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Environment FAQs

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Ecology FAQs

Ecology Poster

The PLA have created a poster demonstrating some of the ecological features of the Thames including wildlife, plants and habitats of national, European and international importance. The Ecology Poster can be found in the link here.

Conservation Management Framework

The PLA has produced a document called the Conservation Management Framework to assist with its management of nature conservation, as well as containing details of species found within the Thames the document contains details of sites and habitats found within the Thames. The Conservation Management Framework can be found here.

There are two types of seal found on the Thames - the Grey Seal and the Common Harbour Seal. Details of their differences can be found on the PLA's website here.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are running a marine mammal survey to help try and understand trends in marine mammals on the Thames including seals, more details can be found here (links to external site).

ZSL have also created a marine mammal code of conduct which describes what to do when you see a marine mammal.

Grey seals are most frequently seen between October to December. Grey seal pups are born between August and November.

Common Harbour Seals are most commonly seen between June and August. August is the time of harbour seal moult period, where seals spend a greater proportion of their time hauled out on sand banks.

More information can be found here.

Harbour Porpoises are most frequently seen between January and April.

Sightings can be reported here.

Black-tailed godwits prefer muddy estuaries where they feed on invertebrates. Breeding sites are found in the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA and Holehaven Creek.

Black-tailed godwits are seen in variable numbers on the Thames in winter, with less than 100 birds recorded on the Thames Estuary in some winters but more than 1,000 in other years.

More information can be found here and on our Thames Ecology Poster.

Red-throated diver have been recorded in the Outer Thames in waters less than 20m deep, mainly between December and February.

More details can be found in this report (external link) and on our Thames Ecology Poster.

There are many important areas within the Thames which have national, European and International designations.

More details can be found here.

An overview of the sites can be found here.

Pollution FAQs

The Thames is slowly getting cleaner as industrial and sewage treatment work discharges into the estuary have to meet more stringent requirements. Pollution incidents still do occur and the ecology is very sensitive to sudden changes. There are still some impacts on the river that we are not able to say have or can be reduced. There is still a lot of litter in the Thames being blown or washed in.

The high temperatures found in the estuary during some summers makes it very vulnerable to pollution that might reduce oxygen in the water.

Links

Environment Agency - Whats in my back yard?

Thames Litter Forum.

Thames Tideway Tunnel.

Oil spills should be reported to the PLA, and any response is coordinated following the PLA oil spill plan. The PLA runs a response fleet, maintaining capability on the river that is used to deal with large oil spills, under the Thames Oil Spill Clearance Association. Further information can be found here.

Please report sightings to Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) -

You can find more details about London VTS here.

  • Port Control Centre. (for matters to the east of Crayfordness)
    Phone: +44(0)1474 560311
  • Thames Barrier Navigation Centre. (for matters to the west of Crayfordness)
    Phone: +44(0)208 855 0315

Sewage is not permitted to be discharged from certain vessels; further details can be found here.

Thames Tideway Tunnel is a major new project to reduce the amount of sewage in the Thames. Further details on the Thames Tideway Tunnel can be found here.

Further details about waste management can be found on our Waste Management Plan page and on our supporting Thames 21 page.

Construction FAQs

All applications to the PLA for temporary works or river works or dredging will need to have gone through at least stage 1 (Screening) of the three stage WFD Assessment process.

General guidance on works in the river are provided on our River Thames Development and Works Enquiries page.

General guidance on works in the river are provided at:

Specific for construction methodology, environmental issues should have been taken into consideration during the design of the works and should be described in your application. This should include, but not be limited to:

  • Location of the works in relation to habitats and species.
  • Timing of the works.
  • Suitability of the materials for use in the aquatic environment.
  • How the work is to be carried out.
  • Any requirement to work on the foreshore.
  • Any works that may be carried out over the river.
  • Minimising impacts from construction and operation lighting.
  • Waste management.

To aid in our consideration of your application, please ensure that the documentation provided is specific to those areas of your work that are below Mean High Water or may affect the river, adjacent habitats or protected species.

General guidance on works in the river are provided at our River Thames Development and Works Enquiries page.

