The evolution of coastal and marine spatial planning has been a crucial step in managing the use of these areas. In Malta, the discipline is still relatively young, particularly in relation to the island's marine territory. Malta's Strategic Plan for the Environment and Development (SPED) advocates for the sustainable management of Malta's coastal and marine zones. As the national strategic plan, it is also Malta's first Maritime Spatial Plan (MSP).
The coast is Malta's most sought-after area, with the greatest diversity of uses, including residential, recreational, industrial, infrastructural, touristic and aquacultural. Above all, it is home to the country's richest biodiversity. In 2015, although different plans and regulations covered environmental protection and specific economic sectors, Malta's coastal zone and marine area were not covered by an adequate planning policy.
This led to conflicts because coastal space was being consumed by existing and new types of uses that at times threatened to cause the displacement of people and lead to environmental impacts. In the absence of any strategic direction for the future use of Malta's coastal zone and marine area, uncertainties remained for investors, decision-makers and all existing users of such spaces.
The SPED provides direction to ensure that coastal and marine development is in line with the relevant environmental objectives andprotectsthe public's use of the coast and sea. It also stipulates that swimming zones, diving sites and other coastal recreational areas cannot be displaced by other uses.
Since the SPED covers a marine area of up to 25 nautical miles, the Planning Authority (PA) works with other authorities to coordinate actions for maritime spatial planning. The Marine Spatial Planning Technical Committee is chaired by the PA and includes representatives from the Continental Shelf Department, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Environment and Resources Authority and Transport Malta.
Through the current SPED, Malta has consolidated its approach to spatial planning, acknowledging that future visions for its marine space are interdependent with its ambitions on land.
As the SPED review begins, Malta will analyse land-sea interactions with the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan's Priority Actions Program Regional Activity Centre. This step is expected to highlight issues on governance and data for the MSP, which are being tackled through participation in the EU-funded project MSP-MED.