Water Framework Directive
Council Directive 2000/60/EC is more commonly known as the Water Framework Directive or WFD.
The WFD aims to protect and enhance water bodies within Europe and covers all estuarine and coastal waters out to 1 nautical mile.
The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003 implement the WFD in relation to England and Wales.
The Environment Agency are the competent authority for monitoring water bodies in England and Wales. They have produced river basin management plans which set out environmental objectives for water bodies and include programmes of measures to meet these objectives. In general, water bodies must be of either good ecological status or good ecological potential by 2015.
When considering an application for a marine licence or harbour order, we must have regard to the river basin management plans. We will not normally give consent to proposals liable to cause a deterioration in status without detailed assessment.
This assessment is a multi-stage process. The main steps are:
In some cases, where a deterioration in status cannot be ruled out, there is a fourth stage. This is where we look at exemptions.
Screening is a stage that only applies to pre-existing activities such as dredging and disposal activities that were started or ongoing before 1 January 2009.
If a proposal is screened and a determination is made that it will not cause a deterioration in status, it need not be considered further under the WFD.
If this determination cannot be made the proposal will go on to the scoping stage.
Scoping is a stage that applies to all new applications for marine licences and harbour orders. This is the stage at which a determination is made about what needs to be assessed in order to establish whether the proposal will have an effect on status.
At this stage the water bodies that could be affected and the current status and objectives for those water bodies will be identified.
We will expect any application for a marine licence or harbour order to include an assessment of whether the proposal will undermine the objectives for the relevant water body.
It is the applicant’s responsibility to undertake this assessment. Where a proposal is subject to an environmental impact assessment, the assessment under the WFD may be included as a section within the environmental statement.
The assessment should consider the relevant river basin management plans. These can be found on the Environment Agency’s website and contain information on the status of each water body and on the objectives for each water body.
The ecological impacts of the proposal should be considered against the status and objectives account taken of biological, physico-chemical and hydro-morphological factors. The applicant should also consider whether there could be an effect on chemical status.
The assessment should conclude with an overall predicted impact on the ecological and chemical status objectives.
Where the predicted impact is that the status of the water body will not deteriorate, we can go on to consider the marine licence or harbour order application. Where the predicted impact is that the status of the water body will deteriorate, mitigation measures must be proposed and assessed.
Where appropriate mitigation measures are identified we can go on to consider the marine licence or harbour order application. Where appropriate mitigation measures cannot be identified we may consider if an exemption applies.
We will always consult the Environment Agency where an application could affect the status of a water body.
There are a number of exemptions set out in Article 4 of the WFD.
Article 4.7 gives an exemption for a deterioration in status caused as a result of a physical modification to the water body, for example, dredging or construction.
This is provided:
- all practicable mitigation measures are taken
- there are reasons of overriding public interest or the benefits to human health, safety or sustainable development outweigh the benefits in achieving the WFD objective
- there are no better alternatives and
- the reasons for the physical modification are explained in the relevant river basin management plan.
Marine Licensing Team
Marine Management Organisation
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tel: 0300 123 1032
Fax: 0191 376 2681