CEP Background

Establishment of the CEP

The Colne Estuary Partnership was launched in 1999 after the designation of the Essex Estuaries European Marine site under the 1994 EU Habitats regulations to form part of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites.

The CEP was originally a collaboration between Colchester Borough Council, Tendring District Council and English Nature (now Natural England), established to develop a management strategy for the Colne estuary. The partnership is currently run and funded as a collaboration between the University of Essex and Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners, all funding support from Tendring District Council, Colchester Borough Council and Anglian Water has now been withdrawn. A further grant from the University of Essex Knowledge Transfer fund is also supporting the University's role within the CEP providing expert knowledge to local stakeholders.


As part of the Essex Estuaries Initiative, the CEP was established with a management group of statutory bodies and as an advisory group to establish a Colne estuary strategy to work towards the social, economic and environmental well-being of the estuary area and its towns and villages. The key element of the strategy being partnership involving a wide range of local organisations and people.

In the early days of the partnership, Colchester Borough Council funded a post of 'Colne estuary officer' who coordinated the Partnership and liaised with numerous stakeholders. The Partnership has been successful in obtaining various sources of EU funding during its first 5 years, but recently funding restrictions have meant that CBC could no longer fund the Estuary Officer position. Since 2007 the CEP has been run through the offices of the Brightlingsea Harbour Commissioners .

Due to problems with inconsistent funding the Partnership undertook limited activities over recent years but since March 2009 the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex has provided matching funds to create a role of a researcher to collate the extensive knowledge held within the University relating to the Colne and to co-ordinate with the Estuaries Officer at Brightlingsea to increase the activities of the CEP once more and to raise the profile of the group in relation to the management of the Colne and its habitats and by giving local stakeholders the opportunity to once more become involved in the management of their estuary and its resources.


European Marine sites

European Marine sites are proposed to Europe for designation under the EC Habitats Directive.

The purpose of this directive is to ensure biodiversity within Europe by conserving natural habitats, wildlife and plants throughout the countries of member states.

States must contribute to establishing a network of sites containing habitats and species listed on Annexe 1 of the Directive. These sites are known as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated under the EU Birds Directive,

Together these areas make up a network of natural sites termed the Natura 2000 network.

Essex Estuaries European Marine site

The Essex estuaries come under the category of 'open sea and tidal area' and qualified as they represent an outstanding example of coastal plain estuary habitat typical of its geographic location.

The EMS is a combination of one SAC and five SPA. The SAC reaches from Lion Point at the mouth of the Colne to the mouth of the Thames at Shoeburyness. It includes the estuaries of the Colne, Blackwater, Crouch and Roach, as well as open coast at Foulness and the Dengie peninsula.

The conservation features of the site include a vast expanse of mudflats, sandflats and saltmarshes which support over 180,000 wintering birds.

These designations mean that it is an area of the highest importance for nature conservation at a European and International level.

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