South Marine Plans

The South Inshore and Offshore Marine Plans, produced by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), were created to make sure the right activities take place, in the right way, and in the right place.

This webpage is a simple introduction to the South Marine Plan, written by Dorset Coast Forum.

Introduction to the South Marine Plan

This short video is an introduction to the South Marine Plan, prepared as part of the MMO Enhancing Stakeholder Engagement project, produced by Dorset Coast Forum, Solent Forum and the Devon Maritime Forum and funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

What is the South Marine Plan?

The coast is a busy place. Lots of activities, both recreational and commercial, happen in this relatively small area between the beach and out to 12nm. The South Inshore Marine Plan covers this area, and the South Offshore Marine plan reaches from 12nm to the UK’s marine territorial border with France. The South Marine Plan provides marine and coastal users, and regulators, with the information they need to decide on what activities might take place where in the area.

The South Inshore and South Offshore Marine Plans have been combined into one document; The South Marine Plan. This plan covers the whole of the Dorset coast and beyond; to Dover to the East and the river Dart to the West. It applies national policies into a local context and aims to ensure that the decisions made consider the economic and environmental sustainability, and the impacts, of the activity. It also enables efficient use of space, highlighting the need and opportunities for co-existence in areas with high concentration of activity. It clarifies where co-existence is not appropriate, and where activities should be avoided.

The South Marine Plan has 12 main objectives, which have been summarised below, please refer to the Plan for the full descriptions.

  1. Co-existence: encouraging activities that can take place in the same space to do so where possible and to help resolve conflicts between activities
  2. Infrastructure: to encourage new buildings and structures on the coast that support marine and coastal activity, while also considering the impacts on the area
  3. Diversification: to encourage an appropriate range of activities that support coastal communities
  4. Employment & skills: to increase job opportunities for all skill levels in coastal communities
  5. Displacement: to avoid the loss of marine activities which are important to the local coastal communities
  6. Public access: to maintain and improve public access within, and to, the area
  7. Climate change: to take actions which help to prevent climate change and encourage adaptations that need to be made
  8. Heritage assets: to protect the areas and structures which are of importance to the area’s history and culture
  9. Seascape & landscape: to consider the importance and benefits received from the landscape and seascape
  10. Marine Protected Areas: to support designated areas which are protected by law for their wildlife, habitat and geological value
  11. Directives: to complement the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive by reducing marine litter, invasive species and underwater noise
  12. Natural environment: to protect and conserve the natural marine environment

How is the South Marine Plan relevant to me?

Local residents and regular visitors to the coast

  • It is useful to know that the South Marine Plan exists and that some of the key objectives are to protect the local environment and support local communities
  • Some may be interested to refer to the plans to understand what the marine licence application considers, which may allow them to comment when an application comes in that affects them

Marine users including those who take part in kayaking, recreational sailing, paddle boarding and other water sports

  • May be interested in referring to the plans to understand what the marine licence application considers, which may help you to comment when an application comes in that affects you
  • The Marine Plan looks to resolve conflicts between activities, therefore it may be useful in some circumstances

Coastal community groups, Dorset LEP, marine tourism & recreation businesses

  • The marine plan can be used to shape visions and strategies
  • The marine plan can also be used to support funding bids; however, this does not guarantee that funding will be granted
  • The Marine Plan looks to resolve conflicts between activities, therefore it may be useful in some circumstances
  • May need to apply for a permit, planning permission or marine licence at some point, in which case the South Marine Plan will need to be referred to. If you’re planning a project in the area between mean high water and low water, then both planning permission and a marine licence is required.

Ports, fishermen, sailing clubs, aquaculture farms

  • If you are looking to apply for a marine licence or planning permission along the coast, it is necessary to refer to the South Marine Plan. As part of the marine licence application, applicants are required to complete an assessment which shows that the project fits with the marine plan policies
  • The South Marine Plan has helped to shape Southern IFCA Byelaws, which many of you will be aware of

Local authorities, Southern IFCA

  • Decision makers on planning permissions will use the South Marine Plan in their decision-making process to support or oppose applications, as any applications below mean high water must be in accordance with the marine plans to be approved
  • Local authorities must also regard the Marine Plans in all decisions that could affect the marine environment, such as local plans
  • Southern IFCA use the South Marine plan to help shape their Byelaws
  • The MMO have a marine planning guide for local councils, which can be accessed here >

How do I use the South Marine Plan?

The first step is to refer to the South Marine Plan to decide which policies are relevant to you or your organisation. Then, these policies can be found in more details in the Technical Annex, such as: context to the policy, why the policy is important and how the policy will be implemented. Both of these documents can be found of the MMO’s website here > You can then use these policies to shape your plans and activities in the area.

The Explore Marine Plans > is a useful tool that complements the Marine Plan and breaks down the policies into categories such as ‘Aquaculture and Fishing’, ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Tourism and Recreation’. This can be useful to refer to if you’re looking to comment on a licence which is out for consultation.


Find out more

Explore Marine Plans

Find marine planning information for England >

For more information about applying for a marine licence

visit the MMO’s information page >

Stay up to date with the latest Marine Planning news

Sign up to the MMO’s marine planning newsletter >


Charlotte Stadden

South Coastal Planner | Marine Management Organisation (Charlotte covers from the River Dart, Devon to the River Hamble, Hampshire).

The Quay | Brixham | Devon | TQ5 8AW

07920 021126

Zia Fikardos

Marine Planner (South), Marine Planning Team (Zia covers from the Isle of Wight to Folkestone in Kent).