Marine planning in England

Marine planning is a new approach to managing the seas around England

Keep up to date with the latest marine planning developments via our newsletter or read more about each marine plan areas.

What a marine plan will do

A marine plan will:

  • encourage local communities to be involved in planning
  • make the most of growth and job opportunities
  • consider the environment from the start
  • enable sustainable development in the marine area
  • integrate with planning on land
  • save time and money for investors and developers by giving clear guidance on things to consider or avoid
  • encourage shared use of busy areas to benefit as many industries as possible
  • encourage developments that consider wildlife and the natural environment

A marine plan:

  • sets out priorities and directions for future development within the plan area
  • informs sustainable use of marine resources
  • helps marine users understand the best locations for their activities, including where new developments may be appropriate.

A marine plan also provides guidance on things to promote or avoid for some locations. They could also support an activity that is important to you.

Marine plans guide those who use and regulate the marine area to encourage sustainable development while considering the environment, economy and society. Marine plans apply only in their area, but if a proposed activity may affect the plan area, this should be acknowledged and considered in the application and decision making.

When you apply for a licence or approval you’ll need to show how you have considered an adopted marine plan or the Marine Policy Statement (MPS). You should explain how the marine plan supports your activity and explain how your project will contribute to achieving objectives in the marine plan.

If you are making an application in an area with a draft plan, the draft marine plan must be considered, but it is not a determining factor.

The Explore Marine Plans interactive service enables users to view data and policy information spatially to support applications for activities in and around the sea.

MMO remit

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for preparing marine plans in England. See details of the exact function of MMO and the scope of its powers in relation to marine planning, as agreed by the Secretary of State in 2010.

Marine plan areas

Each of the 11 marine plan areas will have a marine plan with a long-term (20 years) view of activities and will be reviewed every 3 years. There will be 10 marine plans as the North West will have a single plan following requests to have a single process and one plan for these areas.

All marine plan areas are scheduled to have a plan by 2021.

About marine planning

MMO has produced a short animation called ‘What is marine planning?’ to explain marine planning.

‘What is marine planning?’

MMO has also produced 4 marine planning factsheets and a guide on how a marine plan is made.

Marine planning in the UK

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 established the legal basis for marine planning.

The UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS) provides the policy framework for the marine planning system. It provides the context for marine plans. Marine plans put into practice the objectives for the marine environment that are identified in the MPS alongside the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Localism Act 2011

Where there is no marine plan in place, the MPS sets the direction for decisions that affect the marine areas, such as granting licences for all public bodies. A public body must explain any decision made that is not in line with an adopted plan or the MPS. See ‘Marine planning: A guide for local authority planners’.

Exceptions do exist. For example, a relevant national policy statement carries greater weight so any decision must be in line with that rather than a marine plan or MPS.

‘A description of the marine planning system for England’ describes the marine planning system.

The ‘Strategic Scoping Report for marine planning in England’ identifies natural resources and activities in the marine area of England. It gives a national picture of how activities, resources and ecosystems vary across each of England’s 11 marine plan areas, so we can understand the specific characteristics of each and make plans that take into account the needs of the country as a whole.

The socio-economic study helps marine planners, developers, local councils and others with an interest in sustainable development in the marine area to understand various issues affecting coastal communities. It takes a national view of the socio-economic factors currently driving coastal communities in England, from planned developments to tourism, and then looks in more detail at the East of England – the area where the first 2 marine plans were being developed (at the time).

Published 11 June 2014
Last updated 22 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reference Explore Marine Plans

  2. Marine planning newsletter added

  3. First published.