Environmental issues should have been taken into consideration during the design of the works and the issues and methods to remove or mitigate them should be described in your application. This should include, but not be limited to:

 

  • Location of the works in relation to habitats and species.
  • Timing of the works.
  • Suitability of the materials for use in the aquatic environment.
  • How the work is to be carried out.
  • Any requirement to work on the foreshore.
  • Any works that may be carried out over the river.
  • Minimising impacts from construction and operation lighting.
  • Waste management.
  • Use of the river for import/export of materials during construction and operation.

To aid in our consideration of your application, please ensure that the documentation provided is specific to those areas of your work that are below Mean High Water or may affect the river, adjacent habitats or protected species.

Piling can potentially impact on aquatic species. All piling should be designed to minimise impacts but this is particularly important during fish migration periods.

A pile driven by a hammer creates a loud noise, this transmits in air and can be detrimental to local residents. The sound also transmits as waves through the water, this can damage or disturbs fish, seals or porpoises. Pile driving can also disturb sediment on the foreshore.

There are a number of ways to minimise this impact. Soft start, and ramping up frequency and impact strength gives animals a chance to move away from the area, and is suitable for smaller projects.

Low tide working can also be considered by smaller projects as the acoustic impact is softened by travelling through the bed, rather than directly through the water.

Vibrational piling is the preferred method on the Thames for large projects, as it reduces the acoustic impact of piling. Drilled options providing the sediment is controlled, normally using a collar around the drill.

Any deliberate movement of the river requires consent under Section 73 of the Port of London Act. If you have any queries please contact the PLA's Environment Team.

A campshed is an area of riverbed made up to provide a horizontal platform for a barge to lie on at low tide. The PLA do not support the use of tyres to create campsheds.

Considerations for use of sandbags as campsheds would include, but not be limited to:

  • Securing the bags
  • Where the fill material comes from
  • Are the bags and fill material suitable for the proposed location?
  • Anticipated lifetime of the bags

By their nature, a campshed involves covering an expanse of intertidal habitat and items such as tyres are sterile and therefore do not provide any habitat creation benefits.

Creation of habitat should be considered in the design of any new campshed. To this end, appropriately designed timber grids should be considered in the first instance for new campsheds. The Harbour Master will also want to see consideration of how the proposed campshed will impact on navigation.

Dredging FAQs

A minimum period of three months is required to process applications, to enable the necessary environmental consultations required by the Maintenance Dredging Framework to be undertaken and to allow the subsequent grant of licences by the Licensing Committee of the PLA Board.Only in exceptional circumstances can the timescale for processing be reduced; in this case an additional charge to cover increased costs will be imposed on the applicant.

Licence applicants should be aware that in some circumstances separate statutory timescales may apply, which are outside of the PLA's control, i.e. the application of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) 2000.

More information on the dredging licence application procedure can be found here.

Fishing FAQs

Sea fish species can be caught all the way up to the Thames tidal flood barrier in Woolwich in South-East London, which is over fifty miles away from the North Sea proper. In fact certain species, such as the saltwater-resistant flounder and silver eels will venture even further up the river than this.

Further information on seafishing in the Thames can be found here.

It is entirely possible to fish along the Thames within the correct seasons, and with a rod licence, providing the land owner has given you permission. The Environment Agency are the best people to contact.

You will need to buy a fishing rod licence to fish for freshwater species along the Tidal Thames. More information of fishing licences for the Thames can be found here.

There are a many fishing clubs on the estuary. For example: Thames Angling Conservancy.

Sea Angling is also popular below the Thames Barrier, there are a number of boats that will take groups out onto the Thames in both Essex and Kent.

Other FAQs

Your local council deals with noise complaints and can be found via this link.

The London Port Health Authority also deal with noise complaints from activities on the Thames. See their website for further details on noise control.

There are number of sports that use the Thames, all the information is listed in the supported website www.boatingonthethames.co.uk.

From an environmental perspective it is important to us that all users treat the Thames respectfully, following three golden rules:

  1. Take your litter with you.
  2. Do not get too close to wildlife.
  3. Clean your kit before coming onto the Thames to avoid any alien species being transferred.

The PLA's environment team works to ensure that environment is considered in all of the PLA's activities, land holdings and area of jurisdiction as a Harbour Authority.

The team take steps to ensure construction or dredge works are appropriate for the estuary, of varying scales and locations. The team engages with stakeholders and works in partnerships to improve and sustain the estuary for the sustainability of the port and local economy.