2016 Seminars - Re-interpreting the ‘Spatial’ in Marine Spatial Planning
13.10.2016 - 14.10.2016
University of Liverpool - Liverpool



Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) tends to assume a physically-deterministic understanding of spatiality, by which MSP aims to allocate or steer maritime activities and interests to clearly-defined areas. Indeed, introducing a stronger spatial dimension of this kind is reckoned to be the special contribution of MSP to marine governance. However, it is also acknowledged that the marine environment and maritime activities are not always amenable to being treated like this, given the dynamism of the sea and the mobility of many activities. New thinking is needed that will underpin innovative approaches to MSP.

This calls for a reappraisal of the ‘spatial’ in MSP, and suggests that new understandings of the spatiality of the sea may help us to develop planning practices that are more in keeping with marine realities.

Spatiality is currently undergoing radical overhaul in related fields of study, especially human geography; new ideas are also filtering through to terrestrial planning. This line of thought is offering a ‘relational’ view of space, with emphasis on the construction of space through connections, which may be: social, physical or institutional; between elements that are human or non-human; across different scales and time periods; and dynamic and evolving. Marine geographers are drawing out the synergies between these interpretations of space and the natural and social dimensions of the sea.

Expanding our understanding of spatiality also opens up issues of social and political interaction and raises questions about the power relations being exercised in MSP and the differential outcomes of MSP processes.

This seminar will explore the relevance of these perspectives for MSP and the potential for developing innovative approaches to MSP that are more responsive to the sea’s characteristics and that can contribute to more socially-aware outcomes.


The seminar will be based on a number of key texts giving insights into:

  • The sea’s challenges for MSP
  • The roots of relational understandings of space
  • Planning’s uptake of relational understandings of space
  • Current developments in marine geography

Participants will be asked to reflect on the texts beforehand (approx. 15 pages in total) and give a short presentation of their observations at the seminar. This will also be an opportunity to present briefly their own area of work.

The participants will have a range of backgrounds, including natural and social science, and will include MSP practitioners; the presentations will demonstrate a variety of insights and areas of interest.

There will also be a series of inside insights from the sea, provisionally:

  • The sea-ness of the sea
  • The life of a (mystery) marine organism
  • A-living on the waves

There will be opportunity for people to take part at a distance via video-link, including the possibility of making a presentation alongside the ‘residential’ participants.

The seminar will remain open to possibilities for creative exchange between participants through, for example:

  • Sub-groups discussing issues of mutual interest emerging from the presentations
  • Working towards methods of relational MSP
  • Exploring ongoing collaboration

The key texts and detailed programme will be circulated in due course.

Time and Place

The seminar will take place at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom ( at the Foresight Centre (building 359, square C10, on the campus map

It will run from the morning of Thursday 13th to early afternoon Friday 14th May, 2016.

Travel etc Arrangements

There are good transport links to Liverpool, including:

  • Rail services from London (Euston station) and other UK cities
  • Eurostar trains from Paris and Brussels to London, then connecting trains to Liverpool
  • Flights to Liverpool John Lennon airport, with bus services to the city centre
  • Flights to Manchester airport, with a direct train service to Liverpool

Reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed.

Accommodation will be provided for residential participants.

Liverpool is a city well worth visiting, for those able to extend their stay beyond the seminar!

Taking Part

The seminar will be a small-scale event to allow maximum interaction between participants. Participation is by invitation, though everyone interested is encouraged to come forward, whether you would like to take part in person or from a distance (for a shorter or longer period of time)!

There is no charge for participating in the seminar.

Please contact Stephen Jay and Charlotte Billingham for more information and/or to express your interest (;


University of Liverpool   -   Website


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