South West Marine Plans

Information and documents on the development of the South West Marine Plans.

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 and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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. The South West Marine Plan provides a policy framework which will be used to help inform decision-making on what activities take place in the marine environment and how the marine environment is developed, protected and improved in the next 20 years. It provides a clear, evidence-based approach to inform decision-making by marine users and regulators on where, when or how activities might take place within the south west marine area, balancing environmental, economic and social factors.

The South West Marine Plan will help business realise the economic benefits available from the marine plan area whilst ensuring the marine environment remains protected. The inshore area includes an open, dramatic coastline and the offshore area contains England’s only deep-water habitats as well as the only oceanic archipelago – the Isles of Scilly - in the UK. The communities that exist within the south west have a strong maritime heritage and are intrinsically linked to the marine area.

This will be achieved through its 13 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 West Marine Plan, in conjunction with the North East, North West and South East Marine Plans, is a significant milestone and means, for the first time, England has a complete and integrated marine planning framework to manage how we use, develop, protect and enhance our marine environment

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.

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The South West Marine Plan documents

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 below:

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.

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 West Marine Plan whilst in draft stage.

The South West 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 West 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 West Marine Plan. Proposals should conform with all relevant policies, taking account of economic, environmental and social considerations.

For more information on how to use marine plans please visit the Using Marine Plans link below.

To view the South West Marine Plan policies you can use our Explore Marine Plans service or read the South West Marine Plans](


As the South West Marine Plan is in place for 20 years, it is important that it is regularly assessed.

As required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act, the South West Marine Plan will be monitored and reviewed, 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

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.

Marine Planning Monitoring Surveys

Key documents

Updates to this page

Published 10 May 2016
Last updated 16 February 2024 + show all updates
  1. Update 16-02-24

  2. Page updated with plan updates

  3. Consultation summary published.

  4. Amendments made to marine plan consultation deadlines.

  5. Iteration 3 information added

  6. Iteration 3 details added

  7. South West sustainability appraisal options assessment report added

  8. Text updated

  9. Questionnaire launched

  10. Information on the development of the marine plan updated

  11. Statement of Public Participation published

  12. Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report published

  13. Call for issues with supporting evidence launched

  14. Issues and evidence workshops announced

  15. First published.