From the 29th of June until the 28th of September, FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment organized a public consultation on the draft marine spatial plan for the Belgian Part of the North Sea for the period 2020-2026 (MSP) and on the strategic environmental assessment of the draft plan.
The Belgian part of the North Sea is one of the most heavily used marine areas in the world. Renewable energy, sand extraction, shipping, fishery, aquaculture, defense, nature conservation, scientific research and so much more are daily activities in an area which only occupies 0.5% of the total area of the North Sea. To harmonize this myriad of activities, clear agreements are needed between the different users of the North Sea.
This is exactly the aim of a maritime spatial plan. Since the world doesn’t stand still, a MSP is evaluated and revised every six year. The first Belgian MSP dates back to 2014 and will remain in effect until 2020. The second MSP will be in effect from 2020 until 2026.
Results of the public consultation
We received 145 remarks through the webform. These remarks were mainly from citizens (133), industry (3), interest groups (3) and government (3). Five people did not specify on behalf of whom they were submitting.
35.830 contributions were made in writing, of which 28.850 were through a petition organised by the municipality of Knokke, 4.622 through a template by the action group “Stop the Island” and 1.045 through a petition organized by the municipality of Koksijde. Through email, more than 15.000 contributions were received through a mail-in campaign organized by WWF and 62 by other instances and citizens.
The contributions and remarks were mainly focused around:
- Coastal defence and the possibility to build a test-island;
- Good environmental status and the rejection of fishery measures by the European Parliament;
- Zones for commercial and industrial activities.
Taking into account the different comments, the MSP was adapted and finalized. Some of the significant changes that were made, are:
- The royal decree no longer foresees a test-island;
- The zone for renewable energy “Fairybank” has been enlarged;
- The extension from 3 to 4.5 nautical miles for coast-fisheries is no longer foreseen;
- The notation of the coordinates has been adapted;
- It was determined that zone C of the zones for commercial and industrial activities is in an ecologically valuable area. For that reason, more stringent requirements are added for the use of the zone.
The MSP was signed by the King on 22 May 2019 and has been published in the Belgian Official Gazette on the second of July 2019. The MSP has entered into effect on the 20th of March 2020.
The following documents are available in English:
- The royal decree establishing the marine spatial plan for the period 2020 to 2026 in the maritime areas under the Belgian jurisdiction (non-binding translation);
- “Something is moving at sea… A marine spatial plan for 2020-2026”: a brochure explaining the new MSP (available soon).
We would be remiss if we would not offer our sincere gratitude to the many participants of the public consultation for their interest in our North Sea and for the many constructive contributions which we have received.