Minister English launches public consultation on Draft National Marine Planning Framework
Government publishes draft of Ireland’s first national framework for managing marine activities
- Framework to ensure coordinated planning decisions, consistent with Government vision and objectives
- Framework, bringing together all marine-based human activities, articulates Government’s vision, objectives and planning policies
- Plan will enhance national climate action through support for offshore renewable energy
- Greater protection of marine resources amidst increasing environmental pressure on Ireland’s maritime area
The Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English, T.D., today (12th November) published the Government’s draft National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) for public consultation. The framework outlines the Government’s proposed approach to managing Ireland’s marine activities and ensuring sustainable use of marine resources to 2040.
For the first time, the Government has developed a single framework, bringing together all marine-based human activities, and presented its vision, objectives and planning policies for each activity. It outlines how they will interact with each other in an ocean space that is under increasing spatial pressure.
The finalised NMPF, expected to be adopted in late 2020, will be the key decision-making tool for Government departments, State agencies, regulatory authorities and policy makers for decisions on marine activities. Decisions will include planning applications as well as policies, projects and strategies. It will be a parallel document to the National Planning Framework, which provides a high-level guide to terrestrial planning and development over the next 20 years.
Commenting on the plan, Minister English said: “Our ocean supports a diverse range of economic activities such as seafood, tourism, renewable ocean energy and a wide range of recreational opportunities. It contains areas with some of the most productive and diverse resources in the world. Its ecosystem and biodiversity make it an environmental and social treasure. As our marine and coastal areas experience more pressures from human activity it is critical that we provide a framework for what activities should and shouldn’t happen in our marine and coastal areas.”
The document sets out planning objectives and policies relating to sixteen different sectors/activities including: offshore renewable energy (and other energy sectors); fisheries; ports, harbours and shipping; safety at sea; sport and recreation; tourism; and telecommunications.
Amongst its elements are:
- in the area of offshore renewable energy, a statement that preference will be given to proposals for offshore wind farms (including enabling projects and infrastructure) in areas identified as designated zones for offshore wind, under the zoning process to be set out in the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill.
- details of the plan to modernise elements of the marine development and enforcement systems. There will be a single State consent system for the entire maritime area, replacing foreshore leases and licenses, which are limited to the territorial sea
- details of the planned legislative provisions for a system of designation of Strategic Marine Activity Zones. It is envisaged that any Government Minister will be able to bring forward proposals for designation of one or more zones, with decisions to adopt a zone to be made collectively by the Government.
- a commitment to the preparation of regional or sub-national plans in future planning cycles. These will be more localised and will potentially be more empowering for coastal communities throughout Ireland. At least three regional plans will be developed.
Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass. When the seabed is included, Ireland is one of the largest EU countries. Its 7,500km of coastline is longer than that of most EU countries. Seventy-five per cent of Ireland’s population live in coastal counties. In 2018, Ireland’s ocean economy had a turnover of €6.2 billion. It provided employment for 34,132 full-time equivalents and saw a 13% increase in employment on 2016 figures.
A strong component of the draft NMPF is its policies relating to renewable energy and action on climate change. Minister English said: “Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. The Government’s Climate Action Plan, published in June, highlighted the critical role of marine planning for the delivery of offshore renewable energy. This document sets out the proposed forward planning framework within which our renewable energy targets can be met.” The Government’s Climate Action Plan commits to increasing the level of electricity generated from renewable sources to 70%, indicatively including at least 3.5GW of offshore renewable energy. The draft NMPF reinforces the Government’s commitment to move away from oil combustion within heat and transport sectors towards renewables in the coming decade.
The Minister also launched the Government’s new Marine Planning Policy Statement this morning. The statement, which was subject to public consultation from 10 June to 9 August this year, outlines the Government’s vision for the future development of the marine planning system. It also sets out the overarching policies and principles the Government expects marine planning bodies and other public bodies that engage with the marine planning system to observe. Just as the NMPF will be a parallel document to the National Planning Framework, the Marine Planning Policy Statement is a parallel document to the Planning Policy Statement, which underpins the operation of Ireland’s entire land-planning system.
The Minister concluded by inviting the public and all interested parties to give their views on the draft framework. “The document we’re publishing is the culmination of two years of engagement and dialogue with the public and stakeholders and across Government. The very constructive engagement with the NMPF Baseline Report, published last year, has had a major influence on this document. Whether you are in the energy sector, a fisherman, want to protect our marine environment, or live in a coastal community and are concerned about your area’s future, please have your say before February 28th. We want the finalised plan to be national in every sense - valued, owned and supported by all. Strong public input will help achieve that.”
