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More opportunities for engagement is essential for next phase of marine plans

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In April its two years since the East Marine Plan was published. Producing the first marine plan for England was a daunting task, but an amazing achievement. It was the culmination of years of work, learning and testing what a marine plan needs to be, and developing our knowledge and expertise on a new approach to managing our seas. Well done and thank you to everyone who contributed to achieving such a significant milestone.

Over the last two years we have continued this work, focussing on the south marine plan area. Building on the experience of the East Marine Plan, the South Marine Plan takes marine planning to the next stage. It’s been developed with issues at its core, running through the plan from the vision to the policy detail. The South Marine Plan is now in final draft stages before going out for public consultation this summer.

Where next?

So this takes us into the next phase of marine planning – developing plans for the north east, south east, south west and north west marine areas.

One of the key things we have taken away from the last five years of marine planning is the invaluable contribution of our stakeholders – both colleagues within the MMO and external partners and industry experts. Their input has been critical in understanding the intricacies and complexities of local needs and issues, and in taking these needs and  issues and turning them into well-structured and meaningful marine plans.

This is why for the next phase of plans we are adopting a slightly different approach and building in more opportunities for engagement.

All plans together

The first change is that we will be developing marine plans for the four areas simultaneously. Many issues within the marine environment are shared across all areas – for example the impact of climate change. We have a strong understanding of these through the engagement we have done on the east and south marine plans and so we’re not starting from a blank page – we know the underlying causes and solutions and how to apply these. By working on the four areas together it will allow us to develop a common approach to these issues, allowing more time and resource to focus on the more localised issues.

Early engagement

The second change is that whilst we will still be going through all the phases of the planning process, we will be doing this in a less linear and more flexible way. Our learning over the last five years enables us to take this different approach. It means we will be working on the different stages together, and developing the structure and main content of the plans quicker. By taking this approach we will be able to share more with stakeholders at a much earlier stage, with drafts of the whole plan being available to review on an annual basis. Also it will allow is to be more flexible across the different marine plan areas – with each plan being able to progress at its own pace.

Coming soon…

We will be starting this process very soon, with public consultation on the statements of public participation (which sets out how and when we will be engaging with stakeholders) and the sustainability appraisal scoping report for the marine plan areas beginning in April. This will include a number of events taking place across the plan areas in the weeks of the 11 and 18 April – more information will be published on our website in the next few days.

By 2021 all areas of the English coast will have a marine plan – this will be a significant step and will ensure our seas continue to provide us with a rich and diverse environment and economy. We look forward to working with you to achieve this.

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