National Character Area 13

South East Northumberland Coastal Plain - 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: Ensure that mining and development sites are managed and restored so as to minimise pollution and disturbance while contributing to flood alleviation, ecological networks, sense of place and recreational opportunities, particularly alongside Druridge Bay and in growth areas around Ashington, Ellington, Blyth and Cramlington.

For example by:

  • Ensuring that restoration schemes for ex-mining sites incorporate: a mosaic of habitats that enhance the surrounding habitat network and allow for species movement; high-quality recreational and access opportunities; and measures to help to alleviate potential pollution from mine waters or run-off (such as reedbeds) and contribute to floodwater storage (such as ponds and wetlands).
  • Ensuring that restoration and management of post-industrial sites that modifies the soil, hydrology or vegetation of the sites does not cause mobilisation of industrial pollutants, particularly heavy metals.
  • Ensuring that new development incorporates green infrastructure that links with open greenspace.
  • Ensuring that new developments are built in areas at low risk of riverine or coastal flooding and low risk of coastal erosion.
  • Ensuring that new developments include sustainable urban drainage systems, water efficiency features, rainwater harvesting and re-use of grey water, to minimise additional pressure on wastewater treatment works and pollution load to local watercourses, and to reduce surface flooding.
  • Seeking opportunities to retrofit sustainable urban drainage systems and water efficiency features into existing developments.
  • Encouraging strategic tree-planting within urban and industrial areas and in new developments to shade and cool buildings and public greenspace, slow rainwater run-off and provide wildlife habitat/movement corridors.
  • Encouraging consideration of short rotation coppice to screen new development and enhance restored mining sites.
  • Exploring opportunities for timber production from woodland planted on restoration sites, where this is compatible with recreation and nature conservation objectives.
  • Encouraging use of nectar-rich plant varieties in municipal planting schemes, private gardens and new developments, to support pollinator species.


SEO 2: Conserve and enhance coastal and estuarine habitats and species, and allow habitats to adapt to coastal change, to improve the coast’s value for wildlife, geodiversity, recreation, archaeology and sense of place.

For example by:

  • Planning for the effects of coastal change, allowing the operation of natural coastal processes and the creation of new habitats and roll-back of existing habitats as the coast erodes, to maintain and enhance local landscape character and biodiversity and reduce flooding in built up areas.
  • Managing the coastal strip and removing artificial barriers so that habitats such as sand dunes and dune grassland have the space to develop inland as the coast erodes.
  • Seeking opportunities for the restoration and creation of coastal wetlands, such as salt marshes, ponds and saline lagoons, to deliver benefits for coastal flooding and erosion, as well as biodiversity, water quality, sense of place and recreation.
  • Managing vegetated dunes to maintain cover and diversity of plant communities, by securing appropriate grazing regimes and directing public access, thereby minimising erosion, maintaining stability and preserving wildlife interest and flood defence value.
  • Working with water companies, farmers, the fishing community, restoration site owners, developers, local residents and industry to minimise diffuse and point source pollution to rivers and the sea, and to reduce the amount of litter washed up and left on the area’s beaches.
  • Encouraging sustainable use of fisheries resources in terms of catch sizes and catch types so that fish stocks and marine ecosystems are maintained and restored.
  • Excavating and recording coastal archaeological sites that are at risk of loss through coastal erosion, and providing interpretation of coastal archaeology, particularly structures from the World Wars and buried bronze-age archaeology.
  • Improving public transport links and bridleways linking with the coast to minimise the use of private cars and potential associated issues of disturbance, congestion and air pollution.


SEO 3: Improve the connectivity and resilience of semi-natural inland habitats, particularly wetlands and native woodland, and enhance the management of agricultural land to deliver benefits for wildlife, climate regulation, water quality, soil quality, food production, sense of place, sense of history and flood alleviation.

