Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Mersey Strategy (P 25)



  This paper is in two sections, the first outlining the importance of bringing ports into the estuary management process; a practical example of how port development has been formally included in the management framework for the Mersey Estuary is shown, together with a discussion of some of the problems in engaging port authorities in such activities and a practical example of a missed opportunity to investigate sustainable development issues through a pan-European project, the Port Cities project, because of these problems.

  The second section elaborates, in more detail, on the Sustainable Port Cities project and outlines the type of issues being investigated by the 11 project partners. These include the effects of likely changes in global shipping and freight movements, transport and infrastructure around port areas, environmental legislation, dredging practices, spatial planning and environmental management systems in port and port-related industries.


  The Mersey Strategy is a public, private and voluntary sector partnership working to implement the Mersey Estuary Management Plan; a management framework designed to safeguard the Mersey Estuary, adjacent land and marine environments whilst providing policies to encourage sustainable development.


  Many of Britain's major ports are located in estuaries and many of our major estuaries contain ports. There is, therefore, a clear need for ports to be part of any estuary management process.

  One example of how this can be achieved is the Mersey Estuary Management Plan, also known as the Mersey Strategy, which fully recognises the importance of commercial port activity to the economic well-being of the estuary zone.

  The Mersey Strategy is based around a vision statement reproduced in full below:

  "The Mersey Estuary Management Plan will provide a framework for co-ordinated action. The plan will be a key instrument in addressing critical management issues so as to secure the sustainable development of the Mersey Estuary and to maintain and develop its position as one of the region's most valued environmental assets.

  The Management Plan is based on a vision of the future of the Mersey Estuary as one of the cleanest developed estuaries in Europe, where the quality and dynamics of the natural environment are recognised and respected and are matched by a high quality built environment, a vibrant maritime economy, and an impressive portfolio of estuary-related tourism and recreation facilities."

  The Port of Liverpool is an active port, with docks at various places along the length of the estuary up to Eastham where the Manchester Ship Canal begins. Over 30 million tonnes of freight comes into the docks each year. It is a major trade route for shipping, particularly as a gateway for Europe. The estuary receives up to 60 per cent of the industrial and domestic water-borne pollution produced by the Mersey Basin's inhabitants, and the banks of the estuary are home to some of the region's largest and most lucrative petrochemical and chemical industries, including Britain's second largest oil refinery. In addition a large part of the estuary is protected under British, European and international law for its importance to bird life.

  Because of the developed nature of the Mersey Estuary the issues covered in the plan are complex and it was necessary to develop a strategic policy framework to establish a common base for the systematic development of estuary policies and management measures.


  The estuary management framework looks at four main policy areas, each broken down into strategic policy areas with their own strategic objectives and management measures. One of the main policy areas is Economic Development, which is then sub-divided into: Commercial Navigation and Port Development, Urban Regeneration, and Tourism.

Commercial Navigation and Port Development

  This section contains the strategic objective:

    "To support the continued commercial and economic development of the estuary's ports and port-related employment areas compatible with the Management Plan's environmental policies."

  The following policies and management measures (areas where specific actions are proposed) are contained within this section:

  1.  Subject to economic and environmental considerations, partner organisations should seek to maintain commercial navigation channels from Liverpool Bay to the estuary's ports and Ship Canal and their associated docks.

  2.  New activities or development within the estuary zone should take into account the requirements for continued access by shipping using commercial navigation channels.

  3.  Proposals for the expansion of port facilities beyond port operators' existing estates designed to maintain the competitiveness of the estuary's ports and take advantage of new market opportunities should be identified at an early stage for consultation.

    —  Management measure: subject to the encouragement of interim uses which would not prejudice development, suitable sites could be reserved for future port use.

  4.  Areas and sites should be identified within the existing developed sections of the estuary zone where preference should be given to port-related employment.

    —  Management measure: undertaking a technical study of the future demand for, and supply of, an appropriate range of scale of industrial, storage and distribution sites for new, expanding and relocating port-related industries and services and their transport requirements in the port-related employment areas and elsewhere in the estuary zone. Any proposals arising from the study should be subject to an environmental appraisal.

    —  Management measure: defining existing port-related employment areas within which preference will be given to actions, including local environmental up-grading where appropriate, supporting the retention of existing, and attracting new, port-related users.

