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Water Framework Directive


A commercial ferry passes a Thames fishing vesselThe Water Framework Directive (WFD) introduces a new, integrated approach to water protection, improvement and sustainable use. Unlike the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, which apply only to designated sites, it applies to all water bodies including thosethat are man-made. On the tidal Thames, the WFD will apply not only to the estuary itself right out to the southern North Sea, but also to the tributaries, docks and waterways etc.

The WFD is widely referred to as the most important and far-reaching legislation ever to come out of the EU. It is ambitious in both its scope and its timetable. It may have some significant implications for navigation, port and harbour activities, and dredging.

The WFD introduces a new statutory system of river basin management plans. These plans will provide the mechanism for the future management of both water use and of activities affecting water status.

Water Framework Directive and the Thames

The Environment Agency (EA) has divided the country into River Basin Districts. The Thames River Basin District (RBD) covers the freshwater and tidal Thames and its tributaries. The EA will be producing a management plan for each RBD, with the help of a panel of representatives from the key regulators, industries, activities and interests in the RBD. The PLA is representing ports on the Thames River Basin Liaison Panel (RBLP). Other panel members include representatives from boat users, water companies, fisheries and farming in addition to the regulatory representatives.

The Panel will meet regularly to decide what are the significant issues affecting the Thames and what measures may be necessary to manage these issues. RBLP members must liaise with their sectors and feed back views and ideas into the planning process. The PLA has taken a wide interpretation of those port interests that it represents, including the following:

  • All operators and terminals in the Port of London
  • British Marine Aggregates Producers Association
  • British Ports Authority
  • Chamber of Shipping
  • Company of Watermen and Lightermen
  • Energy Institute (Essex and East Anglia Branch)
  • London Port Health Authority
  • London Ship Owners and River Users Society
  • Medway Ports
  • River Asociation for Freight and Transport
  • Trinity House
  • United Kingdon Hydrographic Office
  • United Kingdom Major Ports Group (ABP, Port of Tilbury [London] Ltd, London Gateway)

Further information on current issues, to view the latest Thames RBD Newsletter and meeting papers are available on the Environment Agency's Website (follow the links to "Find out about your river basin district" and "Thames River Basin District"). Click here to download the EA publication "Thames River Basin Planning: Working Together" leaflet (pdf file - 172 kb) which has more information about the work of the RBLP.