Marine Spatial Planning in the UK: A Review of the Progress and Effectiveness of the Plans and their Policies

Anne-Michelle Slater*, Jim Claydon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Ten years after the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 that introduced marine planning to UK, this article investigates the progress and effectiveness of marine plans. It identifies that initial plans are still being produced in parts of the UK. Scotland has led the way with a National Marine Plan that has already been reviewed. England’s approach has been to produce a sequence of regional plans with two adopted. Wales adopted its National Marine Plan in November 2019 and Northern Ireland’s national marine plans are under preparation. The article examines the effectiveness of the plans through a framework informed by implementation theory assuming that plan-making indicates a ‘top-down’ approach to policy. The plans and their policies are assessed to draw reflections on the soundness of the documents. Marine licensing decisions are considered to assess the extent to which they reflect adopted policies. Limited evidence of the explicit influence of policies in those decisions was established. The findings were supplemented by interviews with key actors including applicants. This revealed a culture of conciliation and cooperation among decision-makers. Analysis and reflection led to positive and challenging conclusions for the future development of marine plan-making in the UK and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-107
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Decision-making
  • Implementation
  • Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
  • Marine Plans
  • marine policy
  • UK
  • Devolved nations
  • marine plans
  • implementation
  • UK and devolved nations


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