Marine Planning for Sustainability: The role of the Ecosystem Approach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Sustainable development is at the core of planning law. However, sustainable development is a ubiquitous concept, with multiple definitions which lead to different planning outcomes. Narrowly understood, sustainable development consists in a trade-off between separate spheres (economy, environment, society). Understood more widely, sustainable development is a process of integration and openness to plural views and values. When sustainable development is conceptualised narrowly, the risk is that environmental and economic considerations are subject to a cost-benefit analysis which may lead to planning for growth. Which of these two visions of sustainable development is present in marine spatial planning? Marine spatial planning has emerged around the world as a key process for addressing sustainability challenges, following an ecosystem based approach. The ecosystem approach, as defined in international law, points to holistic and integrated management of interconnected social-ecological systems and emphasises procedural inclusiveness too. Hence, it has the potential to foster a wide understanding of sustainability. The extent to which this is reflected in domestic settings is considered in this chapter. Focusing on English marine spatial planning, the xxxii Executive summaries chapter discusses how the ecosystem approach has been conceptualised in selected marine planning documents and what vision of sustainable marine planning it contributes to. The conclusion is that the ecosystem approach, as defined in English marine policy documents, falls short of contributing to a wide vision of sustainability because it is either defined narrowly on environmental terms only and divorced from social considerations, or because it is linked to economic issues and a growth-oriented planning agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTaking Planning Law Seriously
Subtitle of host publicationNew Research in English Planning Law
EditorsMaria Lee, Carolyn Abbott
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherUCL Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-80008-288-5, 978-1-80008-291-5
ISBN (Print)978-1-80008-290-8, 978-1-80008-289-2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2022


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