Key elements of the draft NMPF
- Integrated marine planning system: the draft framework sets out details of the Government’s vision for an integrated marine planning system with distinct forward planning, development management and enforcement components. This will be implemented, in part, through new legislation to modernise elements of the marine development management and enforcement systems. It will provide for:
- statutory marine planning guidelines and an enhanced statutory basis for marine forward planning
- a single State consent system for the entire maritime area, replacing foreshore leases and licenses, which are limited to the territorial sea
- elimination of unnecessary duplication of development management processes (including environmental assessments) for activities or developments that are currently assessed under both the foreshore and planning regimes
- a single development management process for the maritime area for activities and developments - to be administered by An Bord Pleanála/local authorities, as appropriate - to development type and location
- provision for strengthened enforcement and compliance of State consents and development management
- Climate change and offshore renewable energy: Among the framework’s planning policies is that preference will be given to proposals for offshore wind farms (including enabling projects and infrastructure) in areas identified as designated zones for offshore wind, under the zoning process to be set out in the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill.
The framework contains a number of Overarching Marine Planning Policies aimed at requiring marine regulators and decision-makers to take account of climate action when considering any proposal for marine use or activity (including, for example, ports development, aquaculture, shipping etc.).
- The draft NMPF reiterates the Government’s Climate Action Plan commitment to a major shift away from oil combustion within heat and transport sectors towards renewables in the coming decade. The Government has accepted the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council. It stated that the exploration for and recovery of new offshore oil reserves is not compatible with a low carbon transition. The council further advised that the continued exploration for and extraction of new offshore natural gas reserves can be compatible with a low carbon transition.
- Gas is considered to be a transition fuel. This is particularly the case for Ireland, where we do not have nuclear power, hydro power at scale or geo-thermal power, which other countries can use to provide back-up when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Therefore, it appears that gas, as the lowest emitting fossil fuel, will provide the best electricity back up in 2030 when we reach 70% renewable electricity. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, T.D., will commission an Energy Sustainability and Security Review that will consider the role of fossil fuels during the transition. It will also consider the role that other technologies can play.
- The framework outlines the Government’s recognition of the need for environmental and other impacts of offshore renewables to be managed in line with international obligations and best practice to support maximum social acceptance.
- The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other stakeholders will develop statutory marine planning guidelines to support best practice throughout the planning process for offshore renewable energy. It will include the development of a specific visualisation assessment in relation to design and layout of proposed developments. Visualisation assessments must demonstrate consultation with communities that may be able to view any future offshore renewable energy development at a given site with the aim of minimising impact.
- Regional/sub-national marine plans: The draft NMPF is currently presented as a single plan covering Ireland’s entire maritime area. However, the Government is committed to the preparation of regional or sub-national plans in future planning cycles. These would have a more local character and could be potentially more empowering for coastal communities throughout Ireland. At least three regional plans will be developed. Together national and sub-national plans will be known collectively as the NMPF.
Context and consultation
The draft NMPF and associated environmental reports can be found at www.marineplan.gov.ie.
People can give their views by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or by post to:
Draft NMPF Submissions
Marine Planning Section
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
Wexford Y35 AP90
Responses will be accepted until 28 February 2020. The finalised NMPF is expected to be adopted in late 2020.
Public meetings on the draft framework will take place in the following locations:
21/11/2019 Greenhills Hotel, Limerick (2-4pm and 6-8pm)
26/11/2019 Town Hall, Westport (2-4pm and 6-8pm)
02/12/2019 Connacht Hotel, Galway (2-4pm and 6-8pm)
10/12/2019 Meadowlands Hotel, Tralee (2-4pm and 6-8pm)
More meetings will take place in early 2020.
- The Government’s Marine Policy Statement, also published today, can be found on www.marineplan.gov.ie
- While some countries have had systems of maritime planning for a couple of decades, marine spatial planning is a relatively new approach across most of the EU. The Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) Directive 2014/89/EU established a framework for maritime spatial planning. It was adopted in July 2014. The Directive obliges all coastal member states to establish maritime spatial plans by 2021.
The Directive requires member states to use their maritime spatial plans to contribute to the sustainable development of energy sectors at sea, of maritime transport, and of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, and to the preservation, protection and improvement of the environment, including resilience to climate change impacts. However, it also allows member states to pursue other objectives such as the promotion of sustainable tourism and the sustainable extraction of raw materials.
- Ireland has transposed the MSP Directive through Part 5 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018. The Act establishes the legal basis and broad framework for Ireland to implement MSP through the development of a maritime spatial plan (or plans), to be reviewed at least once every six years. Under the Act, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is the competent authority for the purposes of the Directive and, by extension, for the purposes of preparing Ireland’s first NMPF.
- The framework will cover Ireland’s maritime area, including internal waters (sea area), territorial seas, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. It comprises approximately 490,000 km² and extends from mean high water mark at the coast seaward to in excess of 200 nautical miles in parts.
- Public consultation on the NMPF Baseline Report took place from 18 September to 14 December 2018. The Department held five regional events: in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Sligo and Waterford. In total, approximately 350 people attended. 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.