The county plan of the maritime area adjacent to Pärnu County was initiated with Order No. 441 of the Government of the Republic of 11.10.2012. In parallel with the compilation of the plan, a strategic environmental impact assessment (SEA) has been carried out, which was initiated with order No. 551 of Pärnu County Governor of 19.10.2012.
Impact on planning and decision-making
The Pärnu county (together with the Hiiuu county) plan is considered a pilot processes for developing the national MSP.
The plan was adopted in accordance with the Planning Act and is a legally binding county plan. It will stay in force after the new Planning Act is adopted. It will be included in the national plan for Estonian marine areas to be initiated in 2016.
The area under planning is the sea area adjacent to Pärnu with a size of 2,597 km (up to the outer border of the territorial waters). The plan will be compiled within the borders set while it was initiated by the Government of the Republic, involving only the maritime area. The area under planning is somewhat different from the maritime border set as the county boundary according to the information of the Land Board as of 2013.
Most of the Pärnu County sea plan area is located towards the coast from the baseline of the territorial sea, meaning that it is the internal sea. In the southern part of the area under planning there is an area of approx. 490 km2 (approx. 19% of the area under planning) in the shape of a triangle, which is the coastal sea or the territorial sea. The maritime area of Pärnu County does not include any areas of the exclusive economic zone. Neither does the current county plan involve any land areas, although it addresses several topics in a functional relationship with the coastal area
Part of the area of Pärnu Bay area pilot project was initially covered in the BaltSeaPlan project. This meant that by 2012, when the legal process for maritime spatial planning was initiated, the first steps of the planning process, i.e. stocktaking, conflict analysis and identification of future uses, were already done.
In 2012 the actual planning process started. In September 2015, the plan is ready for public discussions. The plan was adopted in April 2017.
The Pärnu Bay area maritime spatial plan, in comparison to the Hiiu island plan was developed in a very close cooperation with different stakeholders. Numerous meetings have been held in a time span of 2 years with representatives from fisheries, the energy sector, maritime transport and ports, environmental organizations and local communities. In addition to stakeholder meetings, the stakeholder involvement process was discussed in a steering group, which gave input to the country governor on planning solutions.
Objectives of the plan
The main objective of the plan is to define the long-term uses of the assigned marine area through a public process, taking into account the different economic, social, cultural and environmental interests and needs. More specific aims are set in the plan, such as the development of a port network, development of an electricity grid and the sustainable use of marine resources. The expected outcome of the spatial planning of the sea area is to avoid or minimise any conflicts between the activities currently going on and being planned on the sea and the use of the sea and the nature.
There are two different areas determined in the plan: general use areas and priority use areas.
General use areas are open for any use as long as it is in accordance with the law.
Priority use areas means that one use has a priority over other uses. Other uses are allowed as long as they do not interfere with the priority use.
Designated uses are:
- Sports boating
- Ecological reserves
- Offshore wind energy
- Dumping sites
Aquaculture is is restricted, but not prohibited in the Pärnu Bay area. Specific areas for aquaculture, however, are not designated.
According to the Estonian Planning Act, all plans, including maritime spatial plans, must be made public throughout the process. This means that the wider public as well as any stakeholder has the right to express their opinion about the plan in every phase of the planning process. In addition, compulsory public displays and discussions are held in different stages of the planning process.
In addition to compulsory public discussions, a great number of stakeholder meetings were also held throughout the planning process. The planning process was led by a steering board, which included members from different national authorities, different stakeholders (energy, fisheries) and local communities. More information on the public participation process can be found in the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment Report.
The SEA process was carried out as a transboundary process with Latvia. At the very beginning of the process, Latvia was informed of the planning process and the SEA. The SEA results and the plan were presented to Latvia after the planning proposal was drafted.