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Maintenance Dredging Framework

In 2003 the PLA published the Maintenance Dredging Framework for the Thames in partnership with members of the Dredging Liaison Group. This Framework provides for the coordinated assessment and management of dredging operations on the tidal Thames and includes the consideration of any likely impacts on designated conservation sites. The PLA needs to ensure there is a balance between meeting its responsibilities under environmental regulations and allowing the Port of London to function in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

A strategic framework- the Maintenance Dredging Framework, has been set up to guide decisions on maintenance dredging and ensure sustainability. This framework formalises the PLA’s commitment to environmental self-regulation and also incorporates the Thames Estuary Partnership and other members of the Dredging Liaison Group.

The ‘Maintenance Dredging Framework’ comprises an ongoing and continually evolving collection of initiatives:

  • geographic information system;
  • environmental impact assessment and appraisal procedures;
  • a beneficial uses register;
  • information for berth owners and operators;
  • consultation mechanisms;
  • data collection and monitoring; and
  • collaborative research.

An important consideration in developing this framework was the need to understand the estuary at a strategic (i.e. ‘whole estuary’) level, and to make decisions in full awareness of strategic as well as site-specific issues. The components of the framework will help to ensure that the PLA is aware of such issues and is able to take them into account.

As part of this framework, the PLA encourages improved forward planning along with an explanation and justification for maintenance dredging campaigns wherever this is practical. This is particularly relevant in the case of berths that are dredged regularly (sometimes several times each year). The decision-making framework enables many of the potential environmental issues associated with maintenance dredging to be identified and resolved well in advance of dredging taking place. However, it must also be recognised that either storm events (e.g. moving sediments into the navigation channel) or certain operational requirements (e.g. the need to dredge a berth which is only used infrequently) will continue to lead to situations in which dredging needs to be undertaken more quickly. Therefore, the framework has to be able to cope with such situations equally well.

In 2003, the framework was published into a brochure to describes the regulatory framework for maintenance dredging within the Port of London. This brochure can be downloaded here.

2021 Update to Maintenance Dredging Framework

Since the initial framework was published in 2003, there have been several changes to legislation and the licensing of dredging in the tidal Thames, therefore the framework has been revised in 2021 to reflect these changes. These include the introduction of marine works consenting by the MMO under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the designation of number of protected sites along the Thames Estuary, including the Swanscombe Marine Conservation Zone, and the PLA’s work to streamline the dredge licensing process under Section 73 of the Port of London Act 1968 (as amended).

Further detail on the update to the Maintenance Dredging Framework can be found here [EM1].

Page last updated: December 2022

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