JNCC and Natural England have jointly prepared updated draft conservation advice for Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI. Further information is available on the Conservation Advice tab below.


Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton MPA


Status: Candidate Special Area of Conservation and Site of Community Importance (cSAC/SCI)


The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI lies off the north east coast of Norfolk. The site crosses the 12 nautical mile boundary and therefore lies partly in territorial and partly in offshore waters. It was selected and submitted to Europe as a Special Area of Conservation because it contains two Annex I habitats, ‘Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time’ and ‘Reef’. 


The site contains a series of sandbanks that were formed via headland associated geological processes since the 5th Century AD. These sandbanks are curved and orientated parallel to the coast, composed of sandy sediment and lie in full salinity water with intermediate coastal influence. The site contains a mosaic of different physical habitats with correspondingly different biological communities. The fauna of the sandbank crests is predominantly low diversity polychaete (cat worms) and amphipod (shrimp-like crustaceans) communities which are typical of mobile sediment environments. The banks are separated by troughs which contain more gravelly sediments and support diverse infaunal and epifaunal communities with occurrences of reefs of the tube-building ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa. Aggregations of S. spinulosa provide additional hard substrate for the development of rich epifaunal communities.

More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab below

Click to link to the interactive map

Map displaying the MPA boundary*

View and download spatial data for this MPA

on the JNCC UK MPA interactive map.

*Margins are included within the "Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time" to account for uncertainty in feature extent on sandbanks that are known to be mobile. The margins can be viewed in the Annex I sandbank layer provided on the JNCC interactive mapper, however these margins are not displayed in Natural England's MAGIC interactive mapper.




Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended)


Protected Features:

Features Feature Type Conservation Objectives
               1170 Reefs               Annex I Habitat  

Maintain in or Restore

to Favourable Condition

1110 sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time  Annex I Habitat

Maintain in Favourable Condition


Conservation Objectives
The overarching conservation objectives for the designated features of all protected sites in UK offshore waters is to ensure they either remain in, or reach favourable condition. The ability of a designated feature to remain in, or reach favourable condition can be affected by its sensitivity to pressures associated with activities taking place within or in close proximity to a protected site.

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this cSAC/SCI is provided in the Conservation Advice tab.

Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

Haisborough Hammond & Winterton SAC timeline

Relevant documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up to date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced.

  • Natura Standard Data Form – provides details about the cSAC/SCI and the designated features.
  • SAC Selection Assessment Document – a more detailed overview of the cSAC/SCI, designated features and rationale for site selection.
  • Conservation Objectives and Advice on Operations – information about feature sensitivity, vulnerability and risk and the Conservation Objectives for the designated features of the site.
  • Site Improvement Plan - provides a high level overview of the current and predicted issues affecting the condition of the site's protected feature and outlines the priority measures required to improve the condition of the feature. It does not cover issues where remedial actions are already in place or ongoing management activities which are required for maintenance.
  • 2009 - 2010 Consultation: Post-consultation Report & Impact Assessment – An overview of the consultation outcomes, and an assessment of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the designation.

Information about the SAC site selection process is available on the JNCC SAC pages.



Site overview

The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI lies off the north east coast of Norfolk, and contains a series of sandbanks which meet the Annex I habitat description for “Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time". The central sandbank ridge in the site is composed of alternating ridge headland associated sandbanks. This ridge consists of the sinusoidal banks which have evolved over the last 5,000 years, originally associated with the coastal alignment at the time that the Holocene marine transgression occurred). The bank system consists of: Haisborough Sand, Haisborough Tail, Hammond Knoll, Winterton Ridge and Hearty Knoll. Hewett Ridge and Smiths Knoll form an older (~7,000BP) sequence of sandbank ridges located along the outer site boundary. In territorial waters are the Newarp Banks and North and Middle Cross Sands which lie on the south west corner of the site. These banks are believed to be geologically recent, their genesis dating to around the 5th Century AD.

The sandy sediments within the site are very mobile in the strong tidal currents which characterise the area. Large-scale bank migration or movement appears to be slow, but within the sandbank system there is a level of sediment movement around, and also across, the banks. This is evidenced by megaripple and sandwave formations on the banks. Infaunal communities of the sandy bank tops are consequently of low biodiversity, characterised by mobile polychaetes (cat worms) and amphipods (shrimp-like crustaceans) which are able to rapidly re-bury themselves into the dynamic sediment environments. Along the flanks of the banks, and towards the troughs between the banks the sediments tend to be slightly more stable with gravels exposed in areas. In these regions of the site, infaunal and epifaunal communities are much more diverse. There are a number of areas where sediment movements are reduced and these areas support an abundance of attached bryozoans, hydroids and sea anemones. Other tube-building worms such as keel worms Pomatoceros sp. and sand mason worms Lanice conchilega are also found in these areas, along with bivalves and crustaceans.

