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National Marine Planning Framework

This article was last reviewed 11 months 6 days ago
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Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a new way of looking at how we use the marine area and planning how best to use it into the future.  MSP will try to balance the different demands for using the sea including the need to protect the marine environment.   It's about planning when and where human activities take place at sea.  It’s about ensuring these activities are as efficient and sustainable as possible. Marine spatial planning involves stakeholders in a transparent way in the planning of maritime activities.

The Directive

In 2014 the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union adopted Directive 2014/89/EU  This directive established a framework for MSP and details the main goals (Article 5) and minimum requirements (Article 6).  The Marine Spatial Plan must be in place by March 2021.

Further information on the Directive

National Legislation

The MSP Directive was originally transposed into national legislation by way of regulations made in 2016 (SI 352 of 2016). Since the regulations were made under the European Communities Act 1972, they were strictly limited to measures required to transpose the directive. In October 2018 the regulations were repealed and replaced by Part 5 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018. Part 5 re-transposes the Directive in primary legislation and contains a number of measures that are additional to those required by the directive, including:

  • Adoption of the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) by both Houses of the Oireachtas;
  • Review and replacement of the NMPF every 6 years;
  • Obligation for marine regulatory bodies to secure the objectives of the NMPF when making policies, plans, or granting consents; and
  • Enforcement powers for the Minister if the foregoing obligations are not being fulfilled.

What has happened so far?

Ministers Eoghan Murphy and Damien English published (12 December 2017) Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland  – a roadmap for the development of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan.

There will be four broad stages in the development of the plan.

  • The first, of which the Roadmap formed a central part, was the start-up or activation phase in which the Government’s proposed approach to developing MSP was announced and initial contact made with stakeholders. This ran until end 2017.
  • The main development stage commenced in Q1 2018 and will run until end Q3 2019. This will initially involve the analysis and identification of data and information required to provide a robust evidence base to underpin the MSP. It includes the publication of an evidence and issues overview for public consultation in 2018, which will be the subject of a formal public consultation process (see more information below). This process will inform the development of a full draft plan for publication in 2019 with a further consultation process running until end 2019. 
  • Stage 3 is the finalisation phase in which a final plan will be prepared for submission to Government in 2020 with supporting environmental assessments (strategic environmental assessment under the SEA Directive, appropriate assessment under Birds and Habitats Directives) for approval before forwarding the final plan to the European Commission ahead of the March 2021 deadline set out under the Directive. 
  • Stage 4 is implementation and review commencing on publication of the final Marine Spatial Plan.

As set out in Roadmap document, throughout the process there will be a strong focus on public engagement, including a number of formal public consultation processes and environmental assessments. These will be supplemented with a number of public regional workshops and seminars and interactive web based arrangements will be provided.

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Where are we now and what next?

One of the first milestones identified in the roadmap is the publication for consultation of a report setting out the context in which the marine spatial plan is being developed and which would help to identify the key issues marine planning will need to address. The National Marine Planning Framework Baseline Report was published 18 September 2018 and sets out:

  • the policy, legislative and regulatory context for marine spatial planning and the development of Ireland’s first plan;
  • a description of the “as is” situation in terms of existing sectoral development and activities in Ireland’s maritime area, including an identification of the future opportunities and constraints for each;
  • an initial elaboration of potential high level objectives for Ireland’s first National Marine Planning Framework; and
  • a number of consultation questions or issues intended to prompt discussion and consideration amongst stakeholders. Responses to these questions will be a crucial input to the draft plan.

Submissions Received on Baseline Report

Public consultation on the Baseline Report closed on 14 December 2018. The Department received 173 responses to the consultation from a broad range of stakeholders, including members of the public, coastal community groups, environmental NGOs, sports bodies, stakeholder representative bodies, fisheries organisations, energy providers, Local Authorities, public sector bodies, political representatives and parties, and higher education bodies.

An Overview of the Responses Received summarises the topics addressed by respondents in submissions. Copies of the submissions.

Stakeholder Advisory Group

An Advisory Group has been established to facilitate participation in the MSP process by all relevant stakeholders from the economic, environmental and social pillars. The purpose of the Advisory Group is to harness the potential and capacity of a broad range of sectors including representation from the public sector, business, environmental, social and knowledge based sectors to guide strategic thinking and decision-making in the preparation of marine spatial plans. The Advisory Group also informs the work of the Inter Departmental MSP Group and provides updates, reports or recommendations as required.

Further information and documents about the  Advisory Group


Marine Data and Decision-making

Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework will be a key decision making tool for regulatory authorities and policy makers into the future in a number of ways, including decisions on individual consent applications which will have to have regard to the provisions of the plan in the same way that terrestrial plans form part of the decision making tool-kit in the on-land planning process.

The Marine Institute, Ireland’s national marine data centre, hosts Ireland’s Marine Atlas which will be the principal repository of marine-related data to support both the development of the NMPF and evidence-based decision making under the NMPF framework by marine regulatory authorities. The atlas has been developed as a publicly accessible reporting and investigative tool for Ireland's reporting on ocean conditions as required under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the MSP Directive, the Water Framework Directive, and other relevant EU Directives. The atlas includes marine data such as administrative boundaries, protected sites, oil and gas, ocean features, fisheries and aquaculture, marine monitoring, seabed habitats, tourism and leisure, transport, infrastructure, discharge point sources, International Maritime Organization protected areas and current/historical disposal sites. It can be accessed at the following link: .

Further Information