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National Marine Planning Framework FAQs

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1. What is Marine Spatial Planning?

Marine spatial planning is a process that brings together multiple users of the ocean to make informed and coordinated decisions about how to use marine resources sustainably. It is a process by which the relevant public authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives.

2. Why is a National Marine Planning Framework being developed?

The output from this process will be a national plan for Ireland’s seas, to be known as the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF). It will set out, over a 20 year horizon, how we want to use, protect and enjoy our seas. The NMPF will sit at the top of the hierarchy of plans and sectoral policies for the marine area. It will be informed by existing sectoral plans and will, in turn, be used to inform future cycles of those plans in an ongoing feedback loop. It will provide a coherent framework in which those sectoral policies and objectives can be realised. It will become a decision making tool for regulatory authorities and policy makers into the future in a number of ways including, decisions on individual consent applications which will have to have regard to the provisions of the plan in the same way that terrestrial plans form part of the decision making tool-kit in the on-land planning process.

3. What will marine planning do?

Marine planning will contribute to the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources. It will enable the Government to set a clear direction for managing our seas, to clarify objectives and priorities, and to direct decision makers, users and stakeholders towards more strategic and efficient use of marine resources. It will inform decisions about the current and future development of the marine area, aiming to integrate needs.

4. How will the NMPF be progressed?

The Government has chosen the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG) as lead Department for marine planning and it will manage the NMPF process.  It will prepare any legislation and policy guidance that is required and the Marine Institute (MI) will support the process by providing the necessary technical and scientific advice.

EU Directive 2014/89/EU establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning was adopted in July 2014. The European Union (Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning) Regulations 2016 [link] were signed into law on 29th June 2016. The regulations transpose the directive into Irish law and establish the necessary legal basis and broad framework for Ireland to implement MSP.

Part 5 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 [link] when commenced, will repeal and replace the above regulations with new primary legislation to give effect to the requirements of the MSP Directive.  It will introduce new arrangements for the plan-making process including governance, public participation, review and Oireachtas involvement, to ensure that the process for making Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework is consistent and fully aligned with the arrangements for the National Planning Framework in the terrestrial planning system.

An Interdepartmental Group chaired by DHPLG has been established to lead and oversee the development of the NMPF. All Government Departments whose policies and functions are relevant to the plan are represented, as well as one representative from the local government sector and one from the Marine Institute.

An Advisory Group chaired by Minister of State Damien English has been established to ensure the effective participation in the process of the economic, environmental and social pillars. It comprises members drawn from groups representing various marine sectoral activities, State agencies, environmental non-governmental organisations, professional bodies, technical experts and third level education. The Advisory Group advised on drafting the suggested marine planning high level objectives contained in the Baseline Report.

5. What are the key timeframes for the NMPF?

As set out in the roadmap for the development of Ireland’s first marine spatial plan – Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland – there will be four broad stages in the development of the plan.

  • The first, of which the Roadmap formed a central part, was the start-up or activation phase in which the Government’s proposed approach to developing the NMPF was announced and initial contact made with stakeholders. This ran until end 2017.
  • The main development stage commenced in Q1 2018 and will run until end Q3 2019. This will initially involve the analysis and identification of data and information required to provide a robust evidence base to underpin the NMPF. It includes the publication of an evidence and issues overview for public consultation in 2018, which will be the subject of a formal public consultation process (see more information below). This process will inform the development of a full draft plan for publication in 2019 with a further consultation process running until end 2019. 
  • Stage 3 is the finalisation phase in which a final plan will be prepared for submission to Government in 2020 with supporting environmental assessments (strategic environmental assessment under the SEA Directive, appropriate assessment under Birds and Habitats Directives) for approval before forwarding the final plan to the European Commission ahead of the March 2021 deadline set out under the Directive. 
  • Stage 4 is implementation and review commencing on publication of the final NMPF.

As set out in Roadmap document, throughout the process there will be a strong focus on public engagement, including a number of formal public consultation processes and environmental assessments. These will be supplemented with a number of public regional workshops and seminars and interactive web based arrangements will be provided.

6. What areas does the NMPF cover?

Maritime planning will apply from the High Water Mark in Ireland’s coastal waters, territorial seas, exclusive economic zone and in designated parts of the continental shelf.  Ireland’s marine area is one of the largest in Europe totalling over 488,000 Km2.

A map of the area can be found in the Baseline Report.


7. How will the NMPF effect the consenting regimes?

The National Marine Planning Framework will not replace or remove existing regulatory regimes or legislative requirements governing the operation of various marine sectoral activities. Rather, it will provide an overarching framework for their continued operation.   

As part of their decision-making processes public bodies involved in consenting for marine development and activities will become obliged to take into account the objectives of plans, when adopted. However, decisions on applications for consent should not be delayed in anticipation of plans being adopted for the first time.

Cases currently in the system or submitted for consideration prior to the adoption of Ireland’s first National Marine Planning Framework in 2020, as envisaged, will be dealt with on the basis of the currently applicable sectoral plans and regulatory requirements.

8. How will the NMPF interact with terrestrial planning?

Ireland’s National Marine Planning Framework will be a parallel document to the National Planning Framework (NPF). The NPF is a national document that will guide at a high-level strategic terrestrial planning and development for the country over the next 20+ years, so that as the population grows, that growth is sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms. Finalisation of the NPF alongside the ten-year National Development Plan puts together one plan to guide strategic development and infrastructure investment at national level.

The NPF with the National Development Plan also sets the context for each of Ireland’s three regional assemblies to develop their Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies taking account of and co-ordinating local authority County and City Development Plans in a manner that will ensure national, regional and local plans align.

The NPF recognises the importance of integration between land and marine planning (Chapter 7) and the many shared aims and overlapping areas of co-ordination and activity across the two regimes. The NPF contains 6 national planning objectives that are specific to the marine sector.

It will be important that the National Marine Planning Framework mutually recognises the importance of integration and co-ordination with the land planning regime at national, regional and local levels. In future it will be equally important in turn that national, regional and local terrestrial plans are consistent with the National Marine Planning Framework. Many activities and uses that take place on land or in the sea can have impacts on both the land and the maritime area. The MSP Directive requires that these interactions are considere

9. How can I take part?

Opportunities for public and stakeholder participation will be made available at a number of key milestones in the process.  Details on participation mechanisms will be publicised as they arise on this website, on Twitter, through direct contact with those on our mailing list, and via the networks of those on the Stakeholder Advisory Group.

If you wish to be added to our mailing list please forward your contact details to:


10. What will be the lifetime of the NMPF?

Part 5 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018 provides that the Minister shall carry out a review of the most recent NMPF not later than 6 years after its publication. Following the review s/he will either:

  • prepare and publish a new NMPF to replace the previous version, or
  • if s/he decides not to prepare and publish a new version then s/he will prepare and publish a statement setting out the reasons why s/he has decided not to do so.

11. Where can I find further information on MSP?

Links to relevant publications and documents are below:

If you have any further queries or wish to be added to our mailing list please contact: