JNCC and Natural England have jointly prepared updated formal conservation advice for Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC. Further information is available on the Conservation Advice tab below.


Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton MPA


Status: Special Area of Conservation (SAC)


The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC lies off the north east coast of Norfolk, contains ‘Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time’ and ‘Reef’. The site lies across the 12nm territorial sea limit therefore advice on this MPA is jointly delivered with Natural England.

Click to link to the interactive map


The site contains a series of sandbanks formed via headland associated geological processes since the 5th Century AD. These sandbanks are curved, run parallel to the coast, composed of sandy sediment and lie in full salinity water with intermediate coastal influence. The site contains a mosaic of different physical habitats corresponding to different biological communities. The fauna of the sandbank crests is predominantly low diversity polychaete (cat worms) and amphipod (shrimp-like crustaceans) communities that are typical of mobile sediment environments. The banks are separated by troughs containing more gravelly sediments and support diverse infaunal and epifaunal communities with occurrences of reefs of the tube-building ross worm Sabellaria spinulosa. Aggregations of S. spinulosa provide additional hard substrate for the development of rich epifaunal communities.


The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton MPA overlaps with a candidate Special Area of Conservation/Site of Community Importance that has been identified for the protection of Harbour porpoise – the Southern North Sea SAC. For more information on this MPA, please see the Southern North Sea MPA Site Information Centre.


More detailed site information can be found on the Summary tab.


Map displaying the MPA boundary*

View and download spatial data for this MPA

on the JNCC UK MPA interactive map.

*Margins are included within the "Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time" to account for uncertainty in feature extent on sandbanks that are known to be mobile. The margins can be viewed in the Annex I sandbank layer provided on the JNCC interactive mapper, however these margins are not displayed in Natural England's MAGIC interactive mapper.




Legislation behind the designation: EU Habitats Directive 1992 transposed into UK law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017(territorial waters) and the Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.


Protected features

Features Feature Type
1170 Reefs Annex I Habitat*
1110 Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time Annex I Habitat*

*For the latest Annex I habitat resource figures, please see the link to the latest Habitats Directive Article 17 reporting in the Assessment tab.

The acquisition of new data may result in updates to our knowledge on feature presence and extent within this site. The most up to date information is reflected on the map on this page and in JNCC’s MPA mapper and the evidence underpinning this can be viewed in the Evidence tab.

Site Timeline

The diagram below is a summary of the key milestones involved in the selection and designation of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC.  More detail can be found within the relevant documentation listed below.

Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton Timeline

Relevant Documentation

The documents referred to below and any other historical documents relating to Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC were produced during the selection and designation process and therefore may be out of date.  This Site Information Centre is the most up to date source of information for this MPA, and will reflect any additional information gathered since these documents were produced. Information about the SAC site selection process is available on the JNCC SAC pages.


  • Natura Standard Data Form – Details the SAC and the designated features.
  • SAC Selection Assessment Document – Overview of the SAC, designated features and rationale for site selection.
  • Site Improvement Plan - Overview of the current and predicted issues affecting the condition of the site's protected feature and outlines the priority measures required to improve the condition of the feature. It does not cover issues where remedial actions are already in place or ongoing management activities which are required for maintenance.
  • Post-consultation Report and Impact Assessment – Overview of the consultation outcomes, and an assessment of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the designation.
  • JNCC's formal conservation advice for this site is accessible through the Conservation Advice tab below.




Last updated: October 2017


The information for this site summary was adapted from documents listed in Relevant Documentation and incorporates any further information gathered since these documents were produced. 


Site overview

The Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC lies off the north east coast of Norfolk, and contains a series of sandbanks which meet the Annex I habitat description for “Sandbanks slightly covered by sea water all the time". The central sandbank ridge in the site is composed of alternating ridge headland associated sandbanks. This ridge consists of the sinusoidal banks which have evolved over the last 5,000 years, originally associated with the coastal alignment at the time that the Holocene marine transgression occurred). The bank system consists of: Haisborough Sand, Haisborough Tail, Hammond Knoll, Winterton Ridge and Hearty Knoll. Hewett Ridge and Smiths Knoll form an older (~7,000BP) sequence of sandbank ridges located along the outer site boundary. In territorial waters are the Newarp Banks and North and Middle Cross Sands which lie on the south west corner of the site. These banks are believed to be geologically recent, their genesis dating to around the 5th Century AD.


The sandy sediments within the site are very mobile in the strong tidal currents which characterise the area. Large-scale bank migration or movement appears to be slow, but within the sandbank system there is a level of sediment movement around, and also across, the banks. This is evidenced by megaripple and sandwave formations on the banks. Infaunal communities of the sandy bank tops are consequently of low biodiversity, characterised by mobile polychaetes (cat worms) and amphipods (shrimp-like crustaceans) which are able to rapidly re-bury themselves into the dynamic sediment environments. Along the flanks of the banks, and towards the troughs between the banks the sediments tend to be slightly more stable with gravels exposed in areas. In these regions of the site, infaunal and epifaunal communities are much more diverse. There are a number of areas where sediment movements are reduced and these areas support an abundance of attached bryozoans, hydroids and sea anemones. Other tube-building worms such as keel worms Pomatoceros sp. and sand mason worms Lanice conchilega are also found in these areas, along with bivalves and crustaceans.


