First marine plan area in North Sea

A swathe of the North Sea has been chosen as the first area off England’s coast to get a marine planning system.

The marine plan aims to bring to the sea the same level of planning as councils have on land.

The area extends from Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire, to Felixstowe, Suffolk, and 200km (124 miles) out to sea.

Plans will be drawn up by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) over the next two years to co-ordinate the development of all marine activities.

They will serve as a blueprint for what activities can be licensed in the new marine plan area.

The Flamborough-to-Felixstowe zone will be the first of 10 that will eventually form a comprehensive marine planning system around England.

They will aim to bring “joined-up” planning to marine activities including wind farms, oil and gas exploration, cable laying, commercial shipping, fishing and recreational use.

‘World first’

Steve Brooker, head of the MMO’s marine planning, said: “England’s marine area is extremely crowded in terms of existing activities and the pressure and competition for space are going to increase.

“Marine planning will enable the MMO and others to balance and integrate the vast range of competing activities and aspirations.

“As a country, we can then take informed decisions about the development of our sea area and our priorities, based on shared understanding, a common baseline and sound evidence.”

The MMO said it was the first organisation in the world to develop an integrated planning system for the sea “mirroring the terrestrial planning regime, which has, over 60 years, become an established and trusted mechanism for integrating and balancing land use”.