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Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland – a roadmap for the development of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy and Minister Damien English today (12 December 2017) published Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland – a roadmap for the development of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan. Marine Spatial Planning is a way of looking at how we use the marine area and planning how best to use it into the future.  MSP will try to balance the different demands for using the sea including the need to protect the marine environment.   It's about planning when and where human activities take place at sea.  It’s about ensuring these activities are as efficient and sustainable as possible. Maritime spatial planning involves stakeholders in a transparent way in the planning of maritime activities.

Minister Murphy said that “Ireland is a maritime nation and we derive so much of our cultural, social and economic identity from our relationship with the seas that surround us. We are fortunate to have one of the largest and richest marine resources of all EU Member States. The Government has set out clear and ambitious objectives under Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW) - Ireland’s integrated marine plan - to enable our marine potential to be realised.  For example, we aim to double the value of our ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4bn by 2020. Reaching these goals will mean significant growth in seafood production and aquaculture, maritime transport, marine renewable energy, marine biotechnology and ICT, marine and coastal tourism and leisure. At the same time, we also recognise the importance of our rich marine biodiversity and ecosystems to our ocean wealth. We need a marine spatial plan to provide a coherent strategic spatial framework encompassing all plans and sectoral policies for the marine area that also ensures the sustainable management of our marine environment.”

The MSP for Ireland, which will be developed over the next 3 years, will provide a coherent framework in which specific sectoral policies and objectives can be realised. It is intended to become a decision making tool for regulatory authorities and policy makers into the future in a number of ways including, decisions on individual consent applications which will have to have regard to the provisions of the plan in the same way that terrestrial plans form part of the decision making tool-kit in the on-land planning process. It is also intended to form a key input to the development of future sectoral policies, similar to role of the National Planning Framework, Ireland2040, in terms of terrestrial sectoral policy development.

Minister English, who has specific responsibility for implementation of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, said that “a clear framework for MSP, as a parallel to the National Planning Framework, Ireland2040, will bring a new level of coherence to how we plan and manage our marine resource. For example, a marine spatial plan will support sustainable environmental management of marine areas, improved certainty and predictability for private investments, lower transaction costs for maritime businesses and improved competitiveness for our marine sectors, improved use of sea space and coexistence of uses in coastal zones and marine waters. The plan will also ensure that our coastal regions and communities continue to be attractive places to live and work.”



Note for editors

The roadmap document marks the first stage in the development of Ireland’s marine spatial plan. There will be four broad stages in the development of the plan:

  • The first, of which the Roadmap forms a central part, is the start-up or activation phase in which the Government’s proposed approach to developing MSP is announced and initial contact is made with stakeholders. This will run until end 2017.
  • The main development stage will commence in Q1 2018 and run until end Q3 2019. This will initially involve the analysis and identification of data and information required to provide a robust evidence base to underpin the MSP. It will also include the publication of an evidence and issues overview for public consultation in 2018, which will be the subject of a formal public consultation process. This process will inform the development of a full draft plan for publication in 2019 with a further consultation process running until end 2019. 
  • Stage 3 is the finalisation phase in which a final plan will be prepared for submission to Government in 2020 with supporting environmental assessments (strategic environmental assessment under the SEA Directive, appropriate assessment under Birds and Habitats Directives) for approval before forwarding the final plan to the European Commission ahead of the March 2021 deadline set out under the Directive.                                                                                    
  • Stage 4 is implementation and review commencing on publication of the final Marine Spatial Plan.

As set out in Roadmap document, throughout the process there will be a strong focus on public engagement, including a number of former public consultation processes and environmental assessments. These will be supplemented with a number of public regional workshops and seminars and interactive web based arrangements will be provided for, including the establishment of a dedicated website (link is external)

In the meantime further information is available at

Dáta Foilsithe: 
Tuesday, 12 December, 2017