Guidance Note 1: The licence application procedure
Table of contents
Before any dredging work is undertaken on the tidal Thames it is a statutory requirement that a licence for such works is granted under Section 73 of the Port of London Act 1968 (as amended). Section 73 relates to the control of dredging works. Dredging works are defined as including any operation to cleanse, scour, cut, deepen, widen, dredge or take up or remove material from the bed and banks of the Thames. Bed levelling, ploughing and hydrodynamic dredging fall within this definition.
Landowner consent will be required before dredging is undertaken. For much of the tidal Thames the PLA is the landowner, although there are several areas where the landowner is the Crown Estate. A Marine licence may also be required under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (MCAA). Marine licences are issued by the Marine Management Organisation.
The initial contact in respect of an application to undertake dredging should be made formally through the PLA’s Department of Planning and Environment (telephone: 01474 562 588) who will issue a Form 215: Application to undertake dredging in the Thames.
An application fee is payable, dependent on the location and scale of the dredge, and comprises a fee to cover the cost of the administrative processing of the application. Details of the fee payable can be obtained from the PLA’s website.
Before an application for a dredging licence can be considered, the PLA will require the applicant to submit the following information to enable both the completion of an assessment of the licence and the undertaking of an environmental review:
- Completed application Form 215;
- A recent hydrographic survey with the proposed dredge area clearly marked.
- Detailed dredging method statement (to be produced by the dredging operator);
- Results of sediment quality analysis undertaken within the last two years (you should contact the PLA Environment Manager in advance for advice on the number of samples required, sample locations and the parameters to be tested for);
- Description of the hydrodynamic characteristics of the river in the vicinity of the proposed works;
- Details of any potential effects on nearby sites designated for nature conservation interest and on nearby berths.
- Completed Water Framework Screening Assessment (please see clearing the waters guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/complying-with-the-water-framework-directive-marine-dredging )
The review of an application will require consideration of possible water quality, fisheries, archaeology, recreation, local community, navigation issues and in combination effects. Applicants may be requested to provide information on some or all of these characteristics (refer to Guidance Note 3 for further details).
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 (refer to Guidance Note 3).
Dredging licence applications are subject to consultation between relevant PLA officers on navigation, river regime and environment. Furthermore, where considered necessary under the terms of the PLA’s Maintenance Dredging Framework, consultation may also be undertaken with other bodies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency and Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. Consultation is often carried out via the regular meetings of the Dredging Liaison Group (a stakeholder group facilitated by the Thames Estuary Partnership).
If the completion of the environmental assessment and consultation identify potentially significant environmental impacts, the PLA may require further, more detailed investigations to be undertaken. In such circumstances, prior to the completion of the necessary reports (which may take time to prepare) applicants must not assume that a dredging licence will be issued. Berth owners and operators are therefore advised that it would be prudent to give careful consideration to the need to obtain any relevant environmental information well in advance of submitting an application.
Should the environmental assessment of an individual licence application identify specific concerns, the PLA will consider the use of conditions on the licence to place constraints or monitoring requirements on the operation. Some examples of existing constraints on maintenance dredging activities are given below:
- Dredging to be carried out only at specific states of the tide.
- Dredge restrictions at specific times of the year.
- Water quality monitoring to be carried out during dredging, e.g. to monitor dissolved oxygen, suspended solids, zinc, mercury etc.
- Dredging methodology to be selected to minimise the amount of suspended solids added to the marine environment.
The conditions that form part of the licence will be monitored by the PLA to ensure compliance. The PLA’s Harbour Service Launch may monitor ongoing dredging operations and visits may be made to view dredging operations by the PLA’s Environment Team. Dredging will be subject to being stopped if licence conditions are not complied with.
Most licenses include requirements for:
The PLA may vary or revoke a licence if:
- It appears that there is a breach of any of its conditions;
- Revocation is required for navigational or river regime reasons connected with the PLA's statutory duties.
Currently, licences are granted either on a ‘one-off’ basis or an annual basis. The PLA may grant a longer term licence (three years) in areas where routine maintenance dredging has been ongoing for a number of years and where no adverse impacts have been observed. Provision is made in such longer term licences for further assessments to be made should there be any change to the dredging technique or quantity of material to be dredged or indeed any other significant change to methodology or circumstances.
Once berth owners and operators have been through the procedure outlined above and a review has been completed for a particular dredging location, much of the information collected is likely to remain relevant for subsequent dredging licence applications at the same site. However, it is likely that a thorough review will need to be undertaken at each renewal application.
It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that licences are kept up to date. Undertaking dredging works without a valid licence is a criminal offence.