Seabed Survey Licences

Seabed Survey Licences (SSL) are the formal permissions granted by The Crown Estate for temporary activities that take up to a maximum term of twelve months (conditions apply) and physically affect the seabed that we manage.

An SSL does not cover survey works on the foreshore, intertidal and estuarine land unless directly associated with an offshore project *. Licences for these surveys are managed by our coastal managing agents and for which a different charging regime is in place. We recommend you contact the relevant agent (see agent contact page:/contact-us/agents-a-z/) at an early stage in your project  to discuss terms and costs.

View over prow of survey boat

What are ‘Seabed Survey Licences’?

The term ‘seabed survey licence’ (SSL) is used to describe the formal permission granted by The Crown Estate for temporary activities that take up to a maximum term of twelve months (conditions apply) and physically affect the seabed that we manage. It does not cover survey works on the foreshore, intertidal and estuarine land unless directly associated with an offshore project *. 

  • The majority of SSLs are survey/site investigation activities or the temporary deployment of monitoring devices.
  • Met masts are not considered as 'SSLs' and require a lease. See Other Agreements below. 
  • Geophysical surveys that are water column activities do not require a seabed survey licence. See SSL activities table:

Activities requiring a Seabed Survey Licence (PDF, 0.16 MB)

Additional statutory consents

A Seabed Survey Licence from The Crown Estate only provides the permission from us to access the seabed/foreshore that we manage. Additional consents from statutory authorities may also be required including marine licences from the Marine Management Organisation, Natural Resource Wales or Department of Energy for Northern Ireland, and permissions from the Environment Agency or a Harbour Authority. 

Please note: It is your responsibility to verify the need for any additional statutory consents and, where required, to obtain these consents.  Each seabed survey licence will be conditional on you obtaining all required statutory consents and complying with any conditions within them.

What activities require a licence from The Crown Estate?

In some cases, the agreement that customers have with The Crown Estate may set out the right to undertake SSL's (or old format small works consents), so a further licence from The Crown Estate is not required. Where there is no legal agreement in place, or where an SSL activity is outside the boundaries of an agreement, consent for an SSL is likely to be required from The Crown Estate. 

  • Inside 12 nautical miles, all SSL activity on the foreshore or seabed requires the consent of The Crown Estate, except where it is undertaken on foreshore or seabed which is not managed by The Crown Estate
  • Outside 12 nautical miles, SSL activity requires the consent of The Crown Estate only when it relates to an activity over which we have rights (offshore renewable energy, marine mineral extraction, gas or carbon storage). This means that non-commercial research activity outside 12 nautical miles does not require a seabed survey licence.

Please note: The Crown Estate has no rights to wrecks on the seabed, including the salvage of material and removal of the wreck. You may need a licence if undertaking the work will cause interaction with the seabed around the wreck, please see activities table for more detailed explanation.

The activities requiring seabed survey licences are outlined in our information table:

Activities requiring a Seabed Survey Licence (PDF, 0.16 MB)

How do I apply?

The seabed survey licence application form should be used to apply for consent to undertake activities in the information table. 

TCE Seabed Survey Licence Application Form (DOCX, 0.24 MB)

It can take The Crown Estate around 4 weeks to issue a seabed survey licence, though from May to September it can be longer due to increased demand. Please ensure that you leave sufficient time for your application to be processed and any conditions to be discharged before commencing the proposed activity.

An administrative fee may be charged by The Crown Estate to process an SSL application. This fee may vary depending on the type of works and the complexity of the application. The Crown Estate is reviewing the scale of SSL application charges as communicated on 1st December 2016, and changes will be published online in early January 2017.

After you have completed your SSL activity, you must notify The Crown Estate and also confirm that there is no equipment left on the seabed and that the seabed has been made good.

All enquiries related to seabed survey licence should be directed to:

What happens after application?

Once an application has been received it will be logged, and The Crown Estate will get in touch if additional information is required to process it.

We will check the locations you provide against our records to verify how your proposal is likely to affect the foreshore and seabed as well as any potential impacts on existing tenants. If your application is accepted, you will be issued with a licence to carry out your works.

  • This licence may contain conditions which you will need to discharge before starting the SSL activity; they will normally involve avoiding certain seabed assets, or liaising with existing tenants to ensure that potential conflicts can be managed.  
  • The licence may be conditional on the provision of evidence of any required statutory consents.  It is your responsibility to ensure that you have all the necessary statutory consents and permits required to undertake the proposed activity.

The seabed survey licence document will be sent to you for signing.

  • The licence will only be valid when a signed copy has been returned to The Crown Estate.
  • If consent is withheld, the reasons for this will be provided.

Other Agreements

Longer-term agreements

The Crown Estate grants varying types of agreements, leases and licences for construction or long-term activity on the foreshore and seabed.  Subject to obtaining other necessary consents, these agreements give the right to undertake activity such as installing moorings, developing marinas or harbours, constructing and operating aquaculture installations, extracting aggregates, constructing and operating marine renewable energy installations, developing carbon or gas storage facilities or installing cables/pipelines.  

Applications for an agreement, lease or licence with The Crown Estate for the use of the seabed for such long term installations or activities should be directed to the relevant business area.