National Character Area 135

Dorset Heaths - Detailed Statements of Environmental Opportunity

This section expands on the Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity and provides further detail on each of the Statements of Environmental Opportunity.


SEO 1: Protect the internationally important heathlands to make the resource more resilient to recreational pressure, succession to scrub or woodland and the likely impacts of climate change. Enhance the integrity of the landscape and the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation measures by extending sites and re-establishing physical links where possible between once separate blocks of heathland and work to embed the current and future relevance of this resource into the local economy.

For example by:

  • Extending existing best practice management (usually involving livestock grazing on the larger blocks) to as much of the heathland as possible, making functional links with adjacent commercial farmland.
  • Researching and trialling further advances in best practice, especially around the productive use of biomass removed from the heaths for management purposes.
  • Extending the amount of heathland and heath-related habitats on the Forestry Commission and Ministry of Defence estates by further removal of conifer woodland.
  • Utilising measures such as agri-environment schemes, the Forestry Commission Open Habitats Policy and advocacy to extend and physically link adjacent blocks of heath.
  • Providing for non-damaging recreational access and use by both the local population and tourists.
  • Improve public understanding of heathland using both on- and off-site educational approaches.


SEO 2: Protect and enhance Poole Harbour and its catchment, taking timely action to reduce eutrophication and mitigate (or compensate for) the effects of sea level rise, thereby securing the future of local tourism and fishing businesses as well as the important wildlife of the harbour.

For example by:

  • Facilitating the managed realignment of old sea defences to allow for the inland retreat of transitional habitats (such as salt marsh) as the sea level rises, leading to a more natural functioning of the harbour ecosystem.
  • Reducing the amount of nutrients entering Poole Harbour from agricultural sources by continuing with catchment initiatives that engage and challenge farmers to reduce nutrient leaching and soil erosion.
  • Reducing the amount of nutrients entering Poole Harbour from domestic and industrial sources by engaging with the planning process for new developments on the basis of avoiding and then mitigating any residual impact and by seeking cost-effective improvements to existing sewage disposal and treatment arrangements with the water companies and owners of unsewered properties.
  • Seeking appropriate levels of commercial use of the harbour (for example through tourism and fisheries) so that commercial use does not degrade the natural environment.
  • Encouraging further reduction in the sika deer population and management to sustain a lower population level once the environmental damage caused by their overgrazing has ceased.
  • Encouraging the establishment of new riparian woodlands and their associated ecosystems, especially where this could help to improve the quality of water reaching the rivers.


SEO 3: Enhance opportunities for recreation in natural greenspace by securing a network of new and revitalised suitable alternative natural greenspace (SANGS) centred on the Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole conurbation that provides a rich and varied countryside experience capable of supporting local health programmes and attracting and retaining local business while also deflecting some recreational pressure from the most sensitive environmental assets.

For example by:

  • Supporting local authorities to implement their SANGS programmes.
  • Negotiating a major new SANGS for the conurbation, for example in the Stour Valley.
  • Supporting developers in the scoping and design of new SANGS appropriate to their proposed developments.
  • Encouraging the establishment of new urban and peri-urban woodlands where this does not conflict with other objectives.
  • Supporting education and outreach programmes that raise awareness and creative use of the natural environment, increase understanding of the fragile nature of the heathland habitat and develop a sense of ownership and responsibility towards its care.
  • Supporting the extension of the South West Coast Path to Christchurch.


SEO 4: Promote creative and effective solutions to environmental constraints so that enterprise can pursue sustainable development solutions to enhance local prosperity.

For example by:

  • Working with the Local Enterprise Partnership, Local Nature Partnership, local planning authorities and individual businesses to take a strategic view of commercial opportunities that can be delivered in a way that supports the natural environment.
  • Engaging early when requested in the scoping of new developments to ensure that they maximise their contribution to sustainable development.

Additional opportunity 1

Additional opportunity 1: Support agriculture, forestry and fisheries to improve both the sustainability and the gross value added of their respective industries.

For example by:

  • Providing effective advice on environmental management and grants available to support improved management.
  • Supporting local branding and marketing where this is clearly linked to enhanced environmental delivery.
  • Supporting initiatives to encourage sympathetic commercial uses of under- managed woodlands where this does not conflict with other objectives.
  • Exploring new routes to market for products, such as venison, where a thriving commercial demand will support conservation management.

Additional opportunity 2

Additional opportunity 2: Seek to facilitate and encourage both the natural change in range of species whose range is expanding and the re-introduction of lost fauna and flora where the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria for re-introduction have been satisfied. Continue work to remove and limit the spread of invasive non-native species whose presence has the potential to upset the local ecology.

For example by:

  • Creating missing habitat components (such as nesting platforms for osprey) to make the area attractive for species that might naturally settle there.
  • Participating in the IUCN criteria analysis and any subsequent licence applications and delivery action for well thought through species re-introduction proposals.
  • Continuing with actions designed to eradicate invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed, Gaultheria and rhododendron, which are damaging to the natural environment.

Additional opportunity 3

Additional opportunity 3: Work with mineral operators, regulators and local communities to ensure that end-of-life mineral workings have an after-use that supports and enhances local landscape, geodiversity, biodiversity and recreation.

For example by:

  • Offering early engagement when new mineral proposals are being scoped to condition appropriate end use.
  • Providing support to operators in the design of high-quality end-use proposals.