In July 2018 the government finally approved the draft South Marine Plan (SMP) on which The Solent Protection Society (SPS) and many others had commented in early 2017 and which was covered in last year’s newsletter.
With the final plan, the Marine Management Organisation also published a Modifications report, setting out the changes that had been made in the light of the comments made.
Overall, as expected, there has been no significant change to the 12 main objectives or the 50+ individual policies. There has, however, been a change in emphasis or clarification on about 20 of the policies and on 7 of the general principles such as the Vision and the relationship to land based plans.
Eighty one organisations or individuals commented, generating over 1500 comments. Of these 81 organisations, some 50% came from 21 local authorities, 12 Ports and Shipping and 9 NGOs. We assume SPS was counted as an NGO but no breakdown is given.
We were asked to agree, or agree with comment, or disagree, with the 75 questions asked about the objectives and policies. Overall the percentage of respondents answering yes, no or no comment showed 58% agreed, 18% agreed subject to comment, 6% disagreed and 18 % gave no response.
In SPS’s case we agreed with 43% of the policies and commented on 57%. We did not disagree with any, nor did we not respond to any question.
This perhaps reflects the fact SPS has a broad range of interests in the SMP area, whereas many organisations are from a particular sector and focus. For example, referring to the second reference below, it is not clear exactly what the pie chart is showing… is it the % of respondents or the % of questions answered in a particular way. So did we have any influence?
It is difficult to say as there is no direct correlation and the modifications report does not show the exact changes to wording on each policy. This requires a detailed-reading of the final Plan itself and the Technical Annex.
We had sought to make the vision more relevant to the Solent area and while supporting aquaculture we did not want a free for all. In both cases there have been changes of emphasis.
Other policies on which we may have helped to get a change in emphasis related to land based infrastructure, support for small scale marine industries, litter prevention, bio diversity and water quality.
The South Marine Plan is now an important consideration for both Marine Licence applications and land-based planning applications on the coastline of the UK. Any application must be judged against the policies in the plan and if it cannot comply fully, must demonstrate how it mitigates the impact. If this is insufficient then it is likely to be refused.
Judgement on Marine Licence applications falls to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in consultation with various statutory bodies and government departments. The public can also comment, although the process of finding out about applications is not as easy as it should be.
Within its area of concern SPS now monitors all applications monthly and more information can be found elsewhere on this site.
The South Marine Plan can be found at this link.
The Modifications report can be viewed by selecting this link.