • MMO will inspect farms regularly.
  • Installing the farm can be very expensive. Make sure to plan your funding accordingly.
  • MMO will charge you monitoring fees. Plan accordingly.

Key resources

Dr Angela Mead

Consultant [dot] meadatbiomealgae [dot] co [dot] uk (a[dot]mead[at]biomealgae[dot]co[dot]uk)

Angela is the founder and CEO of Biome Algae, a seaweed farming and processing company in South West England.

Angela’s background is in marine biology, aquaculture & invasive species. She has worked on coastal & offshore projects around the world, has extensive experience in environmental monitoring & is a published researcher. Angela founded Biome. She has developed & evolved the offshore seaweed farming project over a number of years, bringing together key people, organisations & institutes in support. She is very experienced in the marine licensing process and as such, Biome can offer licensing support services (chargeable) for new farmers.

Seas The Opportunity Ltd


Main contact: Fiona Trappe, +44 7801 697436, fionaatseastheopportunity [dot] co [dot] uk

Seas the Opportunity, launched in 2020, collaborates with its global knowledge and professional network. Working with industry, governments and conservation organisations to apply seaweed science and innovation.

Support services include : commercialisation of concepts; economic and market development; supply-value chain development; project design management and delivery.

Costs are calculated on a project by project basis.

Your fellow farmers

Biome Algae – South West

Founded by Dr Angela Mead, Biome Algae farms and processes certified organic seaweed in the South West.

Together with her dedicated team, she has realized her seaweed dream! She is supporting sustainable blue growth by regeneratively growing food and biomaterials in the company’s seaweed “biome”.

Biome Algae is growing significantly. It has already established its first farm and now plans to expand its farming operations throughout Devon and Cornwall.

“Seaweed farming leaves something of value to our future generations.” – Dr Angela Mead

The Cornish Seaweed Company – Cornwall

The Cornish Seaweed Company harvests, farms and processes seaweed off the coast of Cornwall.

Founded in 2012 by Caro and Tim out of love for the ocean and good food, the once wild harvesting-only operation Cornish Seaweed has now grown to over 10 “seaweeders” that now also farm various seaweeds in the first established seaweed farm in England in 2017.

Cornish Seaweed Co currently grows Saccharina latissimi and Alaria esculenta, and is conducting trials to grow Himanthalia elongate, Ulva and Palmaria. Once harvested, Cornish Seaweed processes their seaweeds into various seaweed food and skincare products. They aim to put seaweed on everyone’s plate by making it accessible, affordable and tasty!

“Being a seaweed farmer is rewarding. Done well, it is a form of rewilding that benefits nature. You can be part of the solution, not the problem.” – Tim van Berkel

Contact us to be featured as a fellow farmer

Are you an English seaweed farmer, or in the last strives of establishing your seaweed farm? If so, we would be interested in featuring you here as an inspiring example for future seaweed farmers. If you would like to be showcased, please contact us at: contactateu4algae [dot] eu (contact[at]eu4algae[dot]eu)