Good practice for MSFD and terrestrial planning


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Country/administration specific guidelines on how MSFD considerations can be integrated into terrestrial (land use planning), covering all aspects of the planning process.

Sea Basin(s): 
Ongoing: expected to be complete Sept 2016
Application in MSP: 
Applied in a related process
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Ecosystem-based approach
Environment aspects
Land-sea interactions
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What impacts on the marine environment might arise from development on the land?
  • How can those involved in terrestrial planning ‘Marine Proof’ their activities to support Good Environmental Status of the sea?
  • Are there good practice examples of local planning authorities taking action to protect the marine environment?
  • What other sources of information are available that may help those involved in terrestrial planning that may be of assistance in this area?

Implementation Context

As appreciation of the intricate web of relationships between humans and the marine environment deepens, so too does our understanding of the complexity of impacts that human activity on land and in the sea is having on the dynamics of marine ecosystems. This is leading to a concern that the nature and level of human pressure is unsustainable and is causing significant deterioration in the health of our seas. In Europe, the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is a focus of new efforts to promote Good Environmental Status of European seas. The MSFD is part of the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy which calls for coordinated action on maritime planning and management and integration with terrestrial planning systems to enable harmonious and sustainable development of the land-sea continuum.

These guidelines aimed mainly at local planning authorities have been produced as part of the Celtic Seas Partnership project funded under the EU Life+ programme. The Celtic Seas Partnership has brought together marine stakeholders, governments and the scientific community within the Celtic Seas to find workable ways of supporting the implementation the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Understanding the MSFD’s and its GES ambitions; other important international legislation related to the marine environment; and key land – sea interactions.
  • Defining what can be done to ‘Marine Proof’ terrestrial planning in order to promote Good Environmental Status of the sea.
  • Ensuring those engaged in terrestrial planning in the Celtic Seas have access to resources that can help them play a part in delivering MSP objectives related to the marine environment.


The guidelines have been developed by the University of Liverpool as part of the wider Celtic Seas Partnership project which is led by WWF UK. The University of Liverpool team includes experts in terrestrial and marine planning, terrestrial and marine ecology, and environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment and they  have worked with stakeholders to produce the guidelines. This involvement has included inputs from attendees at:

  • Scientific Workshop – Liverpool, 2014
  • Marine and Coastal Policy Forum Workshop – Plymouth 2014
  • Celtic Seas Partnership Country Workshops - Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Dublin and Paris 2015/16
  • Irish Sea Maritime Forum MSFD Working Group – Belfast 2015

In addition the draft guidelines have benefitted from 2 rounds of stakeholder consultation.

Main Outputs / Results

A marine sensitive approach to terrestrial planning requires an appreciation of land – sea interactions and the guidelines include a pressure impact matrix highlighting the potential pressures on the MSFD Good Environmental Descriptors that might arise from development on land.

The guide explores what GES focused ‘Marine Proofing’ might involve for core aspects of terrestrial planning including development plans, development control and EIA and SEA and discusses possible actions to take at different points in the development process.

It also includes good practice examples, further sources of useful information and annexes providing more specific guidance for England, France, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


The guidelines have a focus on the Celtic Seas. However the central element of the guidance has been developed to be relevant to all European countries including those that are not members of the EU. The content may be of value to those involved in MSP as well as terrestrial planning authorities particularly those that cover coastal locations.

Responsible Entity

University of Liverpool

Costs / Funding Source

EU Life+

Contact Person

Name: Sue Kidd, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool


Phone: + 44 (0) 151 7943111