An inter-departmental draft statement on a marine policy for Ireland is a ‘true recognition of the importance of a fully-integrated marine planning system’.

The statement, which was launched at the ‘Our Ocean Wealth Summit’ 2019, invites public comment by August 9.

Damien English, Minister for State for Housing and Urban Development, said government’s vision was for an integrated, holistic system “with clear, forward planning, development management and enforcement elements”.

This, he said, “would promote and sustain ocean health and support sustainable (recreational) enjoyment, management and use of Ireland’s marine resource”.

The Marine Planning Policy Statement describes the existing components of Ireland’s marine planning system and outlines a vision for development.

It set outs the overarching policies and principles that government expects the relevant marine planning bodies and public bodies to observe, in terms of public engagement, transparency, governance, environmental assessment, climate action, social and economic benefit.

High-level priorities

The MPPS also outlines ‘high-level priorities’ to enhance the entire planning process to achieve a system that it ‘more integrated, fully plan-led, clearly structured and user-friendly for all users.

Ireland’s obligation to achieve or maintain ‘good environmental status’ and its obligations under environmental law ‘can be supported through a well-functioning marine planning system’.

The National Marine Planning Framework ‘will be essential to effecting the transition, along with a Marine Planning and Development Bill, due to publish shortly’.

The Bill gives power to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government to introduce statutory marine planning guidelines, parallel to statutory planning guidelines under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000.

It will improve the statutory basis for forward planning and introduce a single State consent system for the maritime area for certain project types.

The Bill also eliminates duplication in the management process (including environmental assessment) for projects currently assessed under foreshore and planning regimes including offshore renewable energy development.

Development framework

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney said the plan and the Bill will provide “the comprehensive and efficient framework for offshore development identified by ‘Harnessing our Ocean Wealth’ that he launched in 2012.

That report identified the need for an overarching national marine spatial plan underpinned by an efficient planning and licensing framework.

Eogan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government said the statement reflected “the holistic approach to terrestrial and marine planning” led by his department.

This policy framework, along with the two Bills, “will ensure the proper integration of environmental, economic and social considerations in marine decision-making processes that serve all interests fairly”.

Marine Minister Michael Creed said the new system “will support the maintenance and sustainable development” of the seafood industry “particularly in recognition of our strong fishing heritage and its contribution to sustainable coastal and island communities”.

Climate Action Minister, Richard Bruton, said the new plan will enable Ireland meet its renewable energy targets “and make Ireland more climate resilient, assisting the transition to a low carbon economy”.