Position Paper on Marine Spatial for the Northern and Western Region of Ireland

Over the past number of months, I have worked with the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in Ireland on a Position Paper on Marine Spatial Planning and the role of regional assemblies and local authorities in preparing subnational marine spatial plans. The Position Paper was presented to the elected Members of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly at its June Monthly meeting whereby it was warmly welcomed and fully endorsed by the Assembly. It is published here on the website of the NWRA, and also available to download here (on this website). 

The report examines options for the preparation of Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) for the Northern and Western Region (NWR), provides a review of learnings from international best practice, and undertakes a scoping assessment of economic opportunities specific to the marine economy of the NWR. The Paper identifies regional governance options for the rollout of Designated Marine Area Plans and outlines a series of recommendations on practical steps to be taken to progress MSP in the Northern and Western Region. This is the first study to address the regional dimension of marine spatial planning in Ireland and has implications for each of the Irish regional assemblies as they move forward with MSP for the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and Atlantic coastal waters. 

Specific recommendations include the following:

  1. The NWRA should consider the establishment of an MSP expert advisory group. This may include academic experts, local stakeholder representatives and representatives of relevant public sector bodies. This group should initiate or commission an audit of the technical skills, resources and data requirements for DMAP preparation and implementation. The NWRA should lead or coordinate the preparation of a Designated Maritime Area Plan (Lead Authority Single Plan or Nested Multilevel Approach) for the nearshore area (up to 3 nautical miles from the coast) of the full length of the coastline of the Northern and Western Region. 

2. The NWRA should encourage and, where appropriate, facilitate the formation of marine / coastal partnerships as informal fora for structured stakeholder engagement. Such partnerships may be established at the regional or local level or in response to particular issues. In most cases, it is likely that a local focus will be most effective. 

3. The NWRA should consider the incorporation of a strategic vision on land-sea interactions with an accompanying illustrative map of current and proposed uses of sea space within the next iteration of the RSES, strengthening the link between marine and land-based planning and development at a strategic policy level. 

4. A review of existing and proposed uses in adjoining sea areas should be conducted. This review of should provide an indication of relevant activities where spatial planning coordination may be required. Adjoining areas here refer to the offshore marine space (under central government responsibility) and the nearshore areas of Clare to the south and Derry to the North. 

5. The NWRA should initiate and actively engage in knowledge exchange and dialogue with the Southern, and Eastern and Midland Regional Assemblies as well as with relevant authorities in Northern Ireland to ensure a coordinated approach to transboundary issues and to facilitate the development a common framework for subnational MSP on the island of Ireland. 

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