Irish Sea Pilot Project: Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Framework
Report to the Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Tyldesley, D.
© Defra 2004


The interim Report of the UK Government's Review of Marine Nature Conservation Working Group was submitted to Ministers in March 2001. One of the key recommendations of the Working Group was the promotion of a Pilot Scheme, at the regional sea scale, to test a proposed 'framework' for nature conservation and examine how far the conservation management needed to implement this framework could be delivered through existing legal, administrative and enforcement systems. The Irish Sea was chosen as the area for this Pilot.
The aims of the Pilot are to:
  1. test the framework proposed by the paper 'An implementation framework for the conservation, protection and management of nationally-important marine wildlife in the UK' at the scale of the Irish Sea;
  2. determine the potential of existing regulatory and other systems for delivering effective marine nature conservation; identify any gaps and recommend measures to fill the gaps identified;
  3. evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of current governance and enforcement regimes in implementing current legislation relevant to marine nature conservation, and make recommendations for improvements;
  4. test ways of integrating nature conservation into key sectors (e.g. fisheries, energy, transport, minerals, tourism etc) in order to make an effective contribution to sustainable development on a regional basis.
Objectives of this Report


The Joint Nature Conservation Committee commissioned this project report as part of the Irish Sea Pilot Project. Its objectives are to:
  1. Prepare an overview of the current coastal and marine spatial planning framework in place for the Irish Sea;
  2. Identify and consider the principles and benefits of good coastal and marine spatial planning;
  3. Evaluate the need and opportunity to improve coastal and marine spatial planning;
  4. Develop an outline of an improved coastal and marine spatial planning framework and identify practical steps towards implementation.
Given the context of this report, we have used examples and made reference largely to the natural environment, and especially to ecosystems and biodiversity issues when discussing environmental topics. Any new spatial planning system would, of course, include all aspects of the marine environment, including its physical, cultural and historical dimensions.
The Irish Sea Pilot Project Area


For the purposes of this project, the Irish Sea is bounded in the north by a line between the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and Fair Head in Northern Ireland and in the south by a line between Linney Head in Wales and Mine Head in Ireland. It therefore includes the administrative jurisdictions of England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man.
Marine Spatial Planning Defined


The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has suggested a definition of a marine spatial plan as "a strategic plan for regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment that addresses the multiple, cumulative and potentially conflicting uses of the sea."
The above definition appears to assume that marine spatial "planning" will include the "management" of ongoing uses or activities. However, other papers that address the potential scope of marine spatial planning prefer to express the scope as "marine spatial planning and management" (Birdlife International 2003).
The definition and scope of marine spatial planning was further explored in a CoastNet conference in October 2003 and its proceedings will be widely disseminated. The Scottish Coastal Forum (SCF) has defined the purpose of marine spatial planning as "two fold: (a) to secure sustainable and integrated development which balances and, where appropriate advances, economic, social and environmental objectives, and considers the implications of the ecosystem approach; and (b) to allocate space in inshore waters in a rational manner which minimises conflicts of interest and maximises synergistic relations."
It is clear that in order to fulfil the aspirations of the stakeholders urging that a marine spatial planning system be introduced, it will be necessary for that system to embrace the management of ongoing activities as well as the regulation of proposals for change.
In that way it would be markedly different from the land use planning system and so the debate about marine spatial planning must continue to include whether the system should regulate ongoing activities as well as proposed changes.
Furthermore, a marine spatial planning system does not necessarily have to lead to a single system of planning, producing a single plan, or single set of plans. It could be established more as a discipline, or a process, that may result in several plans - expressions of proposals and policies B but which are better integrated and their spatial implications are better understood and coordinated. Marine spatial planning does not necessarily have to lead to a single marine spatial plan.
Respecting these different visions for a marine spatial planning system, for the purposes of this paper, it needs to include three ongoing processes:
a) plan-making - generating and adopting one or more integrated plans or policy frameworks, which have strong spatial dimensions, for the protection, enhancement and sustainable use and development of the sea and its resources; and
b) implementing the plan enabling change and encouraging improvement and investment by the execution of programmed works, and by the regulation, management and enforcement of proposed changes and ongoing activities in, on, over and under the sea, all in accordance with the plans;
c) enforcement, monitoring and performance review – enforcing regulation, assessing the effectiveness of the plans, their time scales and implementation mechanisms, considering ways in which they need to be improved and establishing review and adaptation procedures.
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Please cite as: Tyldesley, D., (2004), Irish Sea Pilot Project: Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning Framework