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Welsh marine blueprint highlights offshore oil and gas development clash

Words: Roger Milne
Welsh coastline / iStock-674600360

The Welsh Government has published the country's first strategic plan for marine management.

Significantly, the 180-page blueprint acknowledges policy differences between the devolved administration and the UK Government where matters are reserved, highlighting the issue of offshore oil and gas development. The UK Government is supportive, unlike Welsh ministers.

Environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths told the Welsh Assembly this week: “We completely oppose any extraction of fossil fuels in the seas surrounding Wales. In the plan, we have gone further than this to say that where offshore fossil fuel extraction has land-based elements – that is, any elements that would fall into the responsibility of Welsh Government – we will apply our policy to avoid continued extraction of fossil fuels, using all powers available to us.”

The plan sets out the the Welsh Government’s intention to expand the network of marine protected areas and strengthen the protections that apply to other designated areas.

It has sector policies that target the key uses of Welsh seas: fishing, tourism and recreation, ports and shipping, undersea electronic cables, green energy generation and the collection of sand for use in construction. These policies are designed to ensure that the coastline and abundant ecosystems work alongside developments, rather than compete for marine space.

Ministers insist the Welsh National Marine Plan will work in tandem with the forthcoming National Development Framework, ensuring strategic planning for both land and sea.

From now on, planning decisions by local authorities and other relevant bodies with the potential to affect the Welsh seas will have to consider the marine plan.

Griffiths said: “This is our first step in ensuring we utilise our seas to the best of their potential without having a negative impact on our marine and coastal environment.”

The marine plan can be found on the Welsh Government website.

Image credit | iStock