Marine planning in England

Marine planning is a new approach to the management of the seas. The aim is to ensure a sustainable future for English coastal and offshore waters through managing and balancing the many activities, resources and assets in the marine environment.

Marine planning is following a similar approach to terrestrial planning – setting the direction for decision making at a local level to lead to efficient and sustainable use of marine resources.

Marine planning will:

  • guide marine users to the most suitable locations for different activities
  • manage the use of marine resources to ensure sustainable levels
  • work with all marine users to ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute to marine plans
  • take a holistic approach to decision making and consider all the benefits and impacts of current and future activities that occur in our marine environment.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) was established following the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and has responsibility for preparing marine plans for English inshore and offshore waters. The MMO has a duty to take decisions on proposed developments in the plan area in accordance with the Marine Policy Statement (MPS) and marine plans unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. The MMO has responsibility to:

  • design a planning process suitable to deliver marine plans
  • work with the public to integrate and balance all current marine and future activities into a comprehensive plan
  • deliver a marine plan for each marine plan area, monitor and review plans on a regular basis.

The Marine Management Organisation is preparing plans for 11 predefined areas in England. The first set of marine plans for English waters providing more detailed, area specific guidance on marine issues. The first plans, the East Marine Plans, were published in 2014. The South Marine Plans were the second to be adopted in 2018. These are now being followed by plans for the North West, North East, South East and South West. All plans are due to be in place by 2021.

The MMO have started developing a marine plan for the north west marine plan area.  The north west marine area includes 2 plan areas, the north west inshore and the north west offshore marine plan areas.

The north west inshore marine plan area covers an area of approximately 1,280 kilometres of coastline stretching from the Solway Firth border with Scotland to the River Dee border with Wales, taking in some 4,900 square kilometres of sea.

The north west offshore marine plan area includes the marine area from 12 nautical miles extending out to the seaward limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone, a total of approximately 2,200 square kilometres of sea.

Development of the north west marine plan is following a 12 stage process, from plan area selection to implementation and monitoring. It includes stakeholder engagement throughout the process.

In October 2018 the Seascape Character Assessment for the North West Inshore and Offshore marine plan areas was published. The report for the north west comprises the baseline desk-based seascape assessments for the Marine Character Areas (MCAs) defined and described in 2016, further developed to account for comments received through the stakeholder verification process undertaken in 2018.  To download the full report click here

The Iteration 3 online engagement will take place from 21 January to 21 March 2019.  Workshops will be held in the north west in February 2019 with the Carlisle workshop taking place on Wednesday 27 February.  More information will be released shortly.

For more information contact:

Marine Planning

or to sign up for the MMO Marine Planning enewsletter click here