European marine planning and the environment


The European Commission convened a large conference on Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and the environment in early December. MSP is seen as a driver for sustainable blue growth: to reduce conflicts on access to maritime space, diminish the cumulative impact of maritime activities on the environment, improve certainty and predictability for private investments, and reduce coordination costs for public authorities.

The EU adopted a Maritime Spatial Planning Directive in 2014, to encourage blue growth on the basis of coordinated cross-border planning. Under the Directive, EU Member States need to appoint a national authority in charge of planning, and develop plans covering all EU waters by 2021 at the latest. They also need to put in place structures for cross-border cooperation.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries at the European Commission, said: “We are using our seas and coasts in more ways than ever before. This has often been presented as creating conflict: a) between competing economic interests, and b) between economic activities and safeguarding our marine environment. Let me assure you: it need not be so. Planning and managing our activities better allows us to reap environmental and economic benefits. It allows us to meet our ambitious environmental targets and create economic growth. And it allows us to reap social benefits, through greater stakeholder involvement.”

Coordination of planning and management can be complex, especially in cross-border locations such as the Severn Estuary between England and Wales. Key industry leaders in the region have recently established the Sustainable Severn initiative to seek positive solutions for renewable energy, port sector and other forms of sustainable development. At their recent event (in early December in Bristol), there was a call for joined-up governance arrangements to ensure a cohesive approach to marine planning. IWSN’s Tom Appleby spoke about the legal and policy challenges to the UK if it were to exit the European Union.

At UWE, Natasha Bradshaw (sponsored by IWSN) is researching the governance arrangements for coastal and marine planning and considering the different scales for effective collaboration between sectors.