Please be advised that the conservation advice package for Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC was published on 5 October 2023. As the site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit the advice is jointly delivered with Natural England and can be found on Natural England's Designated Sites System.
Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
The Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA is located off the south Lincolnshire coast, encompassing a wide range of sandbank types and biogenic reef. The site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit, and therefore advice is jointly delivered with Natural England.
Located off the south Lincolnshire coast, The Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge (IDRBNR) MPA encompasses a wide range of sandbank types and biogenic reef. The site lies across the 12 nm territorial sea limit and therefore advice is jointly delivered with Natural England.
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. A margin of 500 m has been added around the edges of all sandbanks within the site to reflect current uncertainty in feature extent. While the areas inside these margins are not confirmed but potential feature, JNCC advises a precautionary approach to their management i.e. treat them as if they were confirmed feature to ensure appropriate protect now and into the future. 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. A margin of 50 m has also been applied to the point and line records of Sabellaria. Similarly, while the areas inside these margins are not confirmed but potential feature, JNCC advises a precautionary approach to their management i.e. treat them as if they were confirmed feature to ensure appropriate protection now and into the future.
More detailed site information can be found in the Summary section below.
Map displaying the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA boundary and associated protected feature data. Visit JNCC's MPA Mapper to further view and explore data for this MPA.
Note: Margins are included within the "Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time" and "Annex I Reef: Sabellaria spinulosa reef” 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 JNCC's MPA 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 Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).
|1170 Reefs||Annex I habitat|
|1110 Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time||Annex I habitat|
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.
The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC. More detail can be found in the Relevant Documentation section below.
The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge 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.
- 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: August 2020
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.
The Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA 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 30 m. 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. This site and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC together provide the only protection to offshore, headland-associated sandbank systems in the southern North Sea. The south-western edge of the 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. A margin of 500 m has been added around the edges of all sandbanks within the site to reflect current uncertainty in feature extent. While areas inside these margins are not confirmed but potential feature, JNCC advises a precautionary approach to their management i.e. treat them as if they were confirmed feature to ensure appropriate protection now and into the future. 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. A margin of 500 m has also been applied to the point and line records of Sabellaria. Similarly, while the areas inside these margins are not confirmed but potential feature, JNCC advises a precautionary approach to their management i.e. treat them as if they were confirmed feature to ensure appropriate protection now and into the future.
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 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation section.
Site area: 845 km2. The Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC covers a similar area to the second largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Mull (875 km2).
Site depth range: Depth at the site ranges from 1 m below sea-level to 70 m below sea-level.
Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea.
Site boundary description: The boundary around the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge 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 25 m, therefore a margin of 100 m 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.
Last updated: November 2017
The full overview of the various data used to support site identification along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA SAC Selection Assessment Document. JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to its MPA mapper in due course.
Some of the data for this SAC have 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
- 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 which was aimed 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.
- Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC Survey Report (2016) – This report was commissioned as part of an inshore benthic marine survey of the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC.
- JNCC, Natural England and Cefas Joint Wash Survey to Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC (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
- North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef, Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton, Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) Monitoring Report 2016 – This report presents the findings of the first dedicated monitoring survey of the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge (IDRBNR) SAC, Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton (HHW) SAC and the North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef (NNSSR) SAC, which will form the initial point in a monitoring time series against which feature condition can be assessed in the future.
- Benthic Survey of Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC (2013) – Describes the analysis of results from the JNCC–NE–Cefas collaborative survey conducted in 2011. The survey aimed to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features by collecting feature targeted acoustic sidescan, multibeam and ground-truthing data to provide the best-available evidence on which to build a robust baseline. The report describes the findings of the dedicated 2011 surveys together with 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).
- 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 11,000 km2 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 the site.
- 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.
Additional relevant literature
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. 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.
If you are aware of any additional data or relevant scientific papers for this site not listed above or in the Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge MPA SAC Selection Assessment Document in the Relevant documentation section, please contact us.
Last updated: May 2023
JNCC and Natural England have recently published draft conservation advice for Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC. This advice is accessible through Natural England’s Designated Sites System for Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC. Natural England, in consultation with JNCC, are undertaking a pilot project that explores a new approach to updating its supplementary advice on conservation objectives for Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC. For more details please see the site's Designated Site Systems page.
The 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.
Activities and Management
Last updated: October 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. 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 made to assess whether the site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.
This site forms part of the networks of MPAs across the UK and contributes to international MPA networks such as that of the North-east Atlantic under OSPAR. As the UK is a contracting party to the OSPAR Commission, JNCC is committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is well-managed. The site straddles the 12 nm limit. 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:
- 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.
- The implementation of management measures – management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.
- Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a site's conservation objectives.
- 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 Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge 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 features 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 features of this MPA are 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.
- As this site straddles the 6–12 nm limit, advice on fishing impacts is the joint responsibility of Natural England and JNCC, and fisheries are subject to regulation through the Fisheries Act 2020.
- The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has created a byelaw to protect biogenic reef (ross worm 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. Additional information on wider management measures which overlap the site are available on the Natural England Designated Sites System for this site.
- Two abandoned, explorative oil wells occur within the site, and four pipelines cross the north of the MPA.
- There is substantial wind farm activity in this MPA, with operational wind farms (including Inner Dowsing, Lincs and Lynn) located 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.
- Two areas licensed for aggregate extraction overlap with this MPA, a further area is currently under application.
- Any activities or future proposals would have to comply with Regulation 28 (Protection of European offshore marine sites and European sites) of The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) and the inshore area by The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).
- Our conservation advice supports the consents process by setting out the conservation objectives for the protected features of this MPA and advice on activities that may result in pressures to which the protected feature is considered sensitive.
- Further information on JNCC's role in the provision of advice for licensed activities in the UK offshore area is available on JNCC's offshore industry advice webpages.
- There is low to moderate intensity commercial shipping in this area including cargo vessels, passenger vessels and port service craft. The pressures associated with shipping activity within Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.
- Under international law (UNCLOS, Article 17), ships have a right of innocent passage at sea, including in areas designated as MPAs.
- Royal Yachting Association racing areas, sailing areas and recognised cruising routes overlap with the site.
- At least 31 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 section and Monitoring section.
A site condition monitoring survey took place in 2016 to monitor and inform assessment of condition of the designated features. Further information will be made available in the Monitoring section in due course.
4. Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives
No long-term condition monitoring data is available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives.
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 in the Conservation Advice section.
Last updated: October 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.