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First-ever marine plan published for Welsh seas

Words: Roger Milne
Welsh coastline / Shutterstock_675828958

The Welsh Government has published the first-ever marine plan for Welsh seas, covering the inshore and offshore marine plan areas for which Welsh ministers are the marine planning authority.

The draft plan introduces a framework to support sustainable decision-making. It sets out strategic objectives and presents both general and specific policies for such sectors as aquaculture, aggregates, defence and renewable energy.

The plan area consists of around 32,000 square kilometres of sea, as well as 2,120 kilometres of coastline. This plan covers both the Welsh inshore region (from mean high water spring tides out to 12 nautical miles from shore) and offshore region (beyond 12 nautical miles) in a single document. Unless otherwise stated, policies in this plan apply to both the Welsh inshore and offshore regions.

This plan applies to the exercise of both devolved and retained functions. Currently further responsibilities are being devolved to Welsh ministers (e.g. ports policy, harbour orders and byelaws, marine licensing in the offshore area and consenting energy projects up to 350 megawatts).

The plan identifies resource areas (RAs), broad areas that describe the distribution of a particular resource that has the potential to be used or is used by certain marine sectors, e.g. aggregates, aquaculture or marine energy.

It also identifies strategic resource areas (SRAs), which are used to allocate space and focus future use.

“These are areas of good opportunity for future use by a particular sector over the plan period and beyond. SRAs lie within the related RA. SRAs have been identified at a broad scale, local issues and constraints that relate to the general policies that have a spatial dimension will be taken into account when considering individual proposals."

The plan identifies the following marine sectors as having significant potential for sustainable growth over the plan’s lifetime:

  • Renewable energy (low carbon) (wind, wave and tidal stream and range);
  • Ports and shipping;
  • Tourism and recreation; and
  • Aquaculture.

The plan stressed: “Development and use of the marine environment is encouraged where it leads to benefits for local communities. Where possible, marine developments should take place in or near to areas that can best benefit from that activity.

“This could mean that the physical infrastructure or skilled workforce is already available or potentially available for an activity and this should be recognised. Alternatively, it could mean in areas that would most benefit from an influx of marine-related training and employment opportunities. Skill creation and diversification can increase the resilience of communities to fluctuations in demand in certain industries."

The consultation, which closes on 29 March 2018, can be found on the Welsh Government website.

Image credit | Shutterstock