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PLA and RSPB Work in Ground Breaking Partnership

Steve Gilbert, Katherine Harris and Adam Holloway
Steve Gilbert (RSPB) and PLA environment manager Katherine Harris with Adam Holloway MP on the House of Commons Terrace

The Port of London Authority (PLA) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) are working together in the first ever river-wide partnership agreement signed between a port authority and the environmental charity.

The agreement was signed in Spring 2008 and the two organisations marked the results of their first year working together with a reception at the House of Commons today, Thursday, 2 July 2009.

The PLA has taken advice from the RSPB in its work to balance the differing uses of the tidal River Thames, a challenge the PLA has managed for the last 100 years. The river is home to the UK’s second biggest port, each year handling over 50 million tonnes. It also provides a diverse range of habitats supporting over 50 species of water-dependant birds, including 12 that are considered internationally important, and plays host to up to 300,000 over wintering birds each year.

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 to help produce the CMF. Now completed, the CMF provides the PLA with a comprehensive framework for managing all the wildlife-related aspects of its operations and landholdings along the river.

Waders in the Thames EstuaryThe PLA, which celebrates its centenary this year, has its main operational base in Gravesend - home to its London Port Control Centre. Local, Gravesham MP, Adam Holloway hosted the reception at the House of Commons. He said:

"The Thames is an amazing resource for London. Just take a look at the river at Gravesend and you get a snapshot of the uses it attracts. You’ll see large commercial ships, sailing barges, cruise ships, rowing boats, birds, fish and even seals. Making sure the river and its environment is fit to continue to support these uses is a challenge. That’s why this unique link up is so important. More than that, it signposts how others might tackle similar dilemmas in the future."

PLA chief executive, Richard Everitt, sees the agreement with the RSPB as part of the continuous improvement in its work to manage the tidal Thames. He said:

"The coast, estuaries and rivers are some of our most sensitive environments and also attractive to many different users. That is certainly the case for the Thames, where we have over 10,000 sea-going vessels a year passing inter-tidal areas important to wildlife, a growing commuter trade and extensive sporting pursuits. Over the last few months we have worked through the challenges of managing these differing interests with the RSPB. Their input, combined with the guidance contained in the Conservation Management Framework, will inform our thinking on how we tackle issues in the future.

"Some fifteen or twenty years ago you would have struggled to find a port authority working with an environmental group. Today there is recognition that working together, developing mutual understanding and seeking compromise is more effective than conflict. This is the start of a journey together with the RSPB. It may not always run smoothly, but we have established the foundations for debating and resolving conflicts of interest in Seal in the River Thamesthe future."

Chris Corrigan, RSPB regional director for London and South East England, added:

"The Thames is one of the most important areas for wildlife in Europe and our partnership with the PLA is a major step towards ensuring that it remains so. The Thames is a great example of how ports and wildlife conservation can, and, increasingly do, co-exist despite their differing aims.

"I believe that, as well as guiding work in the Thames, the RSPB’s partnership with the PLA offers a model that could be developed with other ports and may well have the potential to work in other areas where commerce and the natural environment live side by side."

The PLA and RSPB will be making the CMF available to anyone who is interested via the PLA’s website from 2 July 2009 - click here for more background information or here to view the CMF.


Corporate Affairs – 01474-562364 Paul Outhwaite – 01273 763607