Puffin standing by the cliff's edge

Marine Planning

We believe that co-ordinated spatial planning is essential to manage our seas under increasing pressure.

What is marine planning?

Kittiwake pair standing on rock, Isle of May National Nature reserve

Marine Planning is a tool for Governments to allocate space for different activities and uses of our seas. By developing marine plans, objectives are set to ensure national developments deliver social and economic goals while leaving enough space for nature to recover.


In the UK, the Marine Policy Statement was developed to provide a legal framework for marine planning to promote a sustainable marine environment, safeguarding healthy ecosystems and protecting marine species.

More than wildlife protection

Sea cliffs at The Mull of OA

Good marine planning should tackle more than wildlife protection. It should provide an approach to marine developments supporting healthy and productive ecosystems, with marine resources used sustainably, protecting our oceans and seas for generations to come. Plans should offer strategic guidance, underpinned by a clear hierarchy of government's policies ensuring the standard of Good Environmental Status (GES) is achieved.

Effective marine planning

Flock of adult little terns in flight over a bright blue sea, Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk

An effective Marine Plan should be:


  • Strategic: ensuring human activities are compatible with achieving a healthy marine environment. A clear hierarchy between policies and activities must be established, with climate and nature at the top
  • Holistic: Cross-departmental action from Government is needed so all marine activities and uses are included. Nature protection, recovery and enhancement should be considered as part of each of them
  • Spatial: the plans need to identify which areas are suitable for each activity

Recent and upcoming developments

A shore windfarm with white cloudy sky and sparkling seas

In 2020 Scotland’s Sectoral Marine Plans has started to address the challenges of developing offshore wind energy while balancing the impact on the marine environment.


Scotland’s National Marine Plan and the English East Marine Plan, the first published in the country, were reviewed last year and declared in need of an update. This is an opportunity to define a new generation of Marine Spatial Plans.