South Marine Plans

Information and documents on the development of the South Marine Plans

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will convert many EU measures into UK law. Former EU measures converted into UK law are referred to as ‘retained EU law’ with statutory instruments amending the retained EU law to ensure it is operable. References in this marine plan and supporting documents to EC or EU legislation, EU legislative requirements, European legislation and EU requirements are to be read as references to retained EU law from 1 January 2021. Unless otherwise indicated, a reference to a Directive, or provisions of that Directive, should be read as reference to the legislation which gave effect to the requirements of that Directive (or the provision of that Directive) in the UK, as amended. Such references will be updated when a decision is made to amend or replace the marine plan.

The South Marine Plan is the second English marine plan to be adopted. It covers an area of around 20,000 square kilometres of inshore and offshore waters across 1,000 kilometres of coast line from Folkestone to the river Dart. It is one of the busiest shipping channels in the world, with significant numbers of freight and passenger transport as well as military activity with almost two thirds of Royal Navy ships stationed at Portsmouth. This intense activity and shipping takes place alongside 60 marine protected areas, including nine marine conservation zones and a UNESCO world heritage site. It is one of the most complex and used areas of the English coast line.

The South Marine Plan will help ensure that the right activities happen in the right place and in the right way within the marine environment. It provides a framework that will shape and inform decisions over how the areas’ waters are developed, protected and improved over the next 20 years.

Through its vision for economic, environmental and social prosperity, the South Marine Plan will safeguard environments such as the UNESCO-recognised Jurassic coast, enable sustainable use of its shipping channels, encourage growth in local sectors such as tourism, and protect and enhance essential natural defences against climate change and flooding. This will be achieved through its 12 objectives, the use of natural capital and supporting local policies, all of which have been developed in partnership with local and national organisations, representatives and users of the area.

The adoption of the South Marine Plan is a significant milestone. Marine planning provides an important way of implementing government’s marine policies at a local level, making ambitions tangible, relevant and achievable, improving the wellbeing of coastal communities and supporting a stronger, more sustainable marine economy.

The South Marine plans documents

Using the plans

As with land-use planning, marine planning is a statutory requirement.

A marine plan becomes a statutory consideration in all relevant planning decisions once it is published for public consultation. This included the South Marine Plan whilst in draft stage.

The South Marine Plan must be used for all planning decisions for the sea, coast, estuaries and tidal waters (which sometimes extend a long distance inland), as well as developments that impact these areas, such as infrastructure. All public authorities are responsible for implementing the South Marine Plan through existing regulatory and decision-making processes.

As well as public authorities, all applicants, third parties and advisors should also consider the South Marine Plan. Proposals should conform with all relevant policies, taking account of economic, environmental and social considerations.


As the South Marine Plan is a 20 year plan, it is important that it is regularly assessed.

As with all marine plans, the South Marine Plan will be monitored and reviewed every three years, looking at the:

  • effects of policies in the marine plan
  • effectiveness of those policies in securing plan objectives
  • progress towards achieving any objectives set out for that region in a marine plan and the Marine Policy Statement

After each report marine plans may be reviewed to allow them to respond to change.

Published 7 November 2016
Last updated 17 July 2018 + show all updates
  1. Page changed and added too

  2. Consultation on the draft South Marine Plan now closed

  3. First published.