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Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton MPA

JNCC and Natural England have jointly prepared updated formal conservation advice for Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC in September 2018. Further information is available in the Conservation Advice section below.

Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC lies off the north-east coast of Norfolk, across the 12 nm territorial sea limit. Therefore advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.


Located off of the north-east coast of Norfolk, the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC contains the protected features 'Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time' and 'Reefs' The site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit, and therefore advice for this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.

The site contains a series of sandbanks formed via headland associated geological processes since the 5th century AD. These sandbanks are curved, run parallel to the coast, are composed of sandy sediment and lie in full salinity water with intermediate coastal influence. The site contains a mosaic of different physical habitats corresponding to different biological communities. The fauna of the sandbank crests is predominantly low-diversity polychaete and amphipod communities that are typical of mobile sediment environments. The banks are separated by troughs containing more gravelly sediments supporting 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.

The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC overlaps with an MPA that has been identified for the protection of harbour porpoise – the Southern North Sea SAC. For more information, please see the Southern North Sea MPA Site Information Centre.

More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.

Map displaying the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.



Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.


Protected features

Feature Features Type
1170 Reefs Annex I habitat*
1110 Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time Annex I habitat*

*For the latest Annex I habitat resource figures, please see the link to the latest Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting in the Assessment section.

Specific information on the conservation objectives relating to this site is provided in the Conservation Advice section.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up-to-date information is reflected on the map on this page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence section.


Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC.  More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.



Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC 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. Information about the SAC site selection process is available on JNCC's SAC webpages.

  • Natura 2000 Standard Data Form – Details the SAC and the designated features.
  • SAC Selection Assessment Document – Overview of the SAC, designated features and rationale for site selection.
  • Site Improvement Plan – 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.
  • Post-consultation Report and Impact Assessment – Overview of the consultation outcomes, and an assessment of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the designation.
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is available in the Conservation Advice section below.

These resources are available on JNCC's Resource Hub.



Last updated: October 2017

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


Site Overview

The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC 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 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 due to 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 and amphipods 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 5 cm to 10 cm. 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 SAC can be found in the Evidence section.

Site location:  Co-ordinates for this SAC can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation section.

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 52 m 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 features. Co-ordinate points have been positioned as close to the edge of the interest features 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 <25 m below chart datum. Therefore, a margin of 100 m 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.



Last updated: October 2017

The full overview of the range of data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC Selection Assessment Document


Survey and data gathering

  • Southern North Sea Sandbanks Monitoring Survey (2017) Cruise Report – This collaborative survey between Cefas and JNCC covered three sites; Haisborough Hammond and Winterton SAC, Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef SAC. This cruise report details the operations carried out onboard the survey, the aim of which was to acquire monitoring data to contribute to the development of a monitoring time-series for these three sites. Reporting of the data is underway and will be made available in due course.
  • Joint Wash Baseline Survey (2011) – JNCC, Natural England and Cefas worked together 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

  • Benthic Survey of Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC (2013) – This report by Cefas describes results from the 2011 baseline survey that aimed to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features by collecting feature-targeted acoustic sidescan, multibeam and ground-truthing data. The cruise reports (Whomersley et al. 2011) and additional information from the Humber and East Coast Regional Environmental Characterisation (REC) reports (Tappin et al. 2011; Limpenny et al. 2011) are also available.
  • 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 31,560 km² of the seabed has been surveyed to collect bathymetric and faunal data and mapped, including an area within the site.
  • 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.
  • Potential cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging (2007) – Investigated the potential cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging on faunal communities and sediment composition by collecting benthic grab samples. Analysis 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 SAC.
  • Hanson Aggregates Marine Limited (2005) – Survey to examine impacts of dredging 5 years post-dredging activity to produce an Environmental Statement for an aggregates dredging project within the SAC. The survey provides sediment particle size and faunal data for a localised area within the SAC.


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Selection Assessment Document found in the Relevant Documentation section. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.


Knowledge gaps

If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in the Relevant Documentation section, please contact us.


Conservation Advice

Last updated: September 2018

JNCC and Natural England have prepared joint formal conservation advice for Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC. This advice is available through Natural England’s Designated Sites System for Haisborough Hammond and Winterton SAC.

The formal advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by both Natural England and JNCC and 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. For more information on JNCC’s approach to conservation advice please see the 'Conserving MPAs' webpage. Information can also be found from Natural England on the website.


Activities and Management

Last updated: June 2017

Management status: Progressing towards being well managed

Impacts of licensable activities are regulated through licensing processes. Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission. Specific areas of the inshore portion of the site are, however, subject to a fisheries byelaw prohibiting the use of bottom-towed gear in order to protect the biogenic reef (Sabellaria spinulosa). There is currently limited condition monitoring available and therefore further progress will need to be made to assess whether this site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.

This site forms part of the UK's contribution to the OSPAR Commission's network of MPAs, Europe’s Natura 2000 network and the Emerald Network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is 'well-managed' by 2020. The site straddles the 12 nm limit, therefore JNCC and Natural England have joint statutory responsibility to advise on the conservation of this site.