    —  Management measure: encouraging the availability of a range of sizes of sites, of types of potential users and of development programming priorities including land reclamation and infrastructure provision within port-related employment areas.

    —  Management measure: supporting the Port of Liverpool's role as a European gateway for deep sea and short sea traffic through providing for the development of port-related activities on a regional strategic "Flagship" scale at a site adjacent to the port and rail freight terminal at Seaforth.

    —  Management measure: providing, either individually or in partnership with other agencies, for the reclamation and re-use of appropriate disused port or dockland sites for small, medium, and larger-scale port-related users.

  5.  Support should be offered to actions designed to promote the commercial and economic development of the estuary zone's port and port-related firms and locations.

    —  Management measure: continuing and developing, financial, business advice and training and enterprise support schemes related to port operations and port-related employment, including skill enhancement, starter firms, and the development of small and medium-sized firms.

  6.  A technical assessment, which will need to include environmental protection and sedimentation considerations, should be made of future dredging obligations in the estuary zone and any disposal considerations. The assessment should cover dredging obligations for the maintenance of existing navigation channels and water depth in the estuary's docks and the Ship Canal and for other statutory reasons.

    —  Management measure: the assessment, some items of which are already being undertaken, should be structured on a comprehensive basis to:

      (i)  establish the scope and direct of future policies including international agreements, relating to the deposit of dredgings on landsites and at sea;

      (ii)  define criteria for assessing proposals for additional or alternative deposit grounds or locations;

      (iii)  specify the rate of current and likely future dredgings and their deposit requirements;

      (iv)  establish the capacity and acceptability of current deposit grounds;

      (v)  identify areas of search and alternative sites;

      (vi)  incorporate environmental appraisals of any specific additional or alternative deposit ground proposals.

  7.  Partner organisations should promote the adoption of best practice to enable the estuary's port operations to fulfil their commercial and economic roles while minimising harmful environmental effects

    —  Management measure: establishing and adopting an Environmental Code of Practice for the Mersey Estuary which will encourage port operators and users to improve environmental standards, establish environmental management systems, and promote consultation with local communities, local authorities, environmental agencies and voluntary bodies.

    —  Management measure: providing, through the Environmental Code, for the environmental assessment of, and consultation procedures about, significant proposals in the estuary zone which fall within existing permitted development rights and are exempt from development control. A useful first step would be to establish a comprehensive baseline of information about the nature and extent of port operators' existing permitted rights.


  Implementation of the Mersey Estuary Management Plan is overseen by a series of Implementation Groups, one for each of the four main policy areas. These groups are made up of representatives of many different organisations who have an interest in the particular policy area with reference to the Mersey Estuary. Examples include voluntary organisations such as the Royal Yachting Association, Government agencies such as the Environment Agency and English Nature, Local Authorities, Government Office North West, the Mersey Conservancy and organisations representing the business sector such as Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and individual businesses such as North West Water,[21] Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, the Manchester Ship Canal Company and Peel Holdings.


  It can be seen from the list of policies and management measures above that port development and commercial shipping activity is, in theory, fully integrated into the estuary management process. In practice, however, this has not proved to be as easy as it would seem as it has proved difficult to engage with the relevant people in the port management companies, and although, as shown above, they do have some dialogue with the Strategy, this has been minimal and sporadic.

  Possibly this may be because the port authorities might see the Strategy as primarily an environmental organisation which will therefore be against development. This is not, in fact, the case, the policy of the Mersey Strategy being to remain neutral on development issues. The role of the Strategy is to bring to the attention of developers and other relevant authorities the relevant sections of the Management Plan in order to ensure that all relevant issues have received due consideration.

  One example of this lack of effective engagement locally is the Port Cities Project in which the Mersey Strategy is a partner. Many of the European partners in the project are the port authority for their area and were thus able to take lead roles in the project, which is reported on in more detail below, however it proved impossible to engage the major local port company on the Mersey, thus preventing the Mersey taking a lead part in the project.

  This represents a significant missed opportunity for the local ports to investigate at a local level the threats and opportunities offered by various sustainable development issues, including transport infrastructure, dredging practices, environmental legislation, spatial planning and environmental management systems in port and port-related industries and projections of future trends in global shipping and freight movements.


