Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA


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


The Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge(IDRBNR) site is located off the south Lincolnshire coast, encompassing a wide range of sandbank types and biogenic reef.


The main sandbank features of this MPA occur within the Wash Approaches, the Race Bank-North Ridge-Dudgeon Shoal system and at Inner Dowsing. The tops of the sandbanks are characterised by low diversity communities of polychaete worms and amphipod crustaceans. The trough areas between the sandbank features contain a diverse mosaic of biotopes on mixed and gravelly sands. Biogenic reef created by the ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa has consistently been recorded within the site. These reefs support a variety of bryzoans, hydroids, sponges and anemones as well as the common lobster Homarus gammarus and the commercially exploitable pink shrimp Pandalus montagui.

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

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 or Restore

to Favourable Condition

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

Maintain or Restore

to 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 IDRBNR cSAC/SCI. More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.


Relevant documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to IDRBNR cSAC/SCI were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.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.
  • November 2009-February 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 IDRBNR site is located off the south Lincolnshire coast to the east of Skegness and extending eastwards and north from Burnham Flats on the North Norfolk coast. The site occupies The Wash Approaches. Water depths are generally shallow and mostly less than 30m. The area encompasses a wide range of sandbank types and biogenic reef formed by ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa. These features lay almost entirely on the glacial till (sediment deposited by glacial activity) of the Bolders Bank Formation which is responsible for much of the seabed topography.

The group of banks within the Wash Approaches are made up of fine to medium sands derived from coastal erosion processes following the last glacial retreat and marine inundation. Inner Dowsing is a sandbank to the west of the site comprising of coarse sand with some areas of gravel, with a distinctive elongate shape maintained by the tidal currents in the area. The Race Bank-North Ridge-Dudgeon Shoal sandbank system is an example of a sinusoidal sandbank that also has a complex pattern of smaller sandbanks associated with it. Together, this site and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI provide the only protection to offshore, headland-associated sandbank systems in the southern North Sea. The south-western edge of the IDRBNR site lies adjacent to The Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC which protects sandbanks and biogenic reef in an inshore setting with a strong coastal influence, as well as estuarine, intertidal and shoreline habitats.

The tops of the sandbanks are characterised by low diversity communities dominated by polychaete worms and mobile amphipod crustaceans. The trough areas between these sandbank features are composed of mixed and gravelly sands, predominantly as veneers over glacial till. In these areas diverse mosaics of biotopes occur, which are dominated by the ascidian Molgula sp. along with a number of nemertean worms and polychaetes. Abundant ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa agglomerations have consistently been recorded within the site. Biogenic reefs formed by ross worm allow colonisation by other species not otherwise associated with adjacent, looser sediment habitats. Areas of high ross worm density support attached epifauna such as bryozoans, hydroids, sponges and anemones. Additional fauna also includes polychaetes, squat lobsters, crabs, the common lobster Homarus gammarus and notably the commercially exploitable pink shrimp Pandalus montagui.

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: 845 km2

The IDRBNR cSAC/SCI covers a similar area to the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Mull (875km2).

Site depth range: Depth at the site ranges from 1m below sea level to 70m below sea level.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea

Site boundary description
The boundary around the IDRBNR site is a simple polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitats. The site contains sandbanks at depths of predominantly less than 25m, therefore a margin of 100m was used around each sandbank feature to protect them from the effects of mobile gear used on the seabed at some distance from the vessel on the surface.

Information for this site summary was adapted from the SAC Selection Assessment Document and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced. Please refer to this document in the relevant documentation section for further details and information sources.


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 IDRBNR cSAC/SCI Selection Assessment Document.

JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to the JNCC Interactive MPA Map in due course.

Some of the data for this cSAC/SCI has been collected through JNCC funded or collaborative surveys and some through other means. Data from these surveys provide 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 Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI - 2011
    This survey aimed 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. Reporting is underway and will be made available in due course.

Data analysis reports
Analyses of data gathered as part of the surveys listed above, as well as other relevant data analysis products, are available via the following reports. Note the citations given are fully referenced in the ‘additional relevant literature’ section below. 

  • Data analysis of the 2011 survey to Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge cSAC/SCI and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton cSAC/SCI
    Analysis of the acoustic, video, photographic and grab sample data collected during the JNCC-Natural England, and Cefas collaborative survey in 2011. Reporting is underway and will be made available in due course.
  • Humber Regional Environmental Characterisation - 2011
    A multidisciplinary marine study by Tappin et al. (2011) into the geology, biology and archaeology of the Humber area – an area of 11,000km2 off the east coast of England. SeaZone bathymetry data, three geophysical surveys and one sampling survey were used to characterise the environment on the seafloor at a large regional scale. The biological assemblage data was used to help determine the location and extent of the sandbank features in IDRBNR.
  • SeaZone Digital Survey Bathymetry and Coastal Digital Elevation Model - 2009
    Bathymetric data was used by SeaZone Solutions Ltd. to map the base of sandbanks. The bathymetry provided good spatial coverage of the central and eastern parts of IDRBNR and the Coastal Digital Elevation Model provided supplementary data including coverage of the western part of the site. An accurate delineation of Annex I sandbank features was then undertaken using a slope analysis in GIS.
  • The “reefiness” of Sabellaria spinulosa in The Wash - 2008
    A report by the Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee (Woo, 2008) on the results of a 2007 survey to the Inner and Outer Wash. The distribution of ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa was assessed using the RoxAnnTM Acoustic Ground Discrimination System. The 2007 survey built on previous years’ work, monitoring changes in the extent and nature of ross worm communities and gathering data to support the scoring of ross worm colony “reefiness”.
  • Outer Wash Site Summaries - 2008
    An initial appraisal of the occurrence of Annex I sandbank habitat was completed on Natural England’s behalf by Entec in 2008. This work examined data from a variety of sources including windfarm and aggregate surveys, dedicated survey and modelling.
  • Summary of report on the data acquisition phase of the characterisation of possible marine SACs (outer Wash sandbanks and outer Thames Estuary) - 2007
    An overview of surveys to identify Annex I interest features, undertaken by Entec in 2007. The report was commissioned by Natural England.

