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Maintenance Dredging (Draft) Protocol

The UK Government considers that where maintenance dredging has the potential to affect a Natura 2000 site (such as a Special Protection Area (SPA) or Special Area of Conservation (SAC)), maintenance dredging should be considered as a 'plan or project' for the purposes of the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). Based on this interpretation, maintenance dredging operations would need to be assessed in accordance with Article 6(3) of the Directive. Whilst not endorsing this interpretation, the ports industry has agreed to co-operate with the Government to seek to devise arrangements which allow the effects of maintenance dredging on Natura 2000 sites to be reviewed in a way which does not impose a disproportionate burden on industry, Government, or its agencies.

In order to inform this process, a 'Draft Protocol' has been developed to assist port authorities in fulfilling their environmental obligations through the co-operation of the:

  • British Ports Association;
  • British Marine Federation;
  • Cabinet Office;
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs;
  • Department for Transport;
  • Natural England; and
  • UK Major Ports Group.

The Draft Protocol was produced in December 2003. Since this date it has been applied to a number of ports, but has not yet been adopted. The draft protocol recommends that a 'Baseline Document' is prepared that draws on existing and readily available information to describe current and historic patterns of dredging in relation to the conservation objectives of the adjacent Natura 2000 sites.


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