JNCC considers 'well-managed' to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the 'MPA management cycle'. This involves:

  1. The documentation of appropriate management information – conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.
  2. The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
  3. Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
  4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.

The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC around each of the four stages in the MPA management cycle.


1. The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available in the Conservation Advice section. Further information is available on our 'Conserving MPAs' webpage.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.
  • JNCC is in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.


2. The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and 'licensable' activities.


  • The south-eastern corner of the site is heavily fished by trawlers. UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • As this site straddles the 6–12 nm limit, fisheries operating within the offshore portion of the site are subject to regulation under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has created a byelaw to protect biogenic reef (Sabellaria spinulosa) in the inshore portion of the site by prohibiting the use of bottom towed fishing gear in specified areas of the site within the 12 nm limit. Additonal information on wider management measures which overlap the site is available on Natural England's Designated Sites System for this site.
  • In accordance with Article 18 of the revised CFP, requests for management within the offshore portion of the site will be developed jointly between the UK Government and any Member States with a direct management interest in the area affected.

Licensable activities


  • A moderate level of commercial and recreational shipping activity takes place within the site. Due to the location of the site, vessel anchorage is unlikely.
  • Under international law (UNCLOS, Article 17), ships have a right of innocent passage at sea including in areas designated as MPAs. The pressures associated with shipping activity within Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.


  • 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 license 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. 

Recreational activities 

  • Royal Yachting Association racing areas, sailing areas and recognised cruising routes overlap with the site.


  • Over 100 wrecks have been recorded within the site.


3. Site condition monitoring

A baseline condition survey was undertaken in 2011 to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features within Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC and Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC. Further information is provided in the Evidence and Monitoring sections.

A site condition monitoring survey took place in 2016 to monitor and inform assessment of condition of the designated features. This was a collaborative survey of sandbank sites in the Southern North Sea. Further information will be made available in due course.


4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data are available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The conservation objectives for the features within the site were based on findings of a vulnerability assessment. Both the Annex I features 'Reefs' (Sabellaria spinulosa biogenic reef) and 'Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time' have both 'Maintain' and 'Restore' conservation objectives for the associated attributes, which suggests this feature is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided in the Assessment section as it becomes available.



Last updated: June 2017

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.



Last updated: November 2019

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 pre-defined 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.


Conservation Assessment Reports

Every six years, Member States of the European Union are required (by Article 17 of the Directive) to report on implementation of the Habitats Directive. The latest report on the Conservation Status of Annex I habitats and Annex II species on the Habitats Directive was submitted by the UK in 2019 and provided an assessment of the conservation status of relevant habitats and species within UK marine waters during period 2013–2018; information on the condition of features within SACs have made a contribution to this report.


UK State of the Seas Reports & UK Marine Strategy Part 1

Charting Progress 2 (CP2) published in 2010, is a comprehensive report on the state of the UK seas. It was published by the UK Marine Monitoring and Assessment Strategy (UKMMAS) community which has over 40 member organisations. The report was based on a robust, peer-reviewed evidence base and describes progress made since the publication of Charting Progress in 2005. It provides key findings from UK marine research and monitoring for use by policy makers and others, as we move towards the UK vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The results from CP2 were incorporated into the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Initial Assessment and Good Environmental Status published in 2012 under the UK Marine Strategy Regulations (2010). The UK Marine Strategy Part 1 (2012) also set out the UK’s definition for Good Environmental Status, which could be achieved by meeting a series of environmental targets. JNCC worked with other organisations in the UKMMAS community to develop a series of indicators that were used to assess progress against each of the targets and to report on progress made since 2012. The results of these assessments have been published in the UK Marine Strategy Part 1: UK Updated Assessment and Good Environmental Status in 2019. Detailed evidence used to make these assessments is available via the Marine Online Assessment Tool (MOAT). It also sets out proposals for updated high-level objectives, targets and operational targets to be used for 2018 to 2024, which build on those set in 2012.

It is worth noting the two other parts of the UK Marine Strategy: UK Marine Strategy Part Two: marine monitoring programmes, published in 2014 and UK Marine Strategy Part Three: programme of measures published in 2015. Updates to these will be made in 2020 and 2021 respectively.


OSPAR Quality Status Reports

Many of the assessments in the updated UK Marine Strategy Part 1 2019 were developed and produced in collaboration with other contracting Parties of the OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the North East Atlantic. In 2017 OSPAR Published its Intermediate Assessment (IA2017). The IA 2017 further develops OSPAR’s understanding of the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic and its current status. It demonstrates OSPAR’s progress towards realising its vision of a clean, healthy and biologically diverse North-East Atlantic, used sustainably. IA2017 follows on from OSPAR’s previous holistic assessment, the OSPAR Quality Status Report in 2010 (QSR2010) and in 2000 (QSR2000).


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.



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