Marine Planning and Heritage

The seas around England are rich in archaeology, comprising prehistoric land surfaces, historic shipwrecks and aircraft losses during the Second World War. The terrestrial planning system only extends as far as local authority boundaries which may enclose tidal rivers and estuaries (in other words, internal waters) and on the open coast is limited to the mean low water mark of ordinary spring tides.

The government is currently developing a system of planning for sustainable development of the marine environment as provided for in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (ref. 1). Marine planning will contribute to the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources. It will create the framework for consistent and evidence-based decision-making about activities taking place within the English inshore and offshore marine planning areas of the UK Marine Area and their impact on the environment, including the historic environment. As the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) defines sustainable development objectives for England's on-shore development, it will be a material consideration in the management of development within the English marine planning areas.

There are two elements to the marine planning system: the Marine Policy Statement and Marine Plans.

Marine Policy Statement

The Marine Policy Statement (MPS) (ref. 2) is the first part of new systems of marine planning being introduced around the UK as set out in the UK Marine Policy Statement (MPS).

The UK vision for the marine environment is for 'clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas'. The UK High Level Marine Objectives (ref. 4) published in April 2009 set out the broad aims for the marine area to achieve this vision and reflect the principles for sustainable development. The MPS is informed by the High Level Objectives and will play a key role in ensuring they are achieved.

Whilst the purpose of the MPS is to set out the policy framework for sustainable development of our seas at UK level, it will be the role of marine plans to set out how the MPS will be implemented in specific areas. Marine plans will provide detailed policy and spatial guidance and ensure that individual decisions within a plan area make the appropriate contribution to UK, national and area-specific policy objectives. Where needed, supporting guidance on the marine planning systems will be produced by the relevant UK administration.

Marine plans

The second stage consists a series of marine plans that will interpret and present the national policies within the MPS and apply area-specific policy, spatially where appropriate, within marine plan areas.

Marine plans have been published for 6 of the 11 marine plan areas covering waters adjacent to England. 

Marine plans must be consistent with the MPS, ensuring a strong link between national policy and local application. The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for the development of marine plans on behalf of the government. The MMO and Historic England have agreed to work together in a coordinated approach to share information and ensure account is taken of both the marine historic landscape and historic sites in the development of marine plans.

The MPS and marine plans will guide and direct licensing decisions in the marine environment. Marine plans will be a source of information, which developers and other marine industries can use when considering where and how they might carry out activities.

The MMO will be responsible for the licensing of developments up to the mean higher water tide (inclusive of any tidal rivers), but will consult with the relevant local planning authority on any proposals for the inter-tidal area, in other words the area of land up to the high water spring tide level. The marine plan produced by the MMO will cover the inter-tidal area in consultation with the relevant local planning authority.