Consultation Process and Initial Proposals - December 2016
The Exe Estuary Management Partnership (EEMP) would like to thank those of you who participated in the public consultation on the ‘Review of Zonation of the Exe Estuary’.
The consultation began in December 2016 and ended on 28th April. The process included 18 meetings with different user groups, 3 general meetings and an online questionnaire which closed on 28 April 2017. The Exe Estuary Officer consulted with local users through these meetings and events, to ensure the best balance between people and wildlife could be found.
The EEMP analysed all responses and comments, including informal meetings and responses via email and post, to help inform the final recommendations.
Amended proposals for 'Wildlife Refuges' were discussed and endorsed by the EEMP Officer Working Group (which also includes South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership (SEDHRP) officers) and EEMP Management Group. Amended proposals were displayed at a drop-in event on 29 June at County Hall, with staff in attendance to answer questions. The amended proposals can be found in the EEMP Consultation Report at www.exewildliferefuge.org.uk
Initial Proposals from December 2016
The Exe Estuary is internationally recognised in its importance for wildlife and habitats, designated as a Ramsar site, Special Protection Area (SPA), Dawlish Warren Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve (NNR) and Exmouth Local Nature Reserve (LNR). The international, European and national designations mean that all competent authorities have a duty to protect and enhance the estuary.
The proposals aim to provide areas for birds to feed and rest in two particularly sensitive areas of the estuary. The two areas are recognised as important through their additional designations and due to their importance as feeding grounds and high tide roosts. Further background to these proposals can be found in the Exe Zonation and Code of Conduct Review: Project Proposal.
These zones are not the final proposals and are subject to change through the consultation process.
Proposed Dawlish Warren Voluntary Exclusion Zone
As well as being covered by Exe Estuary designations, Dawlish Warren has additional protection through further designations. The complex habitats at this site support internationally important numbers of wintering and passage wildfowl, as well as populations of breeding birds. Eelgrass beds in this area provide rich feeding ground during September to December. Dawlish Warren is also recognised as one of the most important high tide roosts on the estuary (allowing birds to rest during high tide), which are becoming increasingly difficult for birds to find due to coastal changes.
Natural England assessments state that some areas are recognised as unfavourable recovering / declining condition, which are partly due to poorly understood declines of some wintering bird populations across the sites. There are also declines specifically in oystercatcher, grey plover and dunlin. The Dawlish Warren SSSI condition assessment particularly highlights that bird declines at the Warren, an important high tide roost, may be the cause of declines across the estuary, thus indicating that suitable, good quality high tide roosting sites may be critical to the ecological integrity of the SPA.
The Dawlish Warren Voluntary Exclusion Zone (VEZ) is proposed to lie within the existing boundary of the National Nature Reserve, for all users, all year, at all tidal states. Below is the original proposal from December 2016:
Any other existing restrictions and access at Dawlish Warren remain in place. For example, dog walkers will continue to use the area as they have done before this consultation. Below is a map to show existing dog walking areas and restrictions at Dawlish Warren, including the existing byelaw which bans dogs from the proposed VEZ:
Under the current proposal, a small number of crabtilers will continue to work under permit in the northern part of this area, in adherence to the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) byelaw and following robust codes of conduct.
Eales Dock will also have continued access, with a voluntary agreement to promote responsible use of the VEZ.
Proposed Exmouth Voluntary Exclusion Zone
Exmouth has an additional designation as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR), which provides protection for the eelgrass beds and invertebrates, which live in the tidal mudflats and provide a rich food source for the bird populations. Thousands of birds, including Brent geese, Wigeon and Pintail, feed on the eelgrass in this area during winter, vital for their survival on their long migratory journeys from the Arctic.
As mentioned above, Natural England assessments state that some areas of the estuary are recognised as unfavourable recovering / declining condition, which are partly due to poorly understood declines of some wintering bird populations across the sites.
The Exmouth Voluntary Exclusion Zone (VEZ) is proposed to lie within the existing boundary of the LNR, and essentially covers the area of the already established Kitesurfing Voluntary Exclusion Zone, which kitesurfers helped to create several years ago, working with the EEMP. The proposal is to extend this VEZ to other users of the estuary, when the area is used by over wintering birds, at all tidal states. The exclusion was originally proposed to cover September to March, but feedback from users has suggested that they prefer September to December. The initial proposal encourages use to the left of the Imperial Recreation Ground slipway. Below is the original proposal from December 2016:
There is an existing powerboat zone and a waterski zone which are permitted through byelaw provision, which will not be affected by these proposals.
Please note that safety of users on the estuary is of paramount importance. We are aware that users may need to enter the VEZs on occasion, to avoid hazardous situations.
The Exe Estuary is recognised internationally as one of the most important estuaries in Europe for wildlife and it is hoped that we can work together with local users to develop these zones and help wildlife to thrive into the future.