Managing Welsh Seas: The Welsh National Marine Plan

11 December 2014

Article by Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Image by ‘Mooganic’ Licensed under the Creative Commons

Image by ‘Mooganic’ Licensed under the Creative Commons

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 established a new system for planning in UK seas. Marine spatial planning will set a framework to guide activities in both the Welsh inshore and offshore areas. The aim of the planning process is to provide clarity to stakeholders on the areas where different activities are likely to be consented and to resolve conflicting uses of the sea on a spatial basis.

Under the Marine Act, Welsh Ministers are responsible for developing Marine Plans within both the Welsh inshore region (0-12 nautical miles) and the Welsh offshore region (12 nautical miles to the median line with Ireland).

With an aim to facilitate and support the development of Marine Plans, the UK Government and the devolved administrations adopted a joint Marine Policy Statement in March 2011. This set out a shared vision of having “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”.

The Welsh Government is currently in the process of developing a Marine Plan for Wales. On 16 February 2011 the Welsh Government issued a consultation on its proposed approach to marine planning. Since the consultation the Welsh Government has confirmed that a single Welsh National Marine Plan (WNMP) will be introduced. The WNMP will cover inshore and offshore regions which are shown on a map on the Welsh Government website and will have a 20 year outlook. The Welsh Government aims to have an initial version of the WNMP in place by 2015.

Statements of Public Participation

Before Marine Plans can be developed the UK administrations must publish Statements of Public Participation (SPP) which set out how stakeholders can get involved in the development of the different plans. Earlier this year the Welsh Government launched a consultation on its SPP for the WNMP. The consultation sought to obtain views on how and when the Welsh Government would engage with the public and stakeholders during the process of producing the WNMP. The consultation was launched on 3 February 2014 and closed on 28 March 2014 and received 56 respondents.

According to the Welsh Government, 89% of responses agreed with their approach to public engagement. However, suggestions were made to improve the way in which the Welsh Government might communicate the positives of engagement to stakeholders. Only 5% of respondents were said to disagree with the Welsh Government’s proposals, with the principal reason for this being a perceived lack of engagement with the fishing industry. The SPP for marine planning in Wales has now been published. The Welsh Government has also established a marine planning stakeholder reference group as part of a wider approach to stakeholder engagement.

The Development of the Welsh National Marine Plan

The Welsh Government recently consulted on the draft Vision and Objectives for the WNMP as well as its proposed structure. The consultation ran for three months until 10 November 2014.

The draft vision of the WNMP includes to;

  • use Welsh seas in a sustainable way that contributes to the achievement of the Welsh Government’s long term goals;
  • optimise the economic and social potential for people living in and visiting Wales, through sound management of marine natural resources. This will include communities with ‘a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language’;
  • ensure communities recognise the importance of a healthy marine ecosystem to their prosperity and are directly involved in delivery;
  • establish the importance of equality of opportunity;
  • reduce complexity and provide much needed clarity.

The strategic objectives of the WNMP will reflect the Welsh Government’s strategic agenda and priorities coupled with the UK strategic policy priorities set out in the joint UK High Level Marine Objectives (HLMO) and the joint Marine Policy Statement. The HLMOs will be adopted for the WNMP. These are;

  • achieving a sustainable marine economy;
  • ensuring a strong, healthy and just society;
  • living within environmental limits;
  • promoting good governance; and
  • using sound science responsibly.

A full and formal consultation on a completed draft of the WNMP is expected to take place early next year.

The Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability committee has been considering the issue of marine policy and marine planning over the past few years and will continue to do so in the New Year.

New publication: Marine Spatial Planning