Conservationists raise concerns over first plans for development of the seas

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ENGLAND’S first-ever plans for the future development of the seas have been unveiled – and raised immediate concerns from conservationists they could pose a danger to marine eco-systems.

The plans are being published in stages, with the first covering the east coast from Flamborough Head in Yorkshire to Felixstowe in Suffolk, and set the template for decisions on development in marine and coastal areas.

The Government believes the blueprints will help reduce costs by increasing certainty for developers and help to boost economic prospects for coastal communities, while still conserving the environment. The main marine industries that impact on the seas are fishing, offshore wind, oil and gas, shipping, ports and aggregates.

Environment Secretary Owen Patterson said: “We are making sure that environmental considerations are embedded in every decision about proposed developments along the coast from Flamborough Head to Felixstowe and in our seas out to the maritime borders with the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

“By 2021, marine plans will cover the entire English marine area, supporting an estimated £50m of economic benefit each year and helping to promote sustainable development of the marine area.”

James Cross, chief executive of the Marine Management Organisation which drew up the plans, added: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of sustainable marine development, cutting red tape for developers while taking full account of social and environmental impacts.”

But the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said there was too much emphasis on growth.

Senior planning officer Melissa Moore said: “One hundred years on from the introduction of land-use planning, we at last have marine planning too. However, we’re concerned the East Marine Plan provides a presumption in favour of development in virtually every sector, when its original aim was to consider our seas as eco-systems that must be planned and managed to prevent over-exploitation.”