South West Marine Plans

Information and documents on the development of the South West 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.

South west inshore and offshore marine plan areas

The south west inshore marine plan area covers an area of approximately 2,000 kilometres of coastline stretching from the River Severn border with Wales to the River Dart in Devon, taking in a total of approximately 16,000 square kilometres of sea. Wales, and its marine area, and the south inshore marine plan area border the south west inshore marine plan area.

The area overlaps with 16 local authorities, Exmoor National Park, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The south west inshore marine plan area borders over 50% of England’s heritage coast.

The south west offshore marine plan area includes the area from 12 nautical miles extending out to the seaward limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone, a total of approximately 68,000 square kilometres of sea. The marine areas of Wales, France, Ireland, Guernsey and the south offshore marine plan area border the south west offshore marine plan area.

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Developing the plans

Iterative Approach

The development of the draft North East, draft North West, draft South East and draft South West Marine Plans has followed an iterative process.

They have been developed in close partnership with local and national stakeholders from a range of backgrounds and sectors. Stakeholder involvement has been central to creating robust, evidence-based local plans.

Core development documents produced during the development of each draft Marine Plan including iteration outputs, details of engagement and feedback and are available at the following links:

Iteration 1: Issues and evidence

Marine planning issues are opportunities or challenges within the marine plan area, that is likely to drive change, or be affected by change over the 20 years the marine plans cover. Understanding the opportunities and challenges for each marine plan area is critical to developing meaningful and tailored marine plans. In 2016 the Marine Management Organisation launched a ‘Call for Issues with supporting evidence’ in the north east, north west, south east and south west marine plan areas. The Marine planning issues and evidence database was produced as a result of this public engagement, and holds information about the issues raised for the each marine plan area and the evidence used for marine planning.

Evidence underpins the development of policies within each draft Marine Plan. Evidence used for marine plan preparation included spatial data (presented on the Explore Marine Plans digital service), third party research reports/guidance documents, specifically commissioned research and national/sub-national policy. The Marine Management Organisation maintains an evidence projects register which includes evidence reports that have been commissioned to support the work of the organisation including marine planning.

An Iteration 1 engagement summary has been produced.

Iteration 2: Options for policies

Options for policies were developed in Iteration 2 to address the opportunities and challenges identified through Iteration 1 (Call for Issues with Supporting Evidence in 2016). Stakeholders provided feedback on the options in early 2018. This was an opportunity for stakeholders to contribute to the development of the preferred draft policies ahead of the statutory consultation on the draft marine plans.

An Iteration 2 engagement summary has been produced.

Iteration 3: Draft policies and supporting text

Preferred draft policies and supporting text were developed following feedback from the Iteration 2 Options engagement and the Call for Issues with Supporting Evidence. The Iteration 3 engagement ran in early 2019 and provided stakeholders an opportunity to view and provide comment on preferred draft policies, draft supporting text for policies including on implementation, and the next steps in marine planning.

An Iteration 3 engagement summary has been produced, as well as a more detailed You Said, We Did: Summary of stakeholder-led Iteration 3 policy changes report.

Consultation Draft Marine Plans

The consultation on the Draft North East, North West, South East and South West Marine Plans was open from 14 January to 20 April 2020. This was the final stage of statutory public consultation before we submit the Plans to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for adoption.

A Consultation Summary has been produced and published.


Marine plans place sustainability at the centre of all decisions.

The draft Sustainability Appraisal for the draft South West Marine Plan provides an independent assessment of economic, social and environmental sustainability.

We are asking for your views on the draft Sustainability Appraisal as part of the consultation on the draft South West Marine Plan.

To ensure that the draft Marine Plans conform to The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 the MMO commissioned AECOM to complete an Appropriate Assessment Information Report to inform the Habitats Regulations Assessment.

Using the marine plans

Once published as a Consultation Draft, Marine Plans become a material consideration and upon adoption become statutory. This includes the draft North East, North West, South East and South West Marine Plans.

As with land-use planning, marine planning is a statutory requirement. The principles of both systems are the same; enabling sustainable development. Public authorities are responsible for implementing the relevant Marine Plans for their area, through existing regulatory and decision-making processes. This applies to decision-making for any activity or development which is in, or impacts, the marine environment. As well as public authorities, all applicants, third parties and advisors should also consider the draft Marine Plans for their area. Proposals should conform with all relevant policies, taking account of economic, environmental and social considerations. You should also consider the East Marine Plans and South Marine Plans as appropriate when they border the north east, south east and south west marine plan areas.

You can also view the draft Marine Plan policies using our Explore Marine Plans online service.

To ensure all have the information needed to effectively apply the marine plans, an implementation training webinar has been recorded which can be viewed below:



As Marine Plans are in place for 20 years, it is important that they are regularly assessed to ensure that they are effective.

As required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act, the North East, North West, South East and South West Marine Plans, once approved after consultation, will be monitored, looking at:

  • the effects of the policies in the marine plan;
  • the effectiveness of those policies in securing plan objectives;
  • the progress being made towards securing those objectives.

The MMO is required to produce a report on this monitoring at intervals of not more than three years. After each monitoring report, a recommendation is made about whether the marine plans need to be reviewed to allow them to respond to change.

Key documents

Published 10 May 2016
Last updated 13 July 2020 + show all updates
  1. Consultation summary published.

  2. Amendments made to marine plan consultation deadlines.

  3. Iteration 3 information added

  4. Iteration 3 details added

  5. South West sustainability appraisal options assessment report added

  6. Text updated

  7. Questionnaire launched

  8. Information on the development of the marine plan updated

  9. Statement of Public Participation published

  10. Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report published

  11. Call for issues with supporting evidence launched

  12. Issues and evidence workshops announced

  13. First published.