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The PLA's Statutory Responsibilities for Nature Conservation


As a harbour authority, regulator and landowner of much of the tidal Thames, the PLA must comply with numerous pieces of environmental legislation, government policy objectives and its own policy initiatives. These responsibilities are set out in The Environmental Responsibilities of the Port of London Authority (River Regime & Environment June 2007). Click here to view (pdf document - opens in a new window).

The table below summarises those statutory responsibilities that specifically relate to nature conservation.




Port of London Act 1968 Section 200 makes it an offence to cause or to allow pollution of the docks or the Thames
Harbours Act 1964

Section 48A – environmental duties of harbour authorities
“It shall be the duty of a harbour authority in formulating or considering any proposals relating to its functions or considering any proposals relating to its functions under any enactment to have regard to –

(a) the conservation of the natural beauty of the countryside and of flora, fauna ….

and to take into account any effect which the proposals may have on the natural beauty of the countryside, flora, fauna ….

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

The PLA is a so-called "Section 28G" authority for the purposes of this legislation

Section 28G - statutory undertakers etc general duty in relation to SSSIs
"…duty …to take reasonable steps [in exercising its functions] consistent with the proper exercise of the authority's functions to further the conservation and enhancement of the flora, fauna,…by reason of which the site is of special scientific interest".

Section 28H - requires consultation with Natural England before carrying out, in the exercise of its functions, operations likely to damage [features of] a SSSI, even if the operations would not take place on land included in a SSSI.

Section 28I - applies to the PLA as a regulator.
"Before permitting the carrying out of operations likely to damage …the [PLA] shall give notice of the proposed operation to Natural England". (A defined procedure for decision making is then set out by the legislation).

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006

Section 40 - Duty to conserve biodiversity
"Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity"
"Conserving biodiversity includes….restoring or enhancing a population or habitat".

See “Guidance for Public Authorities on Implementing the Biodiversity Duty” (Defra, 2007 - opens in a new window) 

Paragraph 25 at page 5 states: 
"In demonstrating that it has implemented its duty to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity, a public authority is likely to be able to show that it has:

  1. Identified and taken opportunities to integrate biodiversity considerations into all relevant service areas and functions, and ensured that biodiversity is protected and enhanced in line with current statutory obligations;
  2. Raised awareness of staff and managers with regard to biodiversity issues;
  3. Demonstrated a commitment and contribution to Biodiversity Action Plans, where appropriate;
  4. Demonstrated progress against key biodiversity indicators and targets.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 

These consolidate the 1994 Habitats Regulations and incorporate aspects of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 with regard to Marine Conservation Zones (see below).

The "Habitats Regulations" transpose the Directives into UK law.
Provide for the designation and management of Natura 2000 sites (Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation), and the conservation of species.
Set out a decision making process for plans and projects that are not necessary for the conservation management of such sites and are likely to have a significant effect thereon. This process includes the carrying out of a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA), also known as an Appropriate Assessment (AA). If it cannot be shown by the HRA that there will not be an adverse impact on the integrity of the site and if there are no alternative solutions, the proposal may proceed only if there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest, and with the provision of any compensatory habitat required to maintain the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network.

The PLA is a Competent Authority within the meaning of the Regulations, and by virtue of Reg. 3(3) must exercise its functions such as to comply with the Regulations. As a landowner, it must comply with Reg.19 (not to carry out or permit to be carried out any potentially damaging operations).

Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and implementing Regulations Requires the assessment of the environmental effects of projects that are likely to have significant effects on the environment, through the preparation by the developer of an Environmental Statement. The PLA may have a role as a developer, a consultee or as a regulator.

Water Framework Directive

Applies to surface and groundwater bodies and aims to put them into Good Ecological Status or (in the case of Artificial or Heavily Modified Water Bodies, which includes the Thames) Good Ecological Potential. The Directive requires the production of River Basin Management Plans setting out a programme of measures to achieve GES or GEP as appropriate. TEP and the PLA produced guidance on the implication from the directive.  Click here for more information from the Environment Agency (opens in a new window).
Marine Strategy Framework Directive Its objective is to achieve “Good environmental status in the marine environment by 2020”. Adopted in 2008 and transposed into UK law by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (see below).
Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

Creates the Marine Management Organisation with wide-ranging responsibilities. The Act also provides for the identification of Marine Conservation Zones, recommendations for which are currently being developed. 

The Merchant Shipping (Oil Pollution Preparedness, Response and
Co-operation Convention) Regulations 1998 (SI 1998 No 1056)
Statutory duty on harbour authorities relates specifically to responding to pollution from ships in their waters and on structures and land which they own.
Specifically, require harbour authorities to have a duty to prepare plans to clear oil spills from their harbour and for those plans to be compatible with the MCA National Contingency Plan.
The Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987 (SI 1987 No 37) Section 26 of the DSHA Regulations requires harbour authorities to prepare and keep up to date, after consulting the emergency services and any other body which appears to it to be appropriate, an effective emergency plan for dealing with emergencies which involve, affect or could affect dangerous substances that are brought into or are handled in the harbour or harbour area.  Port users and berth operators shall if requested by the harbour authority co-operate with the harbour authority in preparing its plan.
The Dangerous Vessels Act 1985 The MCA National Contingency Plan requires harbour authorities to “hold contingency plans to deal with the threat posed by dangerous vessels when admitted to, or directed to leave the port”.  The plans should cover the threat of marine pollution from such vessels which may sink or flounder in the harbour, thereby preventing or seriously prejudicing the use of the harbour by other vessels.

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