National Character Area 7

West Cumbria 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: Conserve and enhance the unique open coast and estuarine landscapes with their distinct geology, improving and connecting habitats and their species, and enabling natural coastal processes to occur to enhance and improve the coast’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change.

For example by:

  • Implementing actions identified in the Shoreline Management Plan, to secure a sustainable management regime for the coast.
  • Developing a series of coastal nature reserves that, through best practice visitor management, provide a high-quality visitor experience without compromising environmental assets, and promote better appreciation and respectful use of the wider coastal environment.
  • Ensuring that habitat quality is sufficiently high to support specialist species such as the natterjack toad, Isle of Man cabbage, northern dune tiger beetle, breeding colonial seabirds including auks, gulls, terns and eider, and wintering waders; and including species that have been lost in the past, such as roseate tern and oyster plant.
  • Raising awareness of coastal dynamics, including coastal change, and habitats such as coastal sand dunes, vegetated shingle, and salt marsh in protecting the coast and ensuring that coastal development is sustainable. Also the interdependence between coastal erosion and accretion in supporting naturally functioning coastal systems that also provide coastal protection.
  • Encouraging and promoting local volunteering opportunities to further public engagement with the natural environment.
  • Developing physical and educational links between the urban centres and the adjacent high-quality coastal environment.
  • Restoring the lowland raised bogs of the Duddon Estuary as part of a series of sites that spans the boundary with the South Cumbria Low Fells National Character Area (NCA).
  • Supporting programmes that bring together the different elements of the heritage of the coastal environment, including its rich social, cultural, historical and natural histories, and presenting them as a single package to access the economic potential of the coastal environment.
  • Securing shellfisheries, and aquaculture, management that supports internationally important coastal sites and their bird populations and is economically sustainable.
  • Producing a plan of key actions for the protection and enhancement of the St Bees Heritage Coast.
  • Providing a high-quality England Coast Path National Trail that informs visitors to the sensitivities of the coastal environment and promotes informed enjoyment of the coast and adjacent areas.
  • Restoring stone-faced earthbank ‘kests’ as field boundaries in the coastal zone.
  • Seeking opportunities to reduce man-made marine litter washed up on beaches.
  • Raising awareness of the distinctive geological, particularly glacial, origins of the coastal landscape and the role of active processes in maintaining it.


SEO 2: Manage and enhance the farmed environment to secure viable and sustainable farming, improving water quality of the rivers and coast, reducing soil erosion, strengthening historic landscape character, conserving heritage features and archaeology, supporting species populations that are dependent on this area, and improving habitat connectivity.

For example by:

  • Supporting the delivery of key actions in the Lake District National Park Management Plan aimed at protecting and enhancing National Park landscape and its surrounds.
  • Protecting wetland communities, in particular valley and basin fens, from diffuse pollution and securing appropriate land management in their catchments.
  • Promoting farming practices that reduce the loss of soil and nutrients from farmland into watercourses causing diffuse pollution, particularly along the River Marron tributary of the River Derwent.
  • Securing integrated water supply sources for the area currently dependent on abstraction form the River Ehen catchment.
  • Restoring and enhancing the series of biological and geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), through both targeted measures and wider promotion of the social, cultural, historical and economic value of these sites.
  • Restoring and establishing woodlands along watercourses to improve water quality, control erosion and flooding, and improve habitat connectivity and resilience.
  • Securing management of arable crops that provides for the needs of farmland wildlife such as lapwing, skylark, yellow wagtail and grey partridge, and including lost species such as corn bunting, especially around St Bees.
  • Restoring drystone walls where these have fallen into decay and maintaining the link between walls and local geology such as St Bees sandstone in the northern part of the NCA and field stone on the upland fringes.
  • Exploring opportunities for better management of below-ground archaeology on arable land, such as establishment of permanent grassland, shallow cultivation or minimum tillage agriculture, and encouraging uptake of agri-environment schemes to fund such work.
  • Maintaining and restoring the extensive areas of species-rich, rush pasture grasslands and transitional heathlands in the West Cumbria coalfields with their series of specialist species, including breeding curlew and wintering hen harrier.
  • Strengthening traditional field patterns by managing, restoring and replanting hedgerows where they are the traditional boundary type.
  • Increasing woodland cover in appropriate areas to buffer, connect and extend woodland habitats and increase productive woodland where it will not damage semi-natural open habitats.
  • Delivering more natural river processes through re-naturalisation of modified stretches of the River Derwent as identified in the River Restoration Strategy.
  • Managing river corridors to provide high-quality habitat for specialist aquatic species such as freshwater pearl mussel, salmon and lamprey.
  • Protecting and restoring ancient woodlands, especially Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites, and increasing management of existing under-managed woodlands to provide multiple benefits.
  • Managing invasive non-native species such as Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed so they do not damage the area’s biodiversity, and monitoring the impacts of new tree pests and diseases.
  • Maintaining and restoring traditional farm buildings, through continued agricultural use where possible, and ensuring that through re-use their heritage interest is retained.
  • Maintaining the diversity of geology and traditional buildings that contributes to the NCA by using, promoting and encouraging locally sourced materials and skills for walling and building repair and construction.