Offshore industry operators in the Southern North Sea area have also provided data through Environmental Statements and monitoring survey reports. These, and references for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site, can be found in the SAC Selection Assessment Document.


Additional relevant literature
Please be aware that although these sources contain information which is of interest in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC:

  • Tappin, D.R., Pearce, B., Fitch, S., Dove, D., Gearey, B., Hill, J.M., Chambers, C., Bates, R., Pinnion, J., Diaz Doce, D.,Green, M., Gallyot, J., Georgiou, L., Brutto, D., Marzialetti, S., Hopla, E., Ramsay, E. and Fielding, H. (2011). The Humber Regional Environmental Characterisation. Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund.
  • Woo, J. (2008). The “reefiness” of Sabellaria spinulosa in The Wash: a report on the results of the 2007 AGDS survey. Eastern Sea Fisheries Joint Committee, King’s Lynn.


Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed in the relevant documentation, or the IDRBNR Selection Assessment Document listed in the relevant documents section, please contact JNCC.


MPA Conservation Advice

Conservation objectives
Conservation objectives set out the desired state for the protected features of an MPA. The conservation objectives for the protected features of the IDRBNR 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 IDRBNR 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:

Subject to natural change, maintain or restore the sand banks in favourable condition, in particular the sub-features:

  • Gravelly muddy sand communities
  • Dynamic sand communities 

Subject to natural change, maintain or restore the reefs in favourable condition.

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 IDRBNR 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 the MarLIN 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 tab, evidence 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 on 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 May 2015)

Licensed activities:

  • Oil and gas – two abandoned, explorative oil wells occur within the site, and four pipelines cross the north of the MPA.
  • Renewables – there is substantial wind farm activity in this MPA, including Inner Dowsing, Lincs and Lynn wind farms in the Inner Dowsing sandbank and Lynn Knock area, with a combined capacity of 850 megawatts. Energy cables connect these wind farms to the Lincolnshire coast. A wind farm has also been consented in the Race Bank area.
  • Aggregate extraction – two areas licensed for aggregate extraction overlap with this MPA, a further area is currently under application.

Existing licensed activities that take place or may take place in the future within IDRBNR cSAC/SCI will continue to be managed in line with relevant legislation and application processes by the competent authorities. 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.



There is evidence of mobile demersal, static and pelagic gear effort within the IDRBNR cSAC/SCI.  The majority of effort is from UK vessels but with some evidence of limited effort from non-UK registered vessels.

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 (MMO) has created a byelaw to protect biogenic reef (ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa) by prohibiting the use of bottom towed fishing gear in specified areas of the site. All three areas fall within the 12nm limit. Due to the lack of traditional access rights for non-UK vessels in the overlapping area, UK management authorities have exclusive competence for introduction of measures in the 0-12nm portion of the site. Equally, The MMO is working with Defra and the Eastern Inshore Fisheries Conservation Association (EIFCA) on the development of a site management plan spanning inshore and offshore waters. Where vessels (UK and non-UK) are active outside 12nm, regulation of fisheries falls under the jurisdiction of the European Commission through the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). As such, Defra are currently developing management proposals, aiming to have any required measures in place by 2016.  Due to the cross-boundary nature of the site, advice on fisheries management measures is being developed jointly by JNCC and Natural England.

A first stakeholder workshop was held in August 2014, organised by Defra (with support from JNCC and the MMO) and attended by industry and government representatives from the UK and Netherlands and environmental NGOs. 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 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, which will be developed by the UK and other Member States with a direct management interest. The UK plans to submit the joint request to the European Commission by the end of 2015.

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. 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.

Other activities:

  • Shipping - There is a low to moderate density of commercial shipping in the site, including cargo vessels, passenger vessels and port service craft.

Under international law, ships have a rite 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 IDRBNR cSAC/SCI are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.

  • Recreational sailing - Royal Yachting Association racing areas, sailing areas and recognised cruising routes overlap with the site.
  • Wrecks - At least 31 wrecks have been recorded within the MPA.



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 level of risk facing this site and the management actions being taken forward.

Management Group: MPA Management National Steering Group

Further information on conservation advice in relation to this MPA 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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