Conference highlights the importance of Marine Spatial Planning

We provide below the text of a report prepared by Lesley Hampshire, Isle of Wight FOE and Marinet member, on the C-Scope (Combining Sea and Coastal Planning in Europe) conference in Dorset on 19-20th October 2009. Marine Spatial Planning is an essential part of the Ecosystem approachecosystem approach An ecosystem-based approach to management represents a new and more strategic way of thinking. It puts the emphasis on a management regime that maintains the health of ecosystems alongside appropriate human use of the marine environment, for the benefit of current and future generations. This requires setting clear environmental objectives both at the general and specific level, basing management of the marine environment on the principles of sustainable development, conservation of biodiversity, robust science, the precautionary principle and stakeholder involvement. Ref, DEFRA, Safeguarding Our Seas, section 1.17 (2002) to marine management and will establish the priorities between different conservation, social and economic uses of the sea in local areas, and is a main feature of the UK Marine Bill, shortly to receive Royal Assent. Marine Spatial Planning is akin to the current system town and country planning on land, and will be administered in the UK by the Marine Management Organisation, shortly to be established in Newcastle.

The full set of papers presented at the C-Scope conference may be viewed at their website We would particularly draw your attention to the following C-Scope conference papers:

  • Kate Thomson : The Firth of Clyde Marine Spatial Plan
  • Mick Bishop : Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Lorraine Gray : A Marine Spatial Plan for the Shetland Islands

Also, The Firth of Clyde Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) has been developed by the Scottish Government as a pilot MSP project, and therefore how marine spatial plans may actually function can be seen from this specific example. In order to view this work, visit

Lesley Hampshire’s Report on Marine Spatial Planning Conference, 19-20 October 2009:

“I attended this conference on the Isle of Portland, Dorset to represent Isle of Wight FOE (IWFoE). The aim of the gathering was to build on existing knowledge by bringing together international, national and local speakers to explore the theory, practice and future of Marine Spatial Planning. The 120 or so delegates represented such organizations as the Environment Agency, Natural England, The National Trust, WWF, English Heritage, The Crown Estate, Defra, and the EU together with government officials from the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales. Local councils, businesses, sailing associations, fishermen, port authorities, diving clubs, universities (and of course IWFoE) also sent representatives so the gathering was truly diverse. Presentations were (sensibly) limited to 20 minutes which gave a large number of speakers the chance to contribute and we learnt about projects in places as varied as Belgium, the Shetland Isles, the Baltic and the Great Barrier Reef as well as those nearer home. On day 2 there were also workshop sessions on such topics as ‘Indicators and their use for Marine Spatial Planning at the local level.’

“With its wealth of natural resources, the UK coast is under continuous and increasing pressure. Many activities such as fishing, dredging, shipping, tourism and marine energy are competing for the same space but until recently, planning and management at the coast has been complex and disjointed. The new Marine and Coastal Access Bill is currently going through its final stages in Parliament and by this means the government hopes to simplify the process with a more integrated approach. One of the ways to achieve this is through a process known as Marine Spatial Planning. It is a system that has been ‘borrowed’ and adapted from proven land-based planning techniques and is a way of managing, protecting and regulating the marine environment, taking into account the many users and uses of the coast.

“The conference was hosted by the Dorset Coast Forum (DCF), and C-SCOPE (Combining Sea and Coastal Planning in Europe). These two organisations joined forces and secured a European grant worth €1.8 million, part of which is being used to pilot a Marine Spatial Plan for a section of the Dorset coast. The area chosen covers approximately 1000 square kilometres of coastal waters between Durlston Head and Portland Bill, out to 12 nautical miles. It was selected because it includes the waters where the 2012 Olympic sailing events will be held. Also it includes a variety of coastline types and has a wide range of uses. The most important thing about the project is that it will be driven by local users of the coast and over the next three years there will be workshops, meetings and coastal ‘surgeries’ to ensure that everyone who wants to get involved can do so. Information on the Marine Management Area (MMA) will be accessible through touch-screen Coastal Explorer Access Points. The planning tool will contain all the information layers of the Geographic Information System (GIS) map which covers not only details of how, when and where different sectors (e.g. tourism, shipping, fishing) use the area but also detailed seabed survey data and international, national and local policies that apply within the MMA. This all-encompassing approach should simplify the making of future marine planning decisions. There is a great deal that we on the Isle of Wight can learn from this project and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the conference.”

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