National Character Area 31

Morecambe Coast and Lune Estuary - 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: Maintain and enhance the historic and landscape character and the internationally significant habitats of the coastal environment, including the mudflats, salt marsh, sand dunes, vegetated shingle and the Lune Estuary, to support its key features, reflect the dynamic nature of the coastal systems, and ensure that the area remains able to regulate coastal flooding and sequester and store carbon, while providing access and recreation that is sensitive to the character of the coastal zone.

For example by:

  • Maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity of the coastal zone, including the estuary systems, both within and buffering the Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area and Ramsar site through careful management of salt marshes, sand dunes and rocky skears by well-managed grazing, sensitive access provision and managed fisheries, in line with the favourable condition objectives of the designated sites.
  • Protecting the open and tranquil character of the area provided by long, unmodified estuary views and distant views to the surrounding uplands by ensuring that new development is in keeping with the character of the landscape.
  • Conserving the habitats, open views and sustainable access along the coastal zones, which allows residents and tourists to enjoy the sight of wintering waders and wildfowl moving between feeding and roosting areas, so characteristic of this area.
  • Improving existing interpretation facilities to inform and educate visitors, and to increase their understanding of the value of the natural environment and their enjoyment of contact with it.
  • Ensuring that the habitats of the coastal zone such as grazed and ungrazed salt marshes, mudflats and cobble skears are managed in favourable condition so that they are capable of supporting species such as wintering waders and wildfowl, breeding waders, belted beauty moth and honeycomb worm reefs.
  • Restoring transitional grassland with ephemeral pools habitat along the coastal fringe to a quality where it can support formerly distinctive species such as natterjack toad.
  • Recognising the predicted impacts of climate change, with sea level rise and an increase in storm events, seeking opportunities to maintain dynamic coastal processes and, where appropriate, restore dynamic processes in order to maintain the coast and its habitats in line with the Shoreline Management Plan policies and related strategies, particularly around the Lune Estuary where the likelihood of impacts driving change is greatest.
  • Supporting the role of coastal habitats in managing coastal flooding and erosion risk, in particular by allowing salt marsh and sand dune accretion and development, as well as supporting their ability to sequester and store carbon.
  • Addressing both point and diffuse sources of pollution to improve the water quality of the coastal environment to European bathing water and shellfish water standards in order to support the seaside economy, sustainable traditional and shellfish fisheries, and recreational fisheries for economic and food production benefit.
  • Re-creating transitional habitats where opportunities allow, either as part of shoreline adaptation programmes or as bespoke projects, such as brackish water systems and semi-natural transitional grasslands, particularly around the estuary systems of the Lune, Cocker and Keer, in order to increase connectivity in the coastal zone, facilitate species movement and restore nursery areas for fish.
  • Conserving archaeological evidence of earlier settlement and land use and, where appropriate, securing off-site conservation of artefacts at risk from coastal change, with reference to heritage- at-risk priorities and bespoke surveys such as English Heritage’s Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment (RCZA): Morecambe Bay and its environs.
  • Taking steps to ensure that planned changes in the coastal zone are considered holistically so that they provide sustainable use of the coastal environment to the benefit of wildlife, tourism, access and recreation.


SEO 2: Enhance the mainly pastoral, rural landscape by supporting land managers to adopt long-term sustainable land management practices on both the organic soils of the coastal plain and reclaimed land from the Lune Estuary to Knott End-on-Sea, and the mineral soils of higher ground, seeking outcomes which deliver both economic and environmental benefits.

For example by:

  • Seeking to establish lower fertilizer systems where appropriate, for example by promoting nitrogen fixation by legumes or improving targeting of fertilizer applications, to improve water quality and aquatic biodiversity by reducing nutrient loading.
  • Supporting sustainable land management systems on peat-based soils and allowing water storage on flood plains to provide local flood regulation, reduce soil erosion risk, improve soil quality and enhance climate regulation by increasing the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of organic soils.
  • Establishing agricultural systems with more diverse swards to benefit both biodiversity and productivity, for example planting grasses which bind soils to reduce soil erosion, encouraging species such as clover which fix nitrogen, and establishing appropriate cutting and grazing regimes to allow flowering and seed set to support pollinators.
  • Working with land managers to improve infield habitat structure to maintain the resource for wintering wildfowl, including whooper swans, pink-footed geese and wigeon which feed on the grasslands around the coastal margins, leading to a more ecologically permeable landscape.
  • Maintaining pastoral systems in areas of high erosion risk, such as on steep slopes on the mineral soils, and areas of waterlogged soils throughout, with particular reference to priorities identified by the Catchment Sensitive Farming Programme, which aims to improve water quality and reduce nutrient loading through simple adaptive farm business measures.
  • Restoring the hydrological integrity and ecological function of remnant lowland peatlands such as Heysham Moss, including their hydraulic buffers, employing measures such as the removal of invasive scrub, blocking artificial drains and raising the water table to restore the biodiversity of peat ecosystems, secure the historical environmental record in the layers of peat, and restore the carbon sequestration
    and storage capacity of peat-forming systems. This will also act as an ecological stepping stone between the more extensive peatlands of the Lancashire and Amounderness Plain National Character Area (NCA) to the south and the Morecambe Bay Limestones NCA to the north.
  • Supporting re-establishment of cropping and horticulture systems, with an emphasis on spring-sown crops, in areas with improved mineral soils and gentle gradients where cropping systems will not lead to erosion problems. This may help to increase efficiency of food production, and provide the disturbed ground conditions suitable for locally distinctive plant species such as purple ramping-fumitory and wider year-round habitat and food requirements of declining farmland birds.
  • Protecting and expanding surviving areas of high-quality semi-natural habitat in the pastoral landscape, such as the species-rich grasslands and lowland wetland around Crag Bank and Thwaite House Moss, to prevent the loss of these systems, maintain biodiversity value and establish stepping stones of wetland habitat to allow species movement across the NCA.
  • Protecting, expanding and connecting surviving areas of ancient woodland to support its biodiversity and act as stepping stones for woodland species moving across the landscape.
  • Managing and establishing woodlands away from the coastal plain, for example by promoting wood fuel as a local energy source through re-establishing coppice management. Aiming to support climate regulation by promoting low-carbon energy sources, enhancing the biodiversity of woodland ecosystems by re-establishing managed woodland systems as well as low intervention systems, locally reducing soil erosion and addressing water quality issues by stabilising watercourse boundaries and steep slopes, and buffering watercourses to trap sediment and run-off.


