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PLA & RSPB Partnership

Photo by Andy WallaceBackground information

The tidal River Thames is home to the UK's second biggest port, each year handling over 50 million tonnes, carrying more than 10,000 large sea-going ships, and supporting more than 45,000 jobs.  It also has a diverse marine habitat supporting over 50 species of water-dependant birds, including 12 that are considered internationally important.  The Port of London Authority (PLA) has worked to balance these differing demands for the last 100 years. In the latest move to continue taking this important work forward it is working in partnership with leading conservation organisation, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

About the partnership

The partnership agreement was signed in Spring 2008.  It is the first river-wide agreement between the RSPB and a port authority and provides a platform for the two organisations to improve the mutual understanding of their respective organisations, aims, objectives and challenges.

Working with the PLA, the RSPB brought its experience to bear on the diverse environment of the tidal Thames, which plays host to up to 300,000 over wintering birds each year and more than 120 different species of fish.  It also has:

  • Eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Three Special Protection Areas
  • One Special Area of Conservation
  • Three Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance)

The initial focus of the agreement was for the RSPB to help the PLA in developing its emerging Conservation Management Framework (CMF).

RSPB South East Conservation Programme Manager, Steve Gilbert, was seconded to the PLA for more than six months to help produce the CMF and look at how  these special habitats should best be managed. He has now returned in early 2011 to review the Framework.

Covering all 95 miles of the PLA's jurisdiction from Teddington Lock to the North Sea, the CMF provides the PLA with a comprehensive framework for managing its operations and landholdings along the river.  It includes:

  • An overview of the PLA's statutory responsibilities for nature conservation.
  • An audit of the biodiversity resources within the PLA’s area of jurisdiction, including specially designated sites.
  • An assessment of how PLA operations can both positively and negatively affect biodiversity, in normal operation and during emergencies (such as an oil spill).
  • Guidance and procedures to help the PLA to conserve and enhance biodiversity within its area of jurisdiction.

The CMF will underpin the PLA’s compliance with relevant conservation legislation which is overseen by Natural England.  For each of the designated sites it provides:

  • an overview of the conservation objectives
  • a summary of the site condition assessment
  • a description of any actions that the PLA proposes to take in the management of the site 

The Framework builds on the PLA’s established environmental work, which includes providing advice and guidance to other river users on the management of some of the UK’s most important and sensitive wildlife sites.  It will complement the existing data sharing systems run by the PLA that guide river users on the environmental impacts of development and dredging.

The PLA and RSPB plan to continue their partnership working in areas including the Thames Estuary Partnership's Dredging Liaison Group.

About the Port of London Authority

  • The Port of London Authority (PLA) is responsible for navigational safety and related matters on 95 miles of the tidal Thames from the sea to Teddington in west London
  • The PLA provides navigational, pilotage and other services for users of the Thames
  • London is the UK's second largest port, handling over 50 million tonnes of cargo each year.
  • London also has a busy passenger boat trade for tourists and commuters and is a popular destination for international passenger cruise ships.
  • The tidal Thames is also used widely by those with small recreational craft of many types.