Sabellaria spinulosa reefs are also a protected feature of the site and are located at Haisborough Tail, Haisborough Gat and between Winterton Ridge and Hewett Ridge. They arise from the surrounding coarse sandy seabed to heights of between 5cm to 10cm. The reefs are consolidated structures of sand tubes showing seafloor coverage of between 30 to 100 per cent of the sediment.


Further detail on the evidence for this cSAC/SCI can be found on the Evidence tab.

Site location:  Coordinates for this cSAC/SCI can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  1,467.59 km²

Site depth range:  Depth at the site ranges from the top of the bank features that almost breach the sea surface down to 52m below sea level in the sandbank troughs.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea

Site boundary description
The site boundary is a simple polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitat. Coordinate points have been positioned as close to the edge of the interest feature as possible, rather than being located at the nearest whole degree or minute point. Where it is justified to protect the features of the site from the effects of mobile gear on the seabed at some distance from a vessel on the surface, a margin in proportion to the water depth may be added to the extent of the feature when defining the site boundary. The SAC contains Annex I sandbanks at depths of predominantly <25m BCD. Therefore, a margin of 100m was used around each sandbank feature except where a straight line between two points was the more sensible option to avoid an overcomplicated boundary following the UK guidance on defining boundaries for marine SACs for Annex I habitat sites fully detached from the coast.

The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in the relevant documentation section and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced. 


Site specific data
There is a range of data that underpin this cSAC/SCI. The full overview of the data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI Selection Assessment Document

JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to our MPA interactive map in due course.

Data for this cSAC/SCI has been collected through a JNCC collaborative survey which provides direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.

Survey and data gathering

  • JNCC, Natural England and Cefas Joint Wash Survey to Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge cSAC/SCI and of the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI - 2011.
    The purpose of the survey was to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features at these two sites. Acoustic, video and stills, sediment and faunal samples were collected and the habitats mapped. 


Data analysis reports

Analysis of data gathered as part of the survey listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available via the following reports:

  • Analysis of the 2011 survey data for Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge cSAC/SCI, and of the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI - 2011
    Analysis of the JNCC-NE-Cefas collaborative survey undertaken in 2011 was undertaken by Cefas. Reporting is underway and will be made available in due course.
  • Survey data to set an environmental characterisation of the seafloor at a large regional scale - 2010
    Surveys commissioned by the Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund have produced survey data on a large regional scale. In total 31,560km² of the seabed has been surveyed and mapped, including an area within the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI. Surveys have collected bathymetric and faunal data.
  • Appraisal of the occurrence of Annex I sandbank habitat - 2008
    An initial appraisal of the occurrence of Annex I sandbank habitat was completed on Natural England’s behalf by Entec UK Ltd. in 2008. This work examined data from a variety of sources including windfarm and aggregate surveys, dedicated survey and modelling.
  • Survey to investigate potential cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging on faunal communities and sediment composition - 2007
    Benthic grab samples were collected and analysed by Cooper et al. (2007) for faunal and sediment composition to determine the cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging at multiple sites off the coast of Great Yarmouth, including locations within this cSAC/SCI.
  • Survey to examine impacts of dredging 5 years post-dredging activity (Hanson Aggregates Marine Limited) – 2005
    A survey was conducted to produce an Environmental Statement for an aggregates dredging project within the cSAC/SCI. The survey provides sediment particle size and faunal data for a localised area within the cSAC/SCI. 


References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Selection Assessment Document.

Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in any of the relevant documentation listed on the main page, please contact JNCC.


MPA Conservation Advice

JNCC and Natural England have prepared joint draft conservation advice for Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI. This draft advice is accessible through Natural England’s Designated Sites System for Haisborough Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI.

JNCC and Natural England are inviting feedback on this draft conservation advice. Please email your comments to Natural England at sns_n2k@naturalengland.org.uk by the 22nd May 2017.

The formal statutory advice for this site is still available in the Regulation 18 / Regulation 35(3) Conservation Objectives and Advice on Operations  document jointly prepared between JNCC and Natural England.  The formal advice must be taken into consideration when undertaking an assessment of the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site.

The draft advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by both Natural England and JNCC. The draft conservation advice jointly prepared between JNCC and Natural England should also be taken into consideration in assessment of the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site.

Following a period to comment the draft advice will be reviewed and once signed off will become the formal conservation advice for this site, replacing any previous formal statutory conservation advice. For more information on JNCC’s approach to conservation advice please see the offshore Conservation Advice webpages. Information can also be found on Natural England’s website.




Activities known to be currently occurring within this MPA
(Activities information correct as of December 2013).