SEO 3: Improve and enhance sustainable recreation, enabling people to experience the peace and beauty of the area and learn more about its biological, geological and heritage assets and natural processes, while managing visitor pressure to conserve the highly valued tranquillity and protect the sensitive semi-natural habitats and species found there.

For example by:

  • Increasing the awareness of nature reserves in urban and industrial landscapes, such as Siddick Ponds, and develop their role as sites that deliver education, promote health and support the local economy alongside their nature conservation value.
  • Enhancing the recreational potential of assets of the Lake District National Park both in the NCA and in the areas accessed through it for visitors and residents alike, improving economic and social appreciation of the area.
  • Making use of the new England Coast Path National Trail to articulate messages about the environmental sensitivity of the coast and the role played by coastal processes and habitats in providing coastal protection.
  • Protecting where appropriate, documenting and raising awareness of the area’s rich archaeological heritage from Neolithic times to the First World War and Second World War.
  • Conserving archaeological and other historic features in the landscape with heritage interest, raising awareness of how land use and other historic processes have shaped the landscape while also recognising the potential for undiscovered remains.
  • Supporting programmes that bring together the different elements of the heritage of the coastal environment, including its rich social, cultural, historical and natural histories, and presenting them as a single package to access the economic potential of the coastal environment.
  • Developing the role played by the coastal railway as an access route to the coast and as an asset that can be linked to the area’s recreation offers such as Hadrian’s Cycleway (part of the National Cycle Network) and the Coast to Coast path.
  • Protecting the expansive views across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and south Scotland and across Morecambe Bay.
  • Documenting and where appropriate protecting archaeology at risk from coastal processes or loss to vegetation.
  • Seeking opportunities to restore former railway lines as access routes.
  • Encouraging better management of dogs to reduce disturbance of sensitive species and reduce fouling in areas important for wildlife and recreation.
  • Supporting and assisting the World Heritage Committee in giving effect to the operative management plan and delivering agreed-upon priorities in support of the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, as is required of the government by treaty.


SEO 4: Manage industrial and former industrial sites to accommodate both their economic and environmental potential by managing new energy industries, growth areas and their associated infrastructure to provide social and environmental gain while minimising pollution and disturbance and to improve ecological connectivity in the landscape, particularly in urban-fringe areas.

For example by:

  • Increasing the value of brownfield sites as providers of both urban greenspace and biodiversity.
  • Making links between urban greenspace and rural greenspace for the benefit of both wildlife and people, including brownfield areas.
  • Using understanding of the area’s traditional and historic architecture, and its distinct patterns of settlement, to inform appropriate conservation and use of historic buildings, and to plan for and inspire any environmentally beneficial new development that makes a positive contribution to local character.
  • Increasing awareness of the value of brownfield sites in the coastal zone for biodiversity, including local specialities such as small blue butterfly, pyramidal orchids and purple broomrape, and seeking appropriate management or mitigation where sites are subject to change.
  • Seeking opportunities to achieve better-quality habitat for wildlife as a component of future industrial development through good design and planning.
  • Enabling the natural environment to act as an asset to attract investment and skilled professionals to the area to drive economic growth based on a high-quality natural environment.
  • Developing programmes around Whitehaven and St Bees that make use of the high-quality natural environment and mining heritage as an asset in urban regeneration programmes.
  • Seeking opportunities to restore ex-quarrying and other post-industrial sites as species-rich, semi-natural habitat that supports amenity use while retaining an identity that embraces their historical heritage.
  • Seeking opportunities to establish green infrastructure that supports economic, social and environmental outcomes and promoting the wider green infrastructure benefits of development that accommodate biodiversity, with a particular focus on species characteristic of the area.

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