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A flood of space: Towards a spatial structure plan for sustainable management of the North Sea


This book is a reflection of the spatial-analytical and design aspects of the GAUFRE report “Towards a Spatial Structure Plan for Sustainable Management of the Sea”.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What science and information is available to inform MSP in Belgium?
  • What are the recommendations arising from the GAUFRE project for MSP?
  • What issues are to be considered in MSP in Belgium?

Implementation Context

GAUFRE brought together four partners to introduce a first proposal for optimal space use planning for the Belgian part of the North Sea. The project involved three research teams of the University of Gent (the Maritime Institute, the Center for Marine Geology and the Section of Marine Biology) that cooperated during 2003 and 2004, together with the private company Ecolas nv. The GAUFRE-project fits within the framework of the Mixed Actions of the SPSD-II research action of the Belgian Science Policy.

The scope of the project goes beyond the mere result of a framework for optimal space use planning. It is also aiming at a specific methodology in which both interdisciplinarity, multi-functionality as well as public participation are dealt with. The first proposal for a space use plan is meant to be discussed within a societal debate with scientists, users, policy makers, and the public.


Aspects / Objectives

  • Synthesise the scientific knowledge about the use and the possible impact of different activities in the Belgian part of the North Sea.
  • Develop a spatial structure plan of the Belgian part of the North Sea.
  • Identify issues of conflict and measures for resolution.
  • Provide guidance for the subsequent development of MSP in Belgium.


The major focus was on the development of a specific methodology for spatial planning at sea with emphasis on interdisciplinary and public participation. In the course of the project, two workshops were organised – one involved international experts and another dealt with stakeholders that are directly involved as actors in the process (both policymakers and the public).

Main Outputs / Results


The report is available online and provides a general description of the study area, six scenarios and a vision for the sea. The book is very rich in easy to read maps and visuals.  Report available at:…



The project focussed on the Belgian area of the North Sea and however, information will also be relevant to other North Sea countries.

Contact Person

Prof. dr. Frank Maes

Faculty of Law,  Ghent University, Department of European, Public and International Law (EPIL) - Maritime Institute



Responsible Entity

University of Gent