Proposed Framework Directive on Marine Spatial Planning & Integrated Coastal Management

The European Commission proposed an MSP & ICM Directive in March 2013. Since then is has been the subject of discussion in committees of the European Parliament and Council; both of whom have to agree for the Directive to go ahead.  The European Council has recently adopted a version of the proposed Directive which has ICM struck out. A third version of the Directive still including ICM in a weakened form, goes to the European Parliament’s Plenary session this Thursday –  12th December.

The Plenary session in Parliament offers the opportunity for MEPs to vote decisively on what kind of Directive to take forward into negotiation with the European Council.  As it stands, they will be voting on a Directive that does not include clear, unambiguous reference to, or support for, ICM. 

There are strong economic, social and environmental drivers to better manage our marine and coastal resources together.  Coastal regions are tremendously important for Europe’s economy – approximately 40% of the EU’s GDP is generated in these regions and a staggering 75% of the volume of the EU’s foreign trade is conducted by sea. [1].  The opportunities and challenges we are facing across land and sea are inextricably linked.  The needs of economic development must be managed alongside the protection of the very resources that support coastal economies and the well-being of coastal communities – particularly pertinent given approximately 40% of the EU’s population lives within 50km of the sea[2].

The provisions in the Directive for Integrated Coastal Management are being significantly weakened due to ill-founded concerns over their unintended consequences upon Member States’ terrestrial planning. 

Some parties resolutely believe that ICM is a spatial planning tool; however this is not the case. The 2002 Recommendation on ICZM (link here) states ‘An integrated coastal zone management approach involves multiple factors among which town and country planning and land use are only accessorily concerned.’

ICM supports the principle of subsidiarity and without the inclusion of ICM in this Directive; the provisions for MSP will be much weaker.

The UK is seen as a leader in ICM in Europe but even here, without statutory backing, no-one has responsibility for taking it forward.  Much has been achieved by the chiefly voluntary approach on the ground by local coastal partnerships, but it is generally on an ad hoc short term basis. Statutory underpinning would provide long term stability with long term benefits.

CPN strongly believe that there is a way of including the requirement for Member States to produce ICM plans or strategies without interfering with Member States’ competences on terrestrial planning. It proved possible through the Water Framework Directive, to implement a system of River Basin Management Planning with public involvement and a supporting Programme of Measures. The same should be true for ICM plans or strategies. The key here is to properly separate out ICM from maritime or terrestrial spatial planning. It is neither, although it should involve both as part of the ‘combination of instruments’ set out in the 2002 Recommendation.

Some 20 years of experience in ICM across Europe is beneficial for new progress in MSP.  If we don’t resolve Member States commitment to ICM in this Directive, there will be improper planning and management of the coast alongside new marine planning.  Lack of co-ordination is of no benefit to industry, the environment or society. If an MSP Directive was to proceed without ICM, the EC may have to propose an alternative route to strengthen ICM in the future, which would mean costly delays. 

To contact a Member of the European Parliament see:


[1] Balancing the future of Europe’s coasts. European Environment Agency report No 12/2013

[2] Balancing the future of Europe’s coasts. European Environment Agency report No 12/2013

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