More than Lines on a Map? Towards Regional Governance for Irish Marine Space

Last month, I spoke at the Conference of Irish Geographers about the current developments and future challenges in marine protected area (MPA) management and maritime spatial planning (MSP) in the Irish context. In this commentary, I further develop some of the key arguments and proposals from that presentation.

As an island nation, Ireland is surrounded by the sea and has an extensive maritime territory (Figure 1 below). Nevertheless, the sea has often occupied a peripheral position in the national consciousness and politics. There is a prevailing sense that successive Irish governments have ‘turned their backs on the sea’, neglecting this rich resource (e.g. Tom MacSweeney 2008, Kevin O’ Sullivan 2019). Currently, however, Ireland’s marine territory is subject to significant policy attention, indicating perhaps, the beginning of a new relationship between the land and the sea. Irish marine governance is evolving rapidly with the adoption of a National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF), the preparation of a Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, and ambitious targets for the large-scale expansion of Ireland’s MPA network, in line with international commitments. Yet, blind spots and a sense of disjointed policy-making continues with, for example, the lack of marine biodiversity characterization or sensitivity mapping to support the preparation of NMPF. Indeed, by all accounts (the final NMPF will not be made public until June 17th), the NMPF does not provide a map of spatial strategy or an indication of priority areas for specific uses and activities at sea. In this sense, it is very much a policy framework rather than a spatial plan and barely meets the requirements set out under EU MSP Directive. This apparent lack of willingness to provide strategic policy direction in relation to the spatial distribution of activities and priority areas for ecosystem protection at sea is disappointing. As pressures for the development of marine space increase, there is a real risk of a reactive, development-led regime emerging by default. 

Figure 1: Ireland’s maritime territory (continental shelf). Source: Marine Institute.

Continue reading “More than Lines on a Map? Towards Regional Governance for Irish Marine Space”

Marine Protected Areas for Irish Waters

Following the publication of the comprehensive report of an Advisory Group on the Expansion of Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network (MPA) in January, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has opened a public consultation on the planning of MPAs. The consultation takes the form of an online survey with a series of questions, many of ask for detailed, open responses and assume knowledge of the content of the individual chapters of the Advisory Report. I completed my submission this morning. In what follows, I summarise my key recommendations and outline what I view as priorities re. MPA planning and management.

Continue reading “Marine Protected Areas for Irish Waters”

Maritime Spatial Planning Webinar, 24th February

I look forward to participating in this webinar on Maritime Spatial Planning on Wednesday 24th February: Maritime Spatial Planning
Striking the balance: development and protection of our seas and oceans.

The discussion will be hosted by MEP for Ireland South, Grace O’Sullivan and will feature a discussion of the study on Best Practice in Maritime Spatial Planning I was commissioned to write.

To register for the event please click here: https://lnkd.in/dKeuR2p
Or watch on Facebook live: https://lnkd.in/dupijii

European Spatial Planning: An Idea of the Past or Key to the Future?

Front cover of the book European Spatial Planning edited by Andreas Faludi, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in 2002.

Reflecting on developments in European spatial policy over the past decades, the publication of the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) in 1999 might be considered the highpoint of European spatial planning. A third iteration of the Territorial Agenda of the European Union (TAEU) is currently under preparation, to be finalised under the current German Presidency of the Council of the EU (second half of 2020). The TAEU has, however, developed little debate and has had limited policy influence since the publication of its first iteration in 2007. The TAEU 2020, adopted under the Hungarian presidency in 2011 comprised a relatively strong endorsement of place-based or spatially sensitive policies at all scales within the EU. Emphasis was placed in particular on ‘territorial diversity’ within the EU and the scope for places to capitalise on their ‘territorial potential’ through regionally-specific development strategies:

“[The place-based approach] aims to unleash territorial potential through development strategies based on local and regional knowledge of needs, and building on the specific assets and factors which contribute to the competitiveness of places”. (TAEU 2020, 2011, Article 11).

Continue reading “European Spatial Planning: An Idea of the Past or Key to the Future?”

Brexit and Cross-Border Cooperation

Following on from my applied research work with the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD) and conceptual work on soft spaces at HafenCity University in Hamburg, I became interested in the idea of the island of Ireland as a ‘soft space’. In a book chapter, I explored the ways in which the peace process enabled the articulation of new geographies for spatial planning and regional development on the island of Ireland. With the Brexit referendum these issues of course came to the fore as it became clear that the relational network of cross-border connectivities which had emerged over the previous two decades was at risk.

Continue reading “Brexit and Cross-Border Cooperation”