Susan Kidd, Marine Planning Manager at The Crown Estate, looks at a new MMO report on the beneficial use of dredged materials.
It has long been acknowledged by industry groups, regulators and ourselves that the disposal of potentially valuable dredged material at sea is a practice that warrants integrated management, so that additional value from these materials can be realised in an effective and sustainable manner.
The report Use of Beneficial Dredged Materials in the South Inshore and South Offshore Marine Plan Areas, commissioned by the MMO, is an example of where marine planning and regulation seek to get to the heart of what can drive more sustainable use of the marine area.
This work goes beyond making the case for the beneficial use of navigational dredge material - such as sand and gravel that is essential to building new homes and roads - and looks in more detail at how marine planning can play a practical role in the longer-term management of this activity in the South marine plan areas.
The report has created maps of current beneficial use sites, explores potential future sites and considers the challenges and limitations to this type of activity. It also recommends more joint working between statutory bodies and those applying for licences to encourage knowledge sharing.
As manager of the UK seabed, The Crown Estate see that there is a strong justification for better management and integration between the various activities that create demand for material from capital dredging, as well as an apparent appetite for progress amongst industry and regulators. We feel well placed to play our part in increasing the use of dredged material across the UK, and are hoping that in collaboration with a number of partners, including the MMO, we can enable more commercial, habitat and sustainability benefits to be realised without placing unduly onerous burdens on industry.
This report should help to prime ongoing dialogue between marine managers and industry about the possible uses of dredge material and how best to plan for it. It is hoped that in the future, stronger join-up between those with an interest in the material (from either the removal or re-use side) is achieved; ultimately leading to the more sustainable use of a natural resource.