Analysis of the ICZM process in the United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom (UK) is a unique case, as the arrangements for the management of coastal areas throughout the UK are complex (Rupprecht Consult and International Ocean Institute, 2006). Over the years, the different administrations within the UK (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have taken ICZM policy forward individually, with their own solutions to their own diverse coastlines (see Defra, 2006a; DOENI, 2006; Scottish Executive, 2005). Due to this “historically rooted piecemeal development” of a complex system of legislation and regulation relating ICZM, the UK face a current lack of a strategic overarching national approach to their coastal zone (Rupprecht Consult and International Ocean Institute, 2006). The EU recommendation drove them to a ‘Report from the United Kingdom’ (see Defra, 2006b), wherein their experiences of implementing the EU recommendation are given. The report is mainly written on basis of two documents that play an outstanding role and describe the actual situation of ICZM in the whole UK. First, ‘ICZM in the UK: A Stocktake’ (Atkins, 2004), and second, ‘Safeguarding our seas – a strategy for the conservation and sustainable development of our marine environment’ (Defra, 2002). Overall, the ICZM strategy of the UK compares its activities with the principles mentioned in the EU recommendation. It reasons that the principles “local specificity, involvement of all parties and long term planning have been taken forward most successfully in coastal planning and management” (Atkins, 2004). The stocktake findings indicate that local ICZM works best, where clear conflicts have to be resolved. They also suggest that “not every inch of the UK coast needs ICZM to be set up” (Atkins, 2004). Nevertheless, for future development of ICZM in the UK, three main steps are proposed. First, the development of secure funding arrangements to support ICZM, second, the design of stronger leadership at all levels (national, regional, local) and third, the engagement of more stakeholders at all levels in the ICZM process. Roberts (2007) states that the ICZM strategy is not a strategy, but a consultation document. And further she presents that it “didn’t really say anything!” (ibid.). The current trend goes in a direction not to develop the strategy further, but to implement the ICZM principles in the new ‘UK Marine Bill’, where they should be local specific, and guidelines like.

Lessons learned concerning formal implementation

The UK has a complex system of legislation and regulation in place, which relates to ICZM. The different sectors and levels are not nested within a coherent structure and have a limited endorsement of issues related to the land-sea interface (Rupprecht Consult and International Ocean Institute, 2006). Furthermore, the UK faces a current lack of a strategic overarching national approach to their coastal zone (ibid.). For these reasons, the issue of formal implementation in the UK does not hold worthwhile lessons for the German ICZM process.

Lessons learned concerning responsibilities and tasks

The striking ICZM issues of the UK are forms and organisation of participation. It seems that participation of stakeholders and discussions with all of them is the most striking focus of all strategies. Atkins (2004) stresses that stakeholder participation and public discourse can be viewed as the main outcome of the ICZM process in the UK. Hence, there are various lessons learned concerning responsibilities and tasks, especially for the local level. Since lessons learned refer to both, positive and negative experiences (see Chapter 2.2.3), the following lesson is also based on both experiences. Coastal forums play an important role for the development of ICZM and its participation in the UK. A coastal forum is a permanent working group concerned with marine and coastal issues. The establishment of national coastal forums has tradition in the UK. As Atkins (2004) mentioned there are done various experiences with coastal forums around the UK. The greatest potency of these groups is an opportunity for networking, keeping up-to-date, exchanging information and raising issues for discussion. A less successful aspect is their ability to influence government policy and facilitate action on the ground (ibid.). Part of the reason can be found in the voluntary nature of forums and in its informal links with the development of policy. Another problem that occurred is the phenomenon of “consultation fatigue” (ibid.), because of the large number of initiatives running in the UK. However, in the absence of any statutory basis for ICZM processes at the local level, the driving force behind many ICZM initiatives has been a desire to tackle issues of local concern (ibid.). These are often dealt with by coastal forums and partnerships, which makes ICZM relevant to local people but also has encouraged the development of practical solutions. A form of early participation of stakeholders takes place in England and Northern Ireland. There, the preliminary ICZM strategies are provided with questions after each chapter concerning the quality of the text and vision behind it. People are called upon critical feedback. That is a very early state of participation in the ICZM process. It is asked for participation before a draft plan is prepared. The examples below are taken from the ICZM strategy of Northern Ireland (DOENI, 2006).

Figure 1: Selection of questions posed in the ICZM strategy of Northern Ireland showing a form of early participation of stakeholders (adapted from DOENI, 2006)


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The main author of this article is Tim Nandelstaedt
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Tim Nandelstaedt (2020): Analysis of the ICZM process in the United Kingdom. Available from [accessed on 23-07-2024]