  To obtain a complete picture of the opportunities and development prospects for major ports located within estuaries, and, no doubt, in other areas too, it is necessary to take a holistic view and not just to view the port itself in isolation. The estuary management process, becoming increasingly widespread in Britain's major estuaries, offers a significant opportunity for port authorities to explore, develop and realise their full potential within the wider context of both the urban and natural environments in which they are situated. The estuary management process can also offer a useful tool for conflict avoidance and resolution along with the development and sharing of best practice.



  The Interreg IIc Port Cities Project is an EU-funded project addressing issues and challenges facing the future development of "Port Cities" ie areas based around commercial ports and port-related operations in the North West Metropolitan Area of Europe. The project is scheduled to last 24 months from August 1999-August 2001.


Partner organisations
Communaute Urbaine de Dunkerque (Lead Partner)
Agence d'Urbanisme de la Region du Havre
District de l'Agglomeration Rouennaise
Syndicat Mixte de Port Jerome
Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie du Havre
North Sea Canal—Regional Development Agency
Medway Council
Thames Estuary Partnership
Mersey Strategy
Port of Cork
Stitching Europort Botlek Belanger (Rotterdam)


  The project aims to create a partnership between several North West Metropolitan Area port cities in order to:

    —  Provide a general and projected picture of the growth of ports in the next 20 years.

    —  Identify and compare the different measures aimed at integrating environmental and sustainable concerns into the development process of partner cities and their ports.

    —  Tackle a number of issues related to sustainable development in port areas: industrial risk management, dredging, traffic management, implementation of environmental management systems and spatial planning conflicts.

    —  Produce for each partner a set of recommendations aiming at a better integration of environmental and sustainable development issues. These recommendations will allow a common standard between the partners on these issues and, as a result, a better integration of territories in the North West Metropolitan Area.


  Four pilot studies will be carried out. Each will be led by a different partner, with inputs from some of the other partners. The final output for each of the pilot studies will be the production of best practice guidance notes, which will feed into the common project.

  The four pilot studies are:

    (1)   Best Practice Guidelines for Establishing Dredging Regimes for Maintaining Navigation, Identifying and Managing Disposal Sites and Aggregate Winning—Lead partner: Thames Estuary Partnership with support from Mersey Strategy, Port of Cork and Medway Council.

    (2)   Tranport and Infrastructure—Lead partner Medway Council with support from Rouen, le Havre, Dunkerque and the North Sea Canal Regional Development Agency.

    (3)   The Implementation and impact of Environmental Management Systems in Port and Port-related Industries—Lead partner Dunkerque and Europort Botlek (Rotterdam) with support from the Mersey Strategy, Medway Council and Port Jerome. An additional pilot is being carried out by Europort Botlek (Rotterdam) to supplement this project: Waste Exchange in Port-related Industries.

    (4)   Comparative Review of Approaches to Conflict Avoidance and Development Constraints (Tools for Territorial Planning, Implementation of Environmental European Regulations into National Law)—Lead partners Le Havre and Rouen with support from Port of Cork, Mersey Strategy and the Thames Estuary Partnership.


  In addition to the pilot studies outlined consultants have been commissioned to look at the development potential of port cities in north western Europe. The phase 1 report has now been completed and, in addition to analysing commonalities between partner port areas, reports on:

    Economic trends:

      The effects of globalisation on port traffic growth.

      Trade links in Europe.

      The northern range ports.

    The principle factors influencing port development:

      Changes in production processes.

      Changes in transport flows.

      The impact of EU environmental legislation.


  The principle factors influencing the development of ports include: the economic strength of the port's region; the level of accessibility to and from the ports' hinterlands to improve access to closest markets, and the level of efficiency and quality of services offered so as to move away from merely industrial functions to logistic functions, building on information and communication technology (ICT) potentials.

  The principle factors influencing ports' traffic trade are: environmental pressures to reduce road traffic and promote multi-modal transport routes; the economic development of accession countries; changes in relation to energy production and new sources of energy, with greater interest in sustainable energy products and self-sufficiency, and the impact of the global free market and post-industrial changes due to the expansion of ICT.


  Although not yet complete, the Port Cities project findings to date address many of the problems and opportunities faced by ports and place these issues in both a European and global context. Work continues on both the common study and the individual pilot projects and the findings are expected to be presented at a conference in Autumn 2001.

Caroline Salthouse

Manager, Mersey Strategy

17 January 2001

21   As from April called United Utilities plc. Back

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