Catchment News

EPA Research Report 174: Recommendations for Preparing Maritime Spatial Plans in Ireland

The EPA has published the results of research by researchers at Dublin Institute of Technology:

“Towards an Integrated Policy Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning in Ireland: Recommendations for Preparing Maritime Spatial Plans in Ireland”

This report is available on the EPA wesbite.

EPA-funded research generates a scientific base to support environmental protection.  Projects are carefully targeted to deliver on three key areas: Identifying pressures; Informing policy and Developing solutions.

Identifying Pressures

The use of the Irish marine space is increasing. As maritime activities intensify, there is increased competition for use of space and potential conflicts with other objectives such as the protection of the marine environment. Addressing governance issues and resolving conflicts between different stakeholders are increasingly important. There is a need for a holistic vision and management to allow for the balance of social, economic and environmental interests and to ensure that maritime space and resources are used in a planned and sustainable manner. This report outlines a holistic vision and management to allow for the balance of social, economic and environmental interests and to ensure that maritime space and resources are used in a planned and sustainable manner.

Informing Policy

Maritime spatial planning (MSP) is a process by which state authorities analyse and organise human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. It is the subject to the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (2014/EC/89). The Directive has to be transposed by September 2016 and maritime spatial plans have to be in place by April 2021. There is a need adopt a coherent approach to the preparation of maritime spatial plans in an Irish context. The research outlined in this report will support policy implementation in this important area.

Developing Solutions

This research project seeks to develop a staged integrated approach for the preparation of maritime spatial plans in Ireland which will facilitate the management of maritime area in a sustainable manner. The staged approach ensures that a rational and consistent process is applied to the spatial plan-making processes. This approach facilitates a full understanding of the maritime environment and issues, allows for appropriate objective-setting and strategy development, provides a framework for drafting the plan and resolving conflicts, and allows for adoption and monitoring. As spatial planning is an on-going process within plan-making cycles, there is a review process which allows for revision and updating. Integration of plan-making, environmental assessment and consultation promotes broader acceptance by stakeholders, ensures a legally robust plan and effectively integrates environmental considerations and the ecosystem-based approach into plan preparation.



The EPA Research Programme wish to thank the following for their expert advice and input throughout the course of the project:  Dorothy Stewart, EPA, Shane O’Boyle, EPA (on secondment to EC), Alaine Clarke (Westmeath Co Co formerly Catchment Science and Management Unit, EPA), , Eugene Nixon, Marine Institute, Lorraine O’Donoghue, Marine Planning and Foreshore Section, DECLG and Padraic Dempsey, Marine Planning and Foreshore Section, DECLG.


Conor Norton, Jerry Barnes, Wesley Flannery, Deiric O’Broin, Cillian Adamson, Sybil Berne.

Principal Investigator:

Dr Conor Norton

Head of Environment and Planning/Assistant Head of School,

School of Transport Engineering, Environment and Planning,

Dublin Institute of Technology,

Bolton Street,

Dublin 1,

D01 K822,


Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.