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.




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

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected feature(s) of an MPA. The conservation objectives for the protected features of the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI have been set based on knowledge of the condition of the protected features at the time of writing. Further information on feature condition and conservation objectives is provided in the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI Conservation objectives and advice on operations document.

This information is useful if you are:

  • preparing Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) of proposed plans or projects that may affect the site;
  • planning measures to maintain or restore the site and its qualifying features;
  • monitoring the condition of the qualifying features; or
  • developing, proposing or assessing an activity, plan or project that may affect the site

The conservation objectives for the protected features of the MPA are:

The conservation objectives for the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI are as follows:
Subject to natural change maintain the sandbanks in favourable condition such that the diversity, community structure and natural environmental quality is maintained, in particular for the sub-features:

  • Low diversity dynamic sand communities
  • Gravelly muddy sand communities

Subject to natural change maintain or restore (depending on location) the reefs in favourable condition. Haisborough Gat conservation objective is to restore the reefs to favourable condition, the conservation objective for all other reefs is to maintain in favourable condition such that the diversity, community structure and natural environmental quality is maintained or restored depending on location.

More information on the conservation objectives for this cSAC/SCI is provided in the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI Conservation Objectives and Advice on Operations document.

JNCC is working to provide more detailed advice on the relatively broad, high level conservation objectives listed above. This supplementary advice will be posted here as and when it becomes available.

Advice on operations
In line with Regulation (18) of the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 2007 (as amended) which apply to the UK’s offshore marine area and Regulation 35(3) of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended), which apply to England’s and Wales inshore waters, the advice on operations for the protected features of the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI outline current knowledge of the nature and extent of activities taking place which may have a significant impact on the features for which a site has been selected.

The advice on operations is based on JNCC and Natural England’s scientific knowledge of the biological communities present at the time of writing and their sensitivities to pressures. For the most up-to-date information about the biological communities present within the site and their spatial distribution, please see the evidence tab. Sensitivity information for biological communities identified within the site can also be found on MarLIN’s website.

JNCC also provides a list of activities occurring within the site and information on activity management in the activities and management tab. This information is also useful when assessing an activity, plan or project which may affect the protected features and JNCC has provided this to aid the cumulative assessment of impacts of human activities within the site. While every attempt has been made to ensure this information is accurate and kept up-to-date, the list is not to be considered exhaustive or definitive. The list does not, for example, include activities occurring off-site which may also be capable of affecting the protected features.  

The information contained within the advice on operations, activities and management tabevidence tab, and MarLIN’s sensitivity assessments are useful if you are:

  • carrying out any activity that may impact the site and need to find out how to operate within the law
  • an authority providing advice on specific proposals
  • an authority responsible for putting management measures in place

Our scientific understanding of the ecology of the site, its integrity and its qualifying features and how activities can affect them may change over time. JNCC’s and Natural England’s conservation advice will be kept under review and will be periodically updated to reflect this and surveillance required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive. Conservation advice for sites which straddle the 12nm boundary will continue to be developed jointly with the relevant country nature conservation body. Further information on JNCC’s conservation advice work is available via the offshore MPA conservation advice webpage.

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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