Marine Planning and Licensing Explained.

What’s the problem?

UK seas are some of the busiest and heavily used in the world supporting over 890,000 jobs with direct marine related activities contributing £46bn to the UK economy. Our seas are also home to over 8000 species, a range of unique habitats and provide a range of ecosystem services ( such as regulation of climate change). Our marine area is becoming increasingly crowded with competing demands on space, and pressure on the environment. The historical approach to managing and protecting this important resource, particularly competing demands from marine users, and has been ad-hoc, inconsistent and incoherent.

How will Marine Planning solve this?

Marine Planning is about regulating, managing and protecting the marine environment, including through allocation of marine space, to address the multiple, cumulative and potentially conflicting uses of the sea. In the UK the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 has established a Marine Planning framework for taking a more inclusive and forward looking approach to managing marine activities.

For the first time, the Government has brought together in a single vision its policies for protecting the marine environment, supporting development of the marine economy and supporting coastal communities. This document is known as the Marine Policy Statement (available here).

Separate Marine Plans will be developed to integrate the policy objectives outlined in the Marine Policy Statement in a way that meets the needs and issues in a plan area. The marine plans will guide and inform regulators and marine users throughout England, supporting a more strategic and coherent approach to decision making in our seas, balancing different demands and enabling sustainable development.

Marine planning is being undertaken separately in England, Wales and Scotland with many other countries (and the EU) promoting Marine Spatial Planning as a key tool to help manage the conflicting uses of the world’s waters and to help promote sustainable development.

In England, it is intended that ten marine plans will be developed by 2021. The East Inshore and East Offshore marine plan areas were the first two marine plan areas to be completed in England and these were published on 2 April 2014 as a single document (available here). As of Q1 2015 work was underway to progress the South Marine Plan.

The Scottish Government’s vision for the marine environment is clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas, managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people. Scotland’s marine planning process includes the creation of a National Marine Plan (available here), regional plans and sectorial plans.

How will Marine Planning affect you?

Marine Planning will impact on everybody who uses the sea. It will be used as a basis for making decisions on what you can or can't do in the sea. But the benefits are broader. From protecting the marine environment, supporting the development of our energy and communication infrastructure to supporting jobs in coastal communities.

Marine Planning and Licensing - Where can I find more information and advice?

Our associates will be happy to have a conversation with you regarding the new marine planning and licensing regime and can provide tailored advice as to how it will impact on your organisation. Please email

For our marine ecological survey and faunal laboratory services please visit our complimentary web site at

© Marine Ecological Surveys Ltd 2018

Marine Ecological Surveys Limited trading as Marine Planning Consultants.

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