SIMCelt MSP Evaluation Report


This practice outlines the results of a report which was written as part of the SIMCelt project. The report examined the different approaches taken to evaluate MSP by MSP authorities working in the Celtic Seas and sought to identify areas of commonality.

Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Develop and implement plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How can the outcome of MSP be evaluated, to test the extent to which MSP is delivering effective solutions?
  • What methodologies or templates exist which can assist in the evaluation and monitoring of maritime spatial plans?
  • What different evaluation approaches have been taken by planning authorities in the Celtic Seas?

Implementation Context

In recent years there has been a move away from the more traditional approach of managing maritime activities on a sector-by-sector basis towards a more integrated approached which is offered by maritime spatial planning. As part of the MSP Directive’s (2014/89/EU) ‘full cycle approach’, maritime spatial plans should be reviewed and updated if necessary at least every 10 years. Evaluation is an important part of the MSP process, helping to ensure that plans remain effective and fit for purpose at the time of review and that the objectives of the plan are still being achieved.

Aspects / Objectives

Specific Objective: to examine approaches taken to the evaluation of MSP by MSP authorities
working in the Celtic Seas and to identify areas of common interest from which consensus may be built.

The report was written with the support of MSP authorities working in the Celtic Seas (including planning authorities from the UK, Northern Ireland and Wales) and highlights existing approaches to the evaluation of MSP. Its added value lies in the identification of the underpinning criteria and indicators of the approaches and the presentation of general principles for successful evaluation of MSP.  


The report builds on experience from past MSP projects (including TPEA and BalticSCOPE) as well as recently published academic literature, in order to identify common practice, general principles and evaluation frameworks. Unifying principles from all sources were then used to inform a general approach to develop tools which could be used by planning authorities in the Celtic Seas to evaluate their MSP.

MSP authorities from Wales and Northern Ireland contributed specifically to the development of these tools. Working with actual marine planners provided critical, timely, realistic and practically suitable information to inform the development of their approaches.

Feedback from marine planners in Northern Ireland led to the development of a tailored evaluation framework and an evaluation questionnaire for decision-makers. These tools may be adapted for use with other maritime spatial plans. Together with marine planners from Wales, a questionnaire for stakeholders was developed, which aimed to evaluate a specific chapter of the draft Welsh National Marine Plan.

Main Outputs / Results

Key Output: a report for the Steering Committee based on an analysis of approaches taken to the evaluation of MSP in the Celtic Seas and any conclusions drawn from the analysis.
The report provided a series of key recommendations:

•    Continue to develop evaluation approaches for the Celtic Seas project region in collaboration with marine authorities,
•    Clear objectives are needed,
•    Evaluation frameworks can be usefully adapted to the specific MSP context, enabling planners to tailor their evaluation approach,
•    Simple and easy tools for decision makers to routinely evaluate performance of the plan are needed (i.e. NI decision maker questionnaire tool),
•    Continue to collaborate with key stakeholders in the development of evaluation approaches as local and sector informed knowledge are crucial,
•    Evaluation approaches should be reflective of the resources available but should also be comprehensive and rigorous to enable learning and as part of an adaptive MSP cycle,
•    Key challenges/knowledge gaps remain including: land-sea interactions; Celtic Sea transboundary elements - a critical factor will be the extent to which the EA has been applied and how to evaluate this.

The report concluded that the results from the SIMCelt project should be revisited over the subsequent stages of MSP processes in the Celtic Seas, considering the fact that the evaluation of MSP is an iterative process. Evaluation can enable MSP processes to take advantage of new information that may contribute to the improvement of MSP as part of a cycle of adaptive management.


The approach has been developed in the regional context of the Celtic Seas. However, the developed criteria may also inspire the work in other regional contexts. The dedicated tools may also be useful in other contexts, such as the general framework and the questionnaire.

Responsible Entities

University of Liverpool

Costs / Funding Source

Cost: 1.811.520,00 EUR

SIMCelt Project: European Commission

Contact person

Dr Stephen Jay

Tel: + 44-151 794 3119