6.1 CHAs have a general duty under the Harbours Act 1964 as amended by the Transport and Works Act 1992 to exercise their functions with regard to nature conservation and other related environmental considerations. The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 for European Sites places obligations on GHT as a competent authority. The PMSC contains guidance on this subject. The UK Marine SACs Project has also issued a document entitled "Good practice guidelines for ports and harbours operating within or near UK European marine sites". A note on nature conservation designations in the Severn Estuary is attached (Appendix 1) and a note on the Lower Wye designations is also attached (Appendix 2).
6.2 The statutory authorities for nature conservation are English Nature (EN), the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and the Environment Agency (EA). There are also many non-statutory bodies which are interested in the Rivers. The Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a partnership of the statutory authorities.
6.3 Whilst recognising the importance of preserving and enhancing the natural habitat flora and fauna and its responsibilities as a public body in relation thereto, GHT is a navigation authority and must manage and maintain the delicate balance between conservation and the statutory right of navigation within the Gloucester Harbour for vessels of all types.
6.4 The national and international importance of the Rivers Severn and Wye has been recognised by their nature conservation designations.
6.5 Parts of the Gloucester Harbour support large populations of migratory wildfowl and waders and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has its HQ and public viewing facilities at Slimbridge.
6.6 GHT has regular contact with the statutory bodies listed in paragraph 6.2 and they are invited to the biannual meetings of the User Forum.
6.7 Although the waters of the Estuary are tidally dominated, substantial freshwater flows enter the system primarily from the Rivers Severn and Wye. Both these rivers are affected during low flow conditions by water abstraction and, as a result, flows of fresh water into the tidal regime are now diminished. GHT have co-operated with British Waterways, the Environment Agency and Bristol Water plc in the preparation of a research project at Gloucester aimed at mitigating these effects in so far as the river Severn is concerned.
POLICY ME 1
a) GHT will continue to co-operate with the statutory authorities and non-statutory bodies in relation to preserving and enhancing the natural habitat, flora and fauna of the Gloucester Harbour provided that its navigational interests are not adversely affected.
b) GHT will not issue a works licence which will in GHT's opinion cause irreparable damage to conservation interests.
c) GHT will not issue a dredging licence for any dredging which does not meet Policy Dredge 1.
d) GHT will not support activities unconnected with legitimate acts of navigation which have a long-term detrimental effect on the natural ecological and environmental balance of the Gloucester Harbour, unless overridden by the national interest.
e) GHT will continue to support proposals to improve residual flows into the tidal regime at Gloucester during critical low flow conditions.
6.8 The following plans are in place for dealing with emergencies:
i) GHT Emergencies Procedures Issue 2 dated August 1999
ii) Second Severn Crossing plc Emergency Plan Issue 5 dated June 1998
iii) Bristol Channel Plan prepared by HM Coastguard dated April 1998
iv) Oldbury Emergency Plan prepared by Magnox Electric Issue 3 dated May 1999
v) National Contingency Plans prepared by MCPU dated August 1998
vi) An OPRC-compliant Oil Spill Contingency Plan prepared by BW in 1999 relating to Sharpness Dock which has implications for the Gloucester Harbour
vii) A Counter Pollution Plan for the Bristol Channel (in course of preparation) will complement and augment vi) above.
viii) Berkeley Emergency Plan
ix) Gloucestershire Emergency Plan
x) A Tier 2 Oil Response Plan has been arranged through Briggs Environmental Marine Services Ltd
xi) Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Offsite Emergency Plans for Control of Major Accidents and Hazards (COMAH) Sites provide for notification of GHT's Harbour Master by the Coastguard if it is considered likely that navigation will be affected.
POLICY ME 2
GHT will support the regular review and updating of the above plans by the issuing authorities and any exercises organised to test their implementation.
POLICY ME 3
GHT will support with appropriate proportionate levels of resources the preparation of the Counter Pollution Plan for the Bristol Channel.
Management Plan Index
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