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Marine spatial planning in neighbouring countries

United Kingdom

The UK has recently adopted new laws that will form the basis for the future development of spatial planning at sea.

After a lengthy preliminary process the Marine and Coastal Access Act was approved on 12 November 2009. This law provides a framework for a marine spatial planning that maintains the balance between ecology, energy and marine resources.

It also led to the creation of the Marine Management Organisation, that was established on 1 April 2010. It is a cross-sectoral body that is to develop a sustainable management of British waters and it will play a decisive role in planning, regulating and licensing activities at sea, with a focus on sustainable development. The MMO will draw up 11 regional marine spatial plans across the English territory. A specific tool has been developed to facilitate the drafting of those spatial plans.

The cornerstone of England’s marine planning system is the Marine Policy Statement. This document provides the framework for the development of marine spatial plans. It outlines the objectives that are to enable a sustainable management in the English marine area. The marine spatial plans that are drafted will be compared to the Marine Policy Statement.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands have already developed and implemented a marine spatial planning for its territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). They are currently finalising the second generation of marine spatial plans.

The Netherlands have drawn up an integral management plan North Sea 2015, mainly out of need for spatial planning for offshore wind energy. This future-oriented plan introduces an integrated assessment framework for all the activities that require a licence. Opportunity cards have been developed for marine end-uses that are tied to fixed locations and that are expected to grow substantially. Joint initiatives from parties that combine the use of the space at sea are supported, which grants the private sector the flexibility to develop offshore initiatives and projects.

In 2008 the Dutch Law on Spatial Planning was extended to the EEZ. Simultaneously the existing marine spatial plan for the Dutch section of the North Sea was reviewed. That updated version of the marine spatial plan is no longer stand-alone, but it has been integrated in the Dutch National Water Plan 2009-2015. The spatial management of the coastal area, estuaries and rivers is now also included.

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As the United Kingdom, Germany has chosen to build a solid legal foundation before developing any marine spatial plans.

The ‘Länder’ (federated states) are responsible for marine spatial planning in territorial waters, while the federal government deals with marine spatial planning in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

In 2004, Germany included the EEZ in its federal legislation on spatial planning, turning marine spatial planning into a federal matter. That move was prompted by the changes in the offshore wind energy sector.

In June 2008, the ‘Bundesamt für Seeschifffahrt und Hydrographie’ launched a marine spatial plan for the German EEZ in both the North and the Baltic Seas. Areas are now assigned to specific marine activities. The German approach led to the zoning of ‘priority areas’, ‘reserved areas’ and ‘suitable areas’. A specific activity is assigned to the priority areas and other conflicting uses are excluded. Certain activities prevail in the reserved areas. And then there are the suitable areas, where certain activities are allowed that are forbidden outside those areas. The plan for the North Sea came into force in September 2009, the Baltic plan in December 2009. The plans are to enable a sustainable marine management and to strike a balance between social, economic and ecological interests.

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France has a longstanding tradition of marine upgrade plans (‘Schéma de mise en valeur de la mer’, SMVM), which is typical for the French context. The first plans for regional coastal regions date back to the 1960’s-1970’s. More specifically, France has an SMVM for the Étang de Thau lagoon on the Mediterranean coast, the Arcachon Basin on the Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Morbihan and the coast off Trégor-Goëlo. This plan’s main target is the development of coastal areas. It contains measures such as the zoning of activities and the allocation of zones to specific marine end-uses.

France does not yet have a global marine spatial plan that is specifically aimed at planning at sea. There is a strong centralised government that tries to influence local processes as much as possible. Principles of terrestrial planning are included.

Until 2005, the central government had sole competence on marine spatial plans. Since 2005, there has been a shift and local authorities are now also allowed to initiate and develop marine spatial plans. They can resort to the so-called SCOT’s, ‘schéma de cohérence territoriale’ or territorial coherence schemes that can unite several local coastal authorities.