SEO 3: Working with land managers, seek opportunities to enhance the historic character of the rural landscape, including heritage assets, boundary features and habitats, to protect the character of the rural landscape and restore the ecological condition and connectivity of these features.

For example by:

  • Protecting and restoring boundary features such as hedges, mature trees, ditches, rivers and walls, including restoring areas of semi-natural habitat. Carrying out works such as wall restoration, gapping up and protecting hedges, including management in locally traditional styles.
  • Maintaining the landscape structure of fields bounded by ditches on the coastal plain, hedges on the lowlands and walls on the upland margins of the NCA and on drumlins that provide abundant field stone.
  • Ensuring that hedges provide habitat, food such as nectar and berries, and enhanced connectivity for wildlife by securing good management such as cutting regimes that allow flowering and fruiting.
  • Ensuring that ditches and other watercourses have buffers of vegetation, including trees where appropriate, and riparian habitats along their margins to support riparian species and enable species movement, trap sediment and run-off in areas of high erosion risk, and ensure that stock access does not result in sediment entering watercourses.
  • Conserving and enhancing traditional buildings throughout the NCA and promoting the use of traditional building materials, such as Millstone Grit, and vernacular styles to strengthen the character of the NCA and the skills base in traditional techniques.


SEO 4: Promote the social, economic and cultural value of a healthy natural environment and embed wide understanding of sustainable management, building on the close proximity of areas of exceptional environmental value, particularly the coastal zone, to areas of high population density.

For example by:

  • Increasing awareness of the rural and especially the coastal environment and appreciation of how it functions through heritage programmes and celebratory cultural programmes (such as the Tern Project in Morecambe). Providing local interpretation around key sites, for example historic buildings and principal wader roosts, and viewpoints to ensure that key assets are protected, valued, celebrated
    and understood, helping residents and visitors to better appreciate and enjoy the features of interest.
  • Developing programmes which use local features as a platform for understanding wider management of the landscape and understanding of wider environmental processes and challenges, for example the presence of wader roosts on the sea front at Morecambe as a connector to the health of the bay.
  • Promoting the value of a well-managed, healthy and locally distinct coastal and rural environment as an economic opportunity underpinning the renaissance of the visitor economy of Morecambe and other coastal towns.
  • Developing programmes that enhance awareness among landowners, land managers and the business sector of environmental assets and measures to protect and enhance them, and which are also accessible to urban residents.
  • Promoting opportunities to link education and health programmes with experience of the natural environment. Embedding environmental awareness through educational access programmes and health interventions such as Walking for Health to increase opportunities for users to access, and to benefit from, the health and social rewards that their local environment affords them.
  • Promoting responsible recreational experience of the coastal zone and other sensitive areas. Achieving this by increasing awareness of the risks posed by disturbance, uninformed access and inappropriate recreation types to other users and vulnerable wildlife assets. Recognising that appropriate measures may vary between the more disturbed coast and the less disturbed parts of the NCA such as around the Lune and Keer estuaries, and along the Pilling coast, positively promoting measures that can be taken to protect sense of place assets, such as wader roosts, alongside other uses.


SEO 5: Plan for the creation of new green infrastructure to provide a framework for new development that integrates the needs of urban areas of Lancaster, Heysham and Morecambe with those of the surrounding rural and coastal landscapes. Ensure that potential new development and infrastructure is appropriately sited and designed to make a positive contribution to biodiversity, to help to improve health and social benefits for the community, and enhance the character and local distinctiveness of the area.

For example by:

  • Protecting and enhancing key features which identify the distinctiveness of the area and act as a selling point for growth and inward investment, in tandem with developments that have a positive impact overall on both the environment and economy, and further increase the profile of the area as a good place to live as well as work through the provision of a healthy environment.
  • Ensuring that potential new developments, particularly large infrastructure projects including energy developments, are appropriately sited and designed and make a positive contribution to the biodiversity and character of the area, particularly in the coastal zone and with respect to the needs of key species that require a high-quality environment.
  • Promoting enhanced habitat management as mitigation for areas that are negatively impacted by development and ensuring that the landscape is able to adapt to change while retaining its distinctive
    character, including the management of green infrastructure and green estates to complement local character and local species’ needs.
  • Increasing the ecological permeability of the landscape by promoting the use of native species in landscaping schemes, including street trees and small woodlands, linked to all sizes of development.
  • Promoting the use of traditional building materials, such as Millstone Grit, and vernacular styles where possible to strengthen landscape character and the skills base in traditional techniques.
  • Recognising and promoting the wider value and importance of green infrastructure in the health and wellbeing of people, improved connectivity and habitat opportunities for wildlife, and embedding an appreciation of the role played by green infrastructure in maintaining the character and local distinctiveness of the NCA.

On this Page