Environment Agency Wales and the other regulators, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Transport, are in the process of considering alternative solutions with respect to the current applications from the Port of Mostyn, for dredging and disposal of material in the Dee Estuary in North East Wales.
All three regulators made an initial decision, independently of each other, that they were not able to grant the applications as the proposed dredge, in combination with the disposal, may cause loss of sand with eventual reduction in area of sand banks by up to 50 hectares per annum. This could threaten the ecological integrity of the site, including its importance as an international site for migratory birds.
The regulators have to make their own independent decision on alternative solutions in the context of their own specific regulatory responsibility as follows:
· Dredging consent from the Agency
· Dredging consent from the Department of Transport
· Disposal consent from the Welsh Assembly Government
"The Dee Estuary is a protected site under the European Wild Birds Directive and a proposed Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive," said Dr Dave Clarke the Agency’s Strategy Manager for Wales. "Given the assessment by our experts and the advice from the Countryside Council for Wales, the Agency and the other regulators could not legally allow the dredging proposal to proceed without considering all possible alternative solutions.
"There is a laid down procedure to be followed before a final position is reached. We are now considering alternative solutions which would not have an adverse impact on the key environmental features of the site. We are continuing discussions with the Port of Mostyn, Airbus, the Countryside Council for Wales and the other regulators to explore all possible options," he continued.
"This important and very complex stage is still ongoing. It is crucial that all potential solutions are fully and properly assessed and that the process meets the relevant legislative requirements. Detailed work is still being undertaken and therefore it is not possible at this stage to confirm when this process of considering alternative solutions will be concluded.
"Finally," said Dr Clarke, "If alternative solutions are not practical, each of the regulators may consider whether, in spite of the negative assessment, the application should be allowed on the basis of Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest. In these circumstances and in the case of the Environment Agency, the National Assembly for Wales would then need to determine whether it wishes to overrule the decision. If not, measures to compensate for environmental impact would need to be agreed and advised to the European Commission