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MMO Marine Planning

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The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has responsibility for preparing marine plans for the English inshore and offshore regions according to the policies and objectives set out in the Marine Policy Statement (MPS).  Marine Plans will be given effect by their statutory status and delivered through the decisions made under them. As set out in the Marine and Coastal Access Act, all public authorities taking authorisation or enforcement decisions that affect or might affect the UK marine area must do so in accordance with marine policy documents (the MPS and relevant Marine Plans) unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise.  There are two levels in the marine planning system: the Marine Policy Statement at a UK level and marine plans at national and sub-national level.

Marine plans will inform and guide marine users and regulators, managing the sustainable development of marine industries, such as wind farms, shipping, marine aggregates and fishing, alongside the need to conserve and protect marine species and habitats and recognise leisure uses too.

The East Inshore and East Offshore areas are the first areas in England to be selected for marine planning. The East Inshore area includes a coastline that stretches from Flamborough Head to Felixstowe.

The South Inshore and South Offshore areas are the third and fourth areas in England to be selected for marine planning. The South Inshore area includes a coastline that stretches from Folkestone to the River Dart. The MMO  officially began planning in early 2013.

Marine Policy Statement

The Marine Policy Statement (MPS) is the framework for preparing Marine Plans and taking decisions affecting the marine environment. It was published in March 2011 and will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development in the United Kingdom marine area. It was adopted for the purposes of section 44 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  Across the UK new systems of marine planning are being introduced through primary legislation. The MPS is the framework for these marine planning systems. It provides the high level policy context within which national and sub-national Marine Plans will be developed, implemented, monitored, amended and will ensure appropriate consistency in marine planning across the UK marine area. The MPS also sets the direction for marine licensing and other relevant authorisation systems.

Nationally Significant Projects

In England and Wales, consents for nationally significant infrastructure projects, including the larger offshore renewable energy and port developments, need to be determined in accordance with the Planning Act 2008. Where a relevant National Policy Statement (NPS) has been designated, nationally significant infrastructure project applications must be decided in accordance with the NPS, subject to certain exceptions, and having regard to the MPS.  The  National Infrastructure Planning  Directorate is currently the independent body that decides applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects.  

Role of Coastal Partnerships

Defra recommend that Coastal Partnerships’ such as the Solent Forum would be an ideal starting point to assist with the communication for the proposed marine plan areas. The Solent Forum could provide blanket communications to stakeholders in the proposed South Central Inshore Plan area. This would not in any way preclude more detailed bespoke communication but would act as a means of introduction. Should stakeholders find this acceptable, Defra will make this recommendation to the MMO. There are no statutory consultees in marine planning, but the MMO both want and need the involvement of Local Authorities.

EU Policy

The European Commission has published a roadmap for marine spatial planning across the Community.  The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires each Member State to achieve ‘Good Environmental Status’ in the marine area by 2021 at the latest. In the UK, the planning system will be an important vehicle for delivering obligations under the MSFD.  Marine Policy Statement (MPS) and marine plans will steer the actions of public authorities so that they deliver the Directive’s requirements.

MSP for the Solent

It is possible that the Solent could be a sub regional area in a larger regional marine spatial plan. Reforms to the planning system on land mean that there are now regional strategies and Local Development Frameworks. Sub regional strategies are being developed for areas to address issues that cannot be dealt with either by individual or joint development plan documents or by other policies in the regional plan. If the MSP system was to mirror that of terrestrial planning, it is likely that the same approach will be taken with overarching plans being developed at the regional seas level and sub regional strategies being developed for areas where there are specific issues to be addressed or a concentration of many activities and interests in a specific area. The Solent Forum has reviewed the idea of MSP and ran a project in 2010/2011 called Towards Marine Spatial Planning (SoMap) to look at how a MSP would function in the Solent.  Visit our SoMaP pages for more information.