The Tamar Estuary Complex

The rivers Tamar, Tavy, Lynher, Plym and Plymouth Sound together constitute one of Britain's finest estuarine complexes. The rich and diverse wildlife, landscape and historic heritage are recognised through its national and international designations. In part and because of this natural environment, the area provides enormous recreational opportunities and much needed employment for thousands of people.

The challenge therefore, is to conserve our natural and historic heritage, whilst encouraging appropriate opportunities and giving full recognition to the important needs of defence, commerce, tourism, and leisure interests.

The Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum (TECF) evolved from a need to consider a more integrated form of management to meet this challenge, and its rationale was underpinned in the requirement for a deliberate management process in the Habitats Act of 1994. As the Harbour Authority for the Dockyard Port of Plymouth, it falls to KHM to Chair the TECF.

A huge commitment has been made to consultation and community development, which is embodied within the Tamar Estuaries Management Plan. The Tamar Estuaries Management Plan 2006-2012 continues to guide management initiatives for the estuary, and considerable progress has been made towards meeting the key goals, holistic management and sustainable development for the benefit of all.

The estuary system is a large marine inlet on the English Channel coast comprising the estuaries of the rivers Tamar, Lynher and Tavy which collectively drain an extensive part of Devon and Cornwall.

The Tamar river and its tributaries provide the main input of fresh water into the estuary complex, and form a ria (a drowned river valley) with Plymouth lying on the eastern shore.

The broader lower reaches of the rivers form extensive tidal mud flats bordered by saltmarsh communities. The mud flats contain extensive and varied infaunal communities rich in bivalves and other invertebrates, and feeding grounds for waterbirds in numbers of European importance.
Saltmarshes provide important feeding and roosting areas for large numbers of wintering and passage water birds.

The key function and aims of the forum are:

  • To promote, for the people of the area, a viable sustainable future for the waters and contiguous areas of the River Tamar Estuaries
  • To develop, implement and monitor a realistic management plan for the common asset and resource
  • Follow the principles of integrated coastal management



Where maintenance dredging is carried out in a Natura 2000 site, the UK Government has requested that a “baseline document” is prepared to assess the activities in accordance with Article 6(3) of the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). The baseline document should draw on readily available information to describe current and historic patterns of dredging in relation to the conservation objectives of adjacent European marine sites.

This report represents the ‘Baseline Document’ for the MoD at Devonport Naval Base,and contains information relevant to the integrity of the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries European Marine Site (EMS), comprising the Plymouth Sound and Estuaries Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the Tamar Estuaries Complex Special Protection Area(SPA) and eight associated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).




Tamar Estuaries Consultative Forum (TECF)