Licensed activities:

  • Oil and gas – a considerable number of oil and gas developments overlap within this MPA, including many fields, pipelines, wells and associated infrastructure. 
  • Aggregate extraction – Commercial aggregate extraction takes place along the site boundary. Whilst none of the licence areas are co-incidental with designated features, three licence areas and two application areas are located within the southern part of the site. 

Existing licensed activities that take place within Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI will continue to be managed in line with relevant legislation and application processes by the competent authorities.  For further information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on the offshore industries advice webpages.



  • Demersal - The south eastern corner of the site around Smiths Knoll is heavily fished by trawlers, probably for sandeel and pink and brown shrimp. Some static gear is used around Hammond Knoll and Hewett Ridges and some potting takes place to the north and west of the site.
  • Pelagic - To the north and west of the site, the key fishing activities are less damaging, and include gill netting and long lining.


This SAC crosses the 6-12nm limit and extends into the offshore region; however, there are no historic rights of access for other Member States in the 6-12nm area. The Marine Management Organisation has created a local byelaw to protect biogenic reef (Sabellaria spinulosa) by prohibiting the use of bottom towed fishing gear in specified areas of the site. Both defined areas fall within the 12nm limit.  There is no site-specific fisheries management currently in place to protect the designated features of this site outside of 12nm.

Where they are required, Defra are aiming for fisheries management measures for the Haisborough Hammond and Winterton SAC to be in place by 2016. The portion of the site which falls outside of 12nm is to be exclusively managed under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In accordance with Article 18 of the revised CFP, requests for management will be developed jointly between the UK Government and any Member States with a direct management interest in the area affected. Once drafted, there is a requirement to consult the relevant Advisory Council (North Sea AC) prior to submission of any final recommendations to the European Commission.  MMO will be the lead authority regarding implementation and compliance of any measures.

A workshop was convened to look at a suite of MPA sites in the Southern North Sea, which was held in The Hague in August 2014 and was attended by both Dutch and UK industry stakeholders, environmental NGOs and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.  A second workshop took place in May 2015 attended by industry representatives from the UK, France and Belgium; government representatives from the UK and France; and environmental NGOs. A Fisheries Options Paper was prepared by JNCC and Natural England and presented at these workshops; the latest version is available to download. The primary purpose of the workshops was to initiate the development of a joint management request for Southern North Sea SACs.

 Other activities:

  • Cables - Telecommunications cables pass through the site. 

Cables are largely an unregulated activity in offshore waters depending upon the type of cable being laid (or maintained), where it is being laid between and whether the cable is part of a larger development (which may be regulated). Any cable not directly associated with an energy installation does not require a marine licence beyond 12 nautical miles. JNCC encourages early discussion from operators regarding any plans related to new or existing cables, and encourages the undertaking of non-statutory Environmental Impact Assessments for new or existing cable projects to assess their effect on the protected features of the MPA.

  • Shipping - A moderate level of commercial and recreational shipping activity takes place within the cSAC/SCI, which involves vessels transiting the site. Due to the location of the cSAC/SCI, it is unlikely that vessels anchor within the site. 

Under international law, ships have a right of passage at sea including in areas designated as MPAs (unless management specifies the restriction of ship transiting as outlined through an International Maritime Organisation measure).  The pressures associated with shipping activity within Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.


Site Management

Management Plan: JNCC is undertaking a review of management plan requirements for offshore MPAs. Further detail will be provided at a later date.

The MMO have assessed all  European Marine Sites within their jurisdiction and created a strategic management table which summarises the overall risk facing this site and the management actions being taken forward.

Natural England, who are jointly responsible for this site, have produced a Site Improvement Plan for the inshore aspect of this site. The plan provides a high level overview of the issues (both current and predicted) affecting the condition of the sites protected features and outlines the priority measures required to improve their condition.

Management GroupMPA Management National Steering Group

Further information on activities and feature sensitivity to these pressures can be found under the Conservation Advice tab.



MPA Monitoring

JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and,
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.

Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.


MPA Assessment

Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for predefined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 

To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports. They include the second cycle of the Conservation Status Assessment reports under the EU Habitats Directive, Charting Progress 2 (CP2) and the OSPAR Quality Status Report (QSR). JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.

Every six years, Member States are required under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive to report on the Conservation Status of Annex I habitats and Annex II species on the Habitats Directive.  The assessments should consider the habitat or species both within the Natura 2000 network and in the wider sea.  The latest report was submitted by the UK in 2013 and provided a second assessment of the conservation status of relevant habitats and species within UK marine waters during 2007-2012. The next report is for the period 2013-2018 and is due in 2019; information on the condition of features within SACs will make a contribution to this report. 

The assessments of features within MPAs will also feed into six yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.




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