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Environmental Legislative Context

Click on the image to enlargeThe PLA, as a statutory harbour authority, has environmental duties under the Harbours Act 1964, specifically to have regard to:

  • the conservation of the natural beauty of the countryside and of flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of interest;
  • the desirability of preserving for the public any freedom of access to places of natural beauty; and
  • the desirability of maintaining the availability to the public of any facility for visiting or inspecting any building, site or object of archaeological, architectural or historic interest.

The PLA must comply with these requirements when considering an application for River Works or Dredging under the Port of London Act 1968 and also in its own activities and functions.  Further details on the PLA’s regulatory functions can be found in the Port of London Act 1968.

The PLA is also a competent authority under the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.  It is therefore a requirement for the PLA to ensure continuing compliance with environmental legislation (including the relevant EC Directives) and to take the environment into account in its actions and decisions.

A list of the main pieces of environmental legislation relevant to the PLA’s regulatory role is given below:

1.   Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 consolidate all the amendments made to the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994 for England and Wales. 

These regulations implement the Habitats Directive (92/43/EC – on conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora) and Birds Directive (79/409/EC). 

The PLA, as a competent authority, has to have regard to the Regulations under Regulation 3(3).  The Habitats Directive established a network of conservation sites known as Natura 2000 to protect important habitats and species.  The Regulations (which encompass effects on Birds Directive sites) require an Appropriate Assessment of any plan or project that is considered likely to have a significant effect upon a Natura 2000 site (for example the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA).  In addition, the PLA, as a landowner, must comply with Regulation 19 before carrying out or permitting to be carried out potentially damaging operations (see below).

New provisions implement aspects of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, providing for the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to take on certain licensing functions from Natural England, and for Marine Enforcement Officers to be able to enforce certain offences under the Habitats Regulations.

2.   Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

The PLA is a section 28G authority under this Act which requires consultation with English Nature before any activities are carried out which are likely to damage a SSSI.  As a regulator the PLA must comply with section 28I, and as landowner, with section 28E.  In addition, there is a duty to conserve and enhance SSSIs.

3.   EIA Directive (97/11/EC)

The EIA Directive requires an Environmental Impact Assessment of certain projects. 

4.   Surface Waters (Dangerous Substances) (Classification) Regulations 1997 & 1998

The regulations set Environmental Quality Standards (EQSs) for estuarine and marine waters which must not be exceeded.  The PLA must take these EQSs into account when carrying out or licensing dredging operations

5.   Shellfish Waters Directive  (79/923/EC)

This Directive was established in 1979 but has apparently not been widely applied in member states.  The Directive establishes a list of parameters and standards for water quality and  Shellfish Waters have been designated in coastal/estuarial areas of the North Sea.  A large section of the PLA’s port area has been designated as Shellfish Waters (see below). 

6.   Water Framework Directive and implementing Regulations

In December 2003, the EC Water Framework Directive was transposed into national law by means of the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations, 2003.  These Regulations provide for the implementation process of the WFD from designation of all surface waters as water bodies to achieving good ecological status by 2015.  A River Basin Management Plan will be prepared for each water body and regulators (including the PLA) will have to comply with the RBMP when consenting activities.  

7. Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

The Marine Act established the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to manage the marine area around England, to undertake certain nature conservation licensing functions and to provide enforcement powers for Marine Enforcement Officers to investigate certain nature conservation offences in the marine area.

Regulation 56 gives the MMO responsibility for granting species licenses (as per Regulation 53(2)(a) to (d)) in England seaward of mean low water (Natural England continues landward of mean low water). 


PLA Port Limits and Environmental Designations in the Outer Thames Estuary. Action: click on link to enlarge.In addition to the Directives outlined above the Environmental Liability Directive is soon to be implemented.

Click on image to view figure of PLA Port Limits and Environment Designations in the Outer Thames Estuary.

Specific activities, such as oil spill response, are also controlled by legislation and other bodies also regulate environmental legislation, for example the Environment Agency regulates the Water Resources Act 1991.  A full list of the environmental legislation relevant to the PLA’s operations and activities will be released shortly. Other relevant legislation to the PLA’s activities can be found on the Safety Management Systems page.