A major uncertainty in models for photoionised outflows in AGN is the distance of the gas to the central black hole. We present the results of a massive multiwavelength monitoring campaign on the bright Seyfert 1 galaxy Mrk 509 to constrain the location of the outflow components dominating the soft X-ray band. Mrk 509 was monitored by XMM-Newton, Integral, Chandra, HST/COS and Swift in 2009. We have studied the response of the photoionised gas to the changes in the ionising flux produced by the central regions. We were able to put tight constraints on the variability of the absorbers from day to year time scales. This allowed us to develop a model for the time-dependent photoionisation in this source. We find that the more highly ionised gas producing most X-ray line opacity is at least 5 pc away from the core; upper limits to the distance of various absorbing components range between 20 pc up to a few kpc. The more lowly ionised gas producing most UV line opacity is at least 100 pc away from the nucleus. These results point to an origin of the dominant, slow (v<1000 km s−1) outflow components in the NLR or torus-region of Mrk 509. We find that while the kinetic luminosity of the outflow is small, the mass carried away is likely larger than the 0.5 Solar mass per year accreting onto the black hole. We also determined the chemical composition of the outflow as well as valuable constraints on the different emission regions. We find for instance that the resolved component of the Fe-K line originates from a region 40–1000 gravitational radii from the black hole, and that the soft excess is produced by Comptonisation in a warm (0.2–1 keV), optically thick (τ~ 10–20) corona near the inner part of the disk.