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Falmouth Harbour construction works, capital dredge and maerl mitigation scheme

Maerl relocation trial

Falmouth Harbour Commissioners (FHC) recently carried out a trial to inform the original proposal and specifically provide information on the susceptibility of maerl and associated communities to disturbance by dredging. The programme of works included:

  • benthic (bottom of the sea) sampling of proposed trial sites before dredging
  • dredge and re-laying of dead and live maerl communities – 5 sites of dead maerl and 1 site to have a covering of live maerl on the dead maerl)
  • benthic sampling of proposed trial sites for up to 6 months after it has been re-layed
  • turbidity monitoring at the surface during dredging – turbidity is a measure of the degree to which the water loses its transparency due to the presence of suspended particulates

The final sampling event to provide evidence for this trial was carried out between 30 July and 1 August 2013.

Data from the trial was analysed by scientists from Plymouth University, and the final report on the trial (PDF 1.5 MB) was submitted to MMO on 30 January 2014. Further documents relating to the maerl relocation trial application are available via our online licensing system, application number MLA/2012/00100. This includes a technical overview of the project.

The trial report was sent by MMO to the Independent Scientific Advisory Panel (ISAP).  The ISAP was set up in 2012 to provide the MMO with independent scientific advice on:

  • the scientific robustness of the trial methodology
  • whether the methodology is fit to meet the overall purpose of the trial
  • whether the methodology will provide credible conclusions

The ISAP has only provided comments on the trial itself and not the wider impacts of the proposed project. The ISAP reviewed the scientific basis of the report, and submitted comments and recommendations (PDF 451 KB) to MMO on 7 March 2014. The ISAP concluded that the trial adequately demonstrated that the method used in removing and replacing the top 30cm of maerl habitat was technically feasible.

The MMO provided the ISAP’s comments to FHC with a covering letter on 24 March 2014 (PDF 240 KB). The maerl trial report can be used by FHC as part of the evidence to support any future application for the Falmouth Harbour proposal, but FHC must consider the comments of the ISAP if they decide to use this evidence. The letter also highlights the need for the application to reflect how the trial relates to a full scale dredge.

Please also find MMO's environmental statement review (PDF 313 KB) from November 2013, and an addendum (PDF 127 KB) from March 2014 referred to in our letter from 24 March 2014.

Next steps

MMO's letter to FHC on 24 March 2014 also identified the next steps with regards to:

  • updating the appropriate assessment
  • updating the environmental impact assessment
  • submitting new marine licence applications to MMO

Original application

Falmouth Harbour Commissioners and Falmouth Docks & Engineering Company applied for 3 licences to carry out harbour construction works, a dredge disposal and a maerl mitigation project.

The proposed development is located in the Fal and Helford Special Area of Conservation (SAC). During consultation, Natural England advised that the proposal would have a likely significant effect on the designated features of the European site. Therefore, under the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, an appropriate assessment was required to assess the proposed development's impact on the conservation objectives of the European site.

Appropriate assessment (AA) conclusion

In light of the evidence provided to support the AA, we cannot conclude that there would be no adverse effect on the integrity of the Fal and Helford SAC.

Evidence summary and related documents
Evidence summary (PDF 86 KB)
Legislative and policy context
Key impacts (PDF 219 KB)
Evidence submitted in support of the application
Maerl recovery report (PDF 1.9 MB)
Maerl surface area report (PDF 514 KB)
Falmouth Harbour Commissioners' appropriate assessment (PDF 748 KB)
Natural England's response to Falmouth Harbour Commissioners' appropriate assessment roadmap and appropriate assessment decision (PDF 180 KB)
Request from Natural England to Falmouth Harbour Commissioners requesting clarification of the decision making process used to reach the conclusion of 'No adverse impact on the integrity of the Fal & Helford SAC' (PDF 98 KB)
Summary of consultation with our scientific advisors, statutory and non-statutory consultees and representations received from other bodies and individuals
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (PDF 160 KB)
Natural England (PDF 219 KB)
Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee (PDF 180 KB)
Environment Agency (PDF 204 KB)
English Heritage (PDF 41 KB)
Cornwall Council (PDF 56 KB)
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (PDF 157 KB)
Royal Yachting Association (PDF 79 KB)
Trinity House (PDF 77 KB)
Representations received from other bodies and individuals (PDF 1.1 MB)
Other documents
Socio-economic factors (PDF 179 KB)
Appropriate assessment by the lead competent authority (the MMO) (PDF 1.9 MB)
View from the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Marine Management Organisation's Board (PDF 14 KB)
View from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (PDF 34 KB)
Minutes from meeting between Marine Management Organisation, applicant and applicant's agent on 7 July 2011 (PDF 73 KB)
MMO letter to applicants December 2011 (PDF 438 KB)
Presentation slides from from a meeting of Falmouth Friends of the Earth in November 2012 (PDF 450 KB)
Factsheet on the development from a meeting of Falmouth Friends of the Earth in November 2012 (PDF 62 KB)
Environmental statement and associated documents
The non-technical summary, environmental statement, appendices and other associated documents are available from the Port of Falmouth Harbour Development Initiative

Contact information

Marine Licensing Team
Marine Management Organisation
Lancaster House
Hampshire Court
Newcastle upon Tyne

Tel: 0300 123 1032
Fax: 0191 376 2681
Email: marine.consents@

Other applications

All other marine licence applications are available from the marine licensing public register

Help with documents

These documents are in the portable document format (PDF) for downloading. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be freely downloaded from