The North Sea under pressure: is regional marine co-operation the answer? - European Union Committee Contents


In the UK, marine planning was introduced and is being implemented under a combination of primary legislation; the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013. Marine planning is a devolved matter. To varying degrees, a different approach is being adopted by each of the four UK Administrations and the implementation timescales differ. However, all plans must conform to the UK-wide Marine Policy Statement (MPS), unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. When marine plans have been established, all decisions, as a general rule, must accord with them. There are agreements in place between the UK Government and each of the devolved administrations with a view to co-ordinating activities across national and plan area boundaries.

Consequently, marine activities across the UK are governed by a plan-led system within a common high-level framework, replacing a system of ad hoc decision making over time through licensing and other authorisation processes. The plans are intended to provide detailed policy and spatial guidance for an area and to set out relative priorities.[312] The MPS recognises that, in preparing marine plans, the UK Administrations will need to co-ordinate their activities with other countries sharing the same regional seas, including sharing data.


The Marine Management Organisation is responsible for preparing the marine plans. The waters off the English coast have been split into eleven areas (ten plans will be produced). Planning for the first two of these areas—the east inshore and offshore marine plan areas—was launched in 2011 and completed in 2014. Plans are currently being prepared for the south inshore and offshore areas. All areas should have plans in place by 2021. Each plan is reviewed every three years and all plans are intended to take a long term view extending to 20 years.


The Welsh Government is preparing a Welsh National Marine Plan that will cover Welsh inshore waters and UK waters off the Welsh coast. It will have a 20 years forward look at activities and needs. As part of this process, the Welsh Government has sub-divided the sea areas into areas that are intended to be meaningful and recognisable to people. When completed the National Plan will be reviewed every three years.


The Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) introduced a new statutory marine planning system to sustainably manage the increasing, and often conflicting, demands on Scotland's seas. The Scottish National Marine Plan (NMP) was laid before the Scottish Parliament on the 11 December 2014. This Plan covers both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters.  Marine planning will also be implemented at a local level within Scottish Marine Regions. Within these regions, regional marine plans are developed by Marine Planning Partnerships to take account of local circumstances and smaller ecosystem units.

Northern Ireland

The Marine Act (Northern Ireland) introduced powers to create and implement a Northern Ireland Marine Plan. Work (acquisition of data and stakeholder engagement) is being undertaken by the Marine Division in the Department of the Environment. A Scoping Report has been prepared as part of a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of the Plan to facilitate marine planning around Northern Ireland. It is intended that the Draft Plan and Sustainability Appraisal will be issued for public consultation in 2015.

312   UK Marine Policy Statement Back

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