Durham Heritage Coast Partnership

  • Durham coast in 1992
    Durham coast in 1992
  • Durham coast in 2010
    Durham coast in 2010
Case Study Information
Heritage Coast status was awarded following initial Millennium Commission funded "Turning the Tide" programme between 1995 and 2001. The Heritage Coast Partnership has continued with this work over the past 15 years, restoring habitats, improving access.
South Sunderland and Durham coastline
Habitat types (UK NEA habitats): 
Coastal margins
Landscape context: 

A post industrial coast, regenerating following the closure of the coal industry. Now a dramatic coastline, noted for its nature conservation status, sitting as it does on the only coastal exposure of magnesian limestone in the UK.

Partners, organisations and stakeholders involved: 

Durham County Council, City of Sunderland, Hartlepool Borough Council, Seaham Town Council, National Trust, Natural England, Environment Agency, Durham Wildlife Trust, Northumbrian Water, Groundwork, Blackhalls, Easington Colliery Regeneration Partnership, Horden Regeneration Partnership and Ryhope Community Association.

Aims of the project/initiative: 

Heritage Coast is a non-statutory definition primarily related to landscape quality, nature conservation and public access.

The Partnership has adopted the following key objectives to guide management of the Heritage Coast:

1. To conserve, protect and enhance the natural beauty of the coast, including the terrestrial, littoral and marine flora and fauna, geological interest, and its heritage features of architectural, historical and archaeological interest.

2. To facilitate and enhance the enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of the public by improving and extending opportunities for recreational, educational and tourist activities, including sport and art, that draw on, and are consistent with the conservation of its natural beauty and the protection of its heritage features.

3. To maintain, and improve the environmental health of inshore waters affecting the Heritage Coast and its beaches through appropriate works and management.

4. To take account of the needs of agriculture forestry and fishing, and the economic and social needs of the small communities on the coast, by promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development, which in themselves conserve and enhance natural beauty and heritage features.

5. To promote community participation in the stewardship of the coast, optimising the potential of social and economic regeneration initiatives that are consistent with the conservation of the natural beauty and the protection of the heritage features of the Heritage Coast.

6. To integrate fully with adjoining areas and within the region to actively promote Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

Progress so far: 
  • 250 hectares in grassland habitat reversion management
  • Management Plan 2005-2010 - Delivered
  • Updated Consultation Draft Management Plan to be published 6th October 2016
  • Total of £18.5million project funding attracted over 21 years
  • First ever UK Landscape of the Year 2010
  • Council of Europe Landscape Competition Special Mention 2011
  • Extending the influence, experience and working methods of the Heritage Coast Partnership 
Challenges and lessons learned: 

The main challenge, for a public sector led partnership, has and will continue to be securing the capacity to develop and deliver, i.e core management team/officer funding. With this in place, external funding can be accessed with a clear business case and a strategic plan.
The longevity of the partnership has come from a clear vision supported by committed partners that delivers consistent results. That and the amazing passion, energy and sheer hard work of core staff, partner officers and volunteers who all make things happen. There are also the unseen and unsung advocates who shape policy and funding decisions unprompted and unknown, all of whom ease the rocky road.

How does the Project reflect the ecosystem approach?
Principle #1: benefits from nature are important for all of society: 

Whilst we sincerely try to include as many groups and individuals as possible using a variety of mechanisms, approaches and channels, the hard to reach are still hard to reach.

Principle #11: all knowledge and perspectives should be valued: 

We engage with as many groups as resources allow. We respect but do not separate or evidence differing values and perspectives. At the strategic level our Steering Group does comprise people from differing backgrounds and this comes from the participative partnership structure rather than being socially representative.

Principle #12: involve more of society in decisions: 

Yes, to an extent, we can always do better. We involve the relevant departments of our regional universities, regional statutory agencies and their staff, local community groups and national bodies where applicable.  However, this is another answer that has to include "as resources allow".At Steering Group level, village level activist representation feeds into all strategic decisions along with local authority elected member representation.
At individual project development and delivery level, we use variations of participatory research to ensure maximum local "buy-in" to design and delivery. We have found that this does secure local ownership, increases use, increases local appreciation and value, reduces anti-social behaviour and as a result maintenance costs.

Principle #2 local is best: 

At Steering Group level, village level activist representation feeds into all strategic decisions along with local authority elected member representation. At individual project development and delivery level, we use variations of participatory research to ensure maximum local "buy-in" to design and delivery. We have found that this does secure local ownership, increases use, increases local appreciation and value, reduces anti-social behaviour and as a result maintenance costs.

Principle #3 think of others: 

We understand that we cannot exist in isolation and need to benefit from and contribute to others issues. An example is that over the past two years we have led on the formation of a coastal streams partnership, aiming to improve water quality that directly impacts on the coast, but also to increase the number of people engaged in the environment as a whole, particularly local businesses.

Principle #4 understand economic context: 

We see various assessment and trend data. In general any economic assessments are not at a sufficiently local level to be meaningful. The local tourism data provides some assimilable figures, but are used mainly for trends and business case support.
We have concerns that transactional based economic assessments do not provide a clear picture particularly for landscape and the natural environment where value is much more a constitutive element. We have no local level natural capital or ES assessments. Currently we are seeking to use well-being assessments as a way of quantifying the qualitative.  

Scale and dynamics
Principle #7 work at the right scale: 

The Heritage Coast definition applies to undeveloped coast, our boundaries are based (for the most part) on the undeveloped coast between the rivers Tyne and Tees. This boundary fits clearly with the project aims. The only discrepancy is where improvements and collaboration have improved some sections of coast that would now be eligible for HC status. 

Principle #8 look well ahead: 

The long-term impact of the project has been considered for landscape, nature conservation and landscape quality. We also use visitor numbers and trend data.

Principle #9 be adaptable to change: 

Adaptation to natural processes is a principle within the practice of integrated coastal zone management and included as one of our objectives. We seek to deliver this by ensuring wide connectivity for our natural environment, in particular our high status nature conservation interests alongside encouraging resilience within our local communities through policy input, awareness raising and developing our own skills and knowledge.

Functions, goods and services
Principle #5 maintain the health of nature: 

We are a landscape-scale initiative. We seek a healthy and robust natural environment and as above work towards ensuring a wide connectivity for our natural environment as well as reducing, where possible, direct human impacts on the ecosystem.

Principle #6 don’t overexploit: 

Following two decades of restoring this coastline we have only recently started to develop the required evidence base to ensure that the assets are not over exploited and move towards limiting damaging impacts, such as winter bird disturbance or excessive trampling of vegetation. Our revised management plan proposes a significant programme of research to underpin future management options and decision making.

Principle #10 balance the demand for use and conservation of the environment: 

In part the previous answer relates to this one. We have concentrated on improving access, habitat restoration, awareness-raising and policy development. As explained we are now moving onto the next phase, writing the next chapter for this particular landscape and how it is used. Our proposed research programme will underpin decision making. In addition the participation of the relevant partner agencies and the local community, with help from the relevant experts, will assist in delivering a robust healthy natural environment, respected, valued and used by the local community.

Further information
Contact name 

Niall Benson, Heritage Coast Officer

Role in project: 
Partnership lead officer
Location map: