Seanad Statements on Marine Spatial Planning – 12 June 2018 – Opening Statement by Minister Damien English





I am very pleased to be here today to provide an update on Marine Spatial Planning or MSP on behalf of the Government and my Department, following on from Senator O’Sullivan’s Motion last month on marine environment matters.

All contributors to that debate appeared to agree that as an Island nation, our marine environment is a national asset that gives us many commercial and non-commercial benefits in terms, for example, of biodiversity, seafood, tourism, recreation, renewable energy, cultural heritage, and shipping. People are passionate about our seas and the future sustainable use, enjoyment and development of our marine area affects many people.

Managing our ocean wealth requires an overarching national marine ‘spatial’ plan to a structure to help realise the full benefit of our ocean wealth and assist with managing our resources effectively and sustainably.

The development of an overarching national MSP was identified as a Government policy objective in Ireland’s Integrated Marine Plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW). We identified that the organisation, regulation and protection of marine-based activity in Irish waters was being carried out on a sectoral and demand-driven basis, without a strategic framework in which sectoral policy objectives could be envisioned, planned and delivered over the long term.

Marine Spatial Planning is also underpinned by EU legislation. The 2014 MSP Directive established an EU-wide framework for MSP. The directive established a framework for MSP, and defined it as “a process by which the relevant Member State’s authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives”. The Directive details the main goals and minimum requirements for Member States as:

  • Balanced and sustainable territorial development of marine waters and coastal zones; optimised development of maritime activities and business climate;
  • Better adaptation to risks; and resource-efficient and integrated coastal and maritime development.
  • Lower transaction costs for maritime businesses and improved national competitiveness; improved certainty and predictability for private investments;
  • Improved certainty in obtaining financing for investments in the maritime area; improved use of sea space and the best possible coexistence of uses in coastal zones and marine waters;
  • Improved attractiveness of coastal regions as places to live and invest; reduced co-ordination costs for public authorities;
  • Greater development of innovation and research; and enhanced and integrated data and information.

We transposed the Directive through the European Union (Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning) Regulations 2016, signed into law on 29th June 2016. The regulations identify the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government as the competent authority for MSP, reflecting my Department’s track record and expertise in relation to forward planning generally.

Senators will be aware from our earlier discussions that I am proposing amendments to the Planning and Development Bill 2016 to replace the existing regulations with a new primary legislative basis for MSP. I want to give MSP greater prominence, and introduce new arrangements for the plan making process including governance, public participation, review and Oireachtas involvement, to ensure that the processes for making Ireland’s two long term forward spatial plans, one marine, the other terrestrial, are consistent and fully aligned

Working within the existing framework, Minister Murphy and I launched Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland, a roadmap for the development of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan in December 2017.

In the roadmap document we have clearly set out the principles of engagement for this process. We believe that marine spatial plans should be strategic, concise and informed by effective public and stakeholder participation to ensure buy-in with regard to implementation. Therefore, a core objective of the MSP process will be to ensure that, as well as the wider public, all relevant stakeholders are consulted and encouraged to contribute to the process of plan preparation.

The importance of involving all stakeholders in the marine planning and marine sectoral issues was raised repeatedly during our discussion last month and I am deeply committed to it. The participation processes for MSP are being designed, tailored and structured to ensure meaningful, informed and timely engagement with the plan-making process.

We are committed to:

  • Involving people early on in the decision-making process and in developing specific policy within the framework provided by HOOW;
  • Engaging with interested people and organisations at the appropriate time using tailored and effective engagement methods, allowing sufficient time for meaningful consultation;
  • Being adaptable, recognising that some consultation methods work better for some people and some issues and that a one size fits all approach will not work;
  • Respecting the diversity of people and their lifestyles and giving people a fair chance to have their voice heard regardless of gender, age, race, abilities, sexual orientation, circumstances or wherever they live;
  • Being clear in the purpose of any engagement and how the public may contribute and letting people know how their views have been taken into account within agreed timescales;
  • Making documents publicly available on the Department’s website;
  • Communicating clearly with people, using plain English and avoiding jargon.

In line with these objectives a three-pronged engagement strategy is now underway and I want to spend some time outlining those.

Firstly, we have established an Interdepartmental Group to lead and oversee the development of the MSP. The group is chaired by my Department and is made up of senior representatives from the Marine Institute, local government and Government Departments whose policies and functions are relevant to the plan.

Secondly I have been tasked with chairing an Advisory Group to facilitate participation in the MSP process by all relevant stakeholders from the economic, environmental and social pillars. The purpose of the Advisory Group is to harness the potential and capacity of a broad range of sectors including representation from the public sector, business, environmental, social and knowledge-based sectors to guide strategic thinking and decision-making in the preparation of marine spatial plans. We meet for the second time tomorrow and the outputs of the group will also inform the work of the Interdepartmental MSP Group and provide updates, reports or recommendations as required.

The third strand is stakeholder engagement – this is a parallel process with a strong focus on awareness-raising among coastal communities, smaller unaligned stakeholders, individual members of larger representative bodies.

This strand is critically important in my view.

Staff from the MSP team in my Department have been engaged in a series of public engagements throughout the country over the past few months and this will continue. These have ranged from conference presentations and meetings with sectoral groups such as the Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums – whose members are representative of the ‘inshore sector’ fishermen using boats of less than 12m in overall length – to smaller public meetings in coastal communities to help the public understand how they can feed into the plan by getting involved in the consultation processes. The latter have been advertised via local and regional groups, local newspapers, by direct contact with stakeholder groups and using social media, in particular Twitter. They are, by design, informal, low key and are taking place at the earliest possible stage before any ink has been committed to paper in a draft plan. They are intended purely to help explain the concept and processes around MSP and to give people time and space to think about how they want to shape the plan during the formal consultation and participation phases. Larger, more regionally focused events will take place in the Autumn of this year and into early 2018.

The first opportunity for formal input will arise in the autumn following the publication of our Baseline Report. This document will outline the current situation in our seas – the as-is situation in terms of capturing the nature and locations of existing activities, developments and marine uses. The Baseline Report will also pose a series of questions to stakeholders to help frame their submissions.

It will be published in September 2018 kick-starting a two-month consultation period. Following this the draft MSP (including Environmental Assessments) is intended to be completed by Q2 of 2019 and will be followed by a three-month public consultation.

In terms of the formal consultation on the draft marine plan, once the consultation period has closed, the responses will be analysed and a summary report will be produced detailing any comments made and published on our website. This report will also set out any changes made to the plans, any changes that weren’t made and the reasons why. Everyone who submitted a response will be notified when it is published. The final plan will be in place by mid-2020, just 30 months on from the launch of our Roadmap document.

Once the plan is in place, it will be a key strategic spatial framework encompassing all plans and sectoral policies for the marine area.

It will provide a coherent framework in which those sectoral policies and objectives can be realised.

It will be the key decision making tool for regulatory authorities and policy makers into the future in a number of ways including, decisions on individual consent applications which will have to be in line with the provisions of the plan in the same way that terrestrial plans form part of the decision making tool-kit in the on-land planning process.

Finally, Cathaoirleach, Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework will, just as the National Planning Framework does for land-based sectors, close the loop by providing a key input to the development of future sectoral marine policies.



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