National Character Area 23

Tees Lowlands - Summary and Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity


The Tees Lowlands National Character Area (NCA) forms a broad, open plain dominated by the meandering lower reaches of the River Tees and its tributaries, with wide views to distant hills. The large conurbation around the Lower Tees and Teesmouth contrasts with the rural area to the south and west, which is largely agricultural in character. The mosaic of intertidal and wetland habitats within the Tees Estuary are internationally designated as Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Special Protection Area and Ramsar site, due to their importance for waterfowl. These areas are in close proximity to heavy industry, which has developed due to the estuary’s strategic location close to; mineral reserves, a network of main roads, railways and Teesport. Industrial installations form a dramatic skyline when viewed from the surrounding hills. Early successional grasslands and scrub have also emerged on previously developed land; these brownfield sites have significant biodiversity value.

Agricultural land is intensively farmed, with large fields and sparse woodland, and a settlement pattern influenced both by the river and by past agricultural practices. Areas of parkland and more extensive woodland are found to the north-west. Recent changes include the development of infrastructure associated with the energy industry, in particular onshore and offshore wind farms.

Dynamic processes of sediment movement influence the coastline in this NCA, and the protection of intertidal habitats through managed realignment will be a key challenge. Protection and expansion of wetland areas can help to reduce flood risk in urban areas, and this should be a priority along with the restoration of wildlife-friendly habitats and low intensity land uses in rural areas. Other future challenges include adapting agricultural practices to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and linking green corridors in urban areas to form a strategic green infrastructure network.

Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity (SEO)

See the Statements of Environmental Opportunity section for more details on the headlines listed below.


Protect and enhance the unique landscape of the Tees Estuary with its mosaic of internationally important intertidal, wetland and brownfield habitats.


Incorporate semi-natural habitats within the farmed environment, and use innovative farming techniques in order to improve the value of food provision alongside biodiversity, flood water storage capacity, and the ability of the landscape to adapt to the impacts of climate change.


Ensure that there is a well-connected network of high-quality green infrastructure throughout the Tees Lowlands which will enable people to understand and enjoy the natural environment, as well as providing a range of other benefits including biodiversity enhancement, food provision and flood risk mitigation.