For example by:

  • Creating new areas of woodland, permanent grassland (including acid grassland and meadows), lowland heath and wetlands (including fens and reedbeds) in locations where they will create links or stepping stones between fragmented habitats and extend or buffer priority sites.
  • Exploring opportunities for the creation of new ponds and wetlands, particularly on mine restoration sites and where this will increase floodwater storage capacity.
  • Seeking opportunities for native tree, scrub and woodland planting where this will help to slow run-off into rivers, enhance landscape features such as parkland, and contribute to climate change adaptation (for example, shade and/or shelterbelts in new developments, as scattered infield trees on livestock grazing land and in strips along watercourses) and carbon sequestration and/or storage.
  • Protecting and restoring hedgerows and encouraging less frequent cutting to allow greater flowering.
  • Working with farmers to ensure that any intensification is sustainable and optimises resource efficiency (fuel, agro-chemicals and water), soil management, habitat provision and use of precision farming techniques.
  • Encouraging management of farmland to improve soil structure and organic matter content such as minimum tillage, controlled farm traffic, appropriate timing of grazing and machinery use, incorporation of organic matter and use of green manure and winter cover crops, to give benefits for soil quality, soil erosion, water quality, water availability, flood alleviation, food production and biodiversity.
  • Working with farmers to reduce nutrient, agro-chemical and sediment load to watercourses through best practice measures to reduce risk of pollution (relating to chemical and/or nutrient use and farm infrastructure) and use of measures to intercept run-off and pollutants such as buffer strips, riparian tree planting and settlement ponds.
  • Encouraging take-up of agri-environment schemes and environmental grants for farmers, particularly where this can support more efficient use of resources, adoption of new environmentally beneficial technology and habitat creation on less productive land such as the creation of wetlands and of good habitat for farm wildlife, pollinators or predators of agricultural pests.
  • Supporting research into the pest regulation services offered by semi-natural habitats in the area, and how the agronomic benefits could be maximised, and communicating findings to local farmers along with practical advice on how to secure any proven benefits on their land.
  • Encouraging farmers to provide habitat and food sources for pollinators and predators of pest species (such as hedges which are not cut every year, flower-rich field margins, beetle banks, and pollen and nectar mixes) using agri-environment schemes where possible.
  • Retaining the historic field boundary network, ensuring that hedgerows are sympathetically managed, and encouraging the restoration of hedgerows to strengthen field patterns.
  • Exploring opportunities for better management of ground features and below-ground archaeology on arable land, such as the establishment of permanent grassland, shallow cultivation or minimum tillage agriculture, and encouraging uptake of agri-environment schemes to fund such work.
  • Enhancing features that act as wildlife movement corridors or stepping stones in urban areas, such as river corridors, green routes, parks and gardens.
  • Seeking opportunities to remove artificial barriers to fish migration from rivers and, where complete removal is not feasible, exploring possibilities for the creation of fish passes.
  • Enabling rivers to return to more natural courses, where feasible, thereby allowing active geomorphological processes to take place.


SEO 4: Enhance recreational opportunities by addressing key gaps in the access network, such as across major roads and rivers, enhancing public transport, protecting and improving water quality and providing interpretation of key geological and historic sites.

For example by:

  • Seeking opportunities to bridge gaps in the rights of way network, particularly crossings over rivers and busy roads.
  • Seeking opportunities to enhance the bridleway network and provide additional opportunities for traffic-free cycling and horse riding routes.
  • Seeking opportunities to improve water quality for the benefit of wildlife and recreational users in the area by working with water companies, farmers, the fishing community, restoration site owners, developers, local residents and industry to minimise diffuse and point source pollution.
  • Ensuring that new development incorporates green infrastructure that links with greenspace and with the open countryside and allows for modes of transport other than just private cars.
  • Ensuring that people have access to greenspace and green routes close to where they live, so that they can easily access greenspace and enjoy the associated benefits for their health and wellbeing while learning about nature and the environment.
  • Managing access to popular tranquil areas in order to maintain tranquillity and environmental quality for the benefit of all users and wildlife, through measures such as providing cycle routes and public transport to minimise private car use.
  • Protecting and enhancing the quality of recreational facilities and access opportunities at the coast while seeking to minimise disturbance, particularly to protected bird populations and designated sites.
  • Encouraging better understanding of the value of the coast and its history, geology, habitats and wildlife through provision of more interpretation material and educational events.
  • Improving public rights of way along the area’s major rivers, particularly the River Wansbeck.
  • Seeking opportunities to provide interpretation of less visible archaeological sites such as restored industrial sites and buried prehistoric sites along the coast.
  • Providing interpretation at mining sites, particularly where visible reminders of mining have all been removed.
  • Seeking opportunities to identify and establish local geological sites.
  • Using geological sites as an educational resource, particularly to increase awareness of past climatic change, the formation of the Coal Measures and how they have influenced the area.
  • Seeking opportunities to improve access to key geological sites, where appropriate, and provide interpretation and educational opportunities to increase visitors’ enjoyment and understanding of the significance of the sites and the area’s geological past.

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