Marine Spatial Planning (MSP)

With EU Member States required to complete their marine spatial plans by March 2021, under the EU MSP directive, it is currently a time of intensive activity concerning spatial planning at sea. At a broad policy level, multiple interests and priorities from wind energy and the ‘blue economy’ to shipping and oil and gas pipelines, marine biodiversity and climate change adaptation are weighed against each other and sustainable solutions are sought after. Although often perceived as far away and removed from the daily lives of most people, there is much at stake in MSP!

Whitelee Windfarm, UK (c) Jim McDougall, creative commons license

For some, the marine constitutes a ‘new frontier’, an almost empty space with an, as yet unrealised, economic potential. Yet activities at sea are intimately connected with those on land and the sea and coast are also places of cultural identity, meaning and value to local communities, visitors and recreational users. Against this background, my research work has focussed on the following topical issues:

– Assessing the alignment of marine spatial plans with EU environmental objectives

– analysing the current disconnect between spatial planning on land and at sea

– Assessing the potential for integrative approaches to strategic spatial planning across the land-sea interface, drawing on good practice examples

– Fostering dialogue between the land-based and MSP research and practitioner communities

Current and Recent Activities

I am currently (March 2022) working on an assessment of the alignment of Baltic and North Sea marine spatial plans (Belgium, Germany, Latvia, Sweden) with EU environmental objectives. This study is commissioned by BirdLife International.

I am conducting a review of Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) for the SWAN (Sustainable Water Network) network of environmental NGOs.

Together with Franziska Sielker (Cambridge University), Glen Smith (University College Cork) and Jenny Crawford (Queen’s University Belfast) I am guest-editing a double special issue of the journal Planning, Practice and Research: Planning for Sea Spaces. The first special issue is published here.

I have authored a desk-based study of Maritime Spatial Planning focussing on case studies of best / good practice where conflicts between offshore wind, fisheries and nature conservation interests have been resolved or ameliorated through MSP and related practices. Existing good practices can point the way towards more inclusive and integrated forms of MSP where conflicts are resolved, mitigated and/or ameliorated through open dialogue, strategic planning and regulations sensitive to the particularities of individual places and their communities.

The study was commissioned by the The Greens / EFA in the European Parliament via the offices of Grace O’ Sullivan, MEP for Ireland South. It benefitted from expert input from MSPRN and MarSocSci colleagues across NW Europe.

I successfully organised and led a conference on marine spatial planning at Hamburg University in September 2019. The conference took place under the umbrella of the Marine Spatial Planning Research Network (MSPRN) and AESOP Thematic Group on Transboundary Spaces, Policy Diffusion and Planning Cultures. The conference report is available here.

A recent publication in the journal Regional Studies, examines the potential for innovation forms of strategic spatial planning to cross the land-sea interface and deliver integrated perspectives, via a sympathetic reeview of the Dutch North Sea 2050 Spatial Agenda.

An article with Andreas Kannen (HZG Geesthacht) critically examines existing practices of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and MSP at the North Sea Coast of Germany and calls for more integrated, collaborative and dynamic approaches.