Sabellaria spinulosa reefs are also a protected feature of the site and are located at Haisborough Tail, Haisborough Gat and between Winterton Ridge and Hewett Ridge. They arise from the surrounding coarse sandy seabed to heights of between 5cm to 10cm. The reefs are consolidated structures of sand tubes showing seafloor coverage of between 30 to 100 per cent of the sediment. Further detail on the evidence for this SAC can be found on the Evidence tab.


Site location:  Coordinates for this SAC can be found in the Natura 2000 Standard Data Form listed in the Relevant Documentation.

Site area:  1,467.59 km².

Site depth range:  Depth at the site ranges from the top of the bank features that almost breach the sea surface down to 52m below sea level in the sandbank troughs.

Charting Progress 2 Biogeographic Region: Southern North Sea.


Site boundary description
The site boundary is a simple polygon enclosing the minimum area necessary to ensure protection of the Annex I habitat. Coordinate points have been positioned as close to the edge of the interest feature as possible, rather than being located at the nearest whole degree or minute point. Where it is justified to protect the features of the site from the effects of mobile gear on the seabed at some distance from a vessel on the surface, a margin in proportion to the water depth may be added to the extent of the feature when defining the site boundary. The SAC contains Annex I sandbanks at depths of predominantly <25m BCD. Therefore, a margin of 100m was used around each sandbank feature except where a straight line between two points was the more sensible option to avoid an overcomplicated boundary following the UK guidance on defining boundaries for marine SACs for Annex I habitat sites fully detached from the coast.




Last updated: October 2017


The full overview of the range of data used to support site identification, along with information on confidence in feature presence and extent is available in the Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC Selection Assessment Document

JNCC will be adding relevant survey data for this MPA to our MPA interactive map in due course. Data for this SAC has been collected through a JNCC collaborative survey which provides direct evidence confirming the presence of the protected features within the site.


Survey and data gathering

  • Southern North Sea Sandbanks Monitoring Survey (2017) Cruise Report
    This collaborative survey between Cefas and JNCC covered three sites; Haisborough Hammond and Winterton SAC, Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef SAC. This cruise report details the operations carried out onboard the survey which was aimed to acquire monitoring data to contribute to the development of a monitoring time-series for these three sites. Reporting of the data is underway and will be made available in due course.
  • Joint Wash Baseline Survey (2011)
    JNCC, Natural England and Cefas worked together to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features at these two sites. Acoustic, video and stills, sediment and faunal samples were collected and the habitats mapped.


Data analysis reports

  • Benthic Survey of Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC and of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC (2013)
    This report by Cefas describes results from the 2011 baseline survey that aimed to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features by collecting feature-targeted acoustic sidescan, multibeam and groundtruthing data. The cruise reports (Whomersley et al. 2011) and additional information from the Humber and East Coast Regional Environmental Characterisation (REC) reports (Tappin et al. 2011; Limpenny et al. 2011) are also available.
  • Survey data to set an environmental characterisation of the seafloor at a large regional scale (2010)
    Surveys commissioned by the Marine Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund have produced survey data on a large regional scale. In total 31,560km² of the seabed has been surveyed to collect bathymetric and faunal data and mapped, including an area within the site.
  • Appraisal of the occurrence of Annex I sandbank habitat (2008)
    An initial appraisal of the occurrence of Annex I sandbank habitat was completed on Natural England’s behalf by Entec UK Ltd. in 2008. This work examined data from a variety of sources including windfarm and aggregate surveys, dedicated survey and modelling.
  • Potential cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging (2007)
    Investigated the potential cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging on faunal communities and sediment composition by collecting benthic grab samples. Analysis by Cooper et al. (2007) for faunal and sediment composition to determine the cumulative impacts of aggregate dredging at multiple sites off the coast of Great Yarmouth, including locations within this SAC.
  • Hanson Aggregates Marine Limited (2005)
    Survey to examine impacts of dredging 5 years post-dredging activity to produce an Environmental Statement for an aggregates dredging project within the SAC. The survey provides sediment particle size and faunal data for a localised area within the SAC. 


Additional relevant literature

References for further supporting scientific literature consulted during the identification of this site can be found in the Selection Assessment Document. Please be aware that although these sources contain information in relation to this MPA, they do not necessarily represent the views of JNCC.


Knowledge gaps
If you are aware of any additional information not referred to in the Relevant Documentation, please contact JNCC.


Conservation Advice


Last updated: September 2018


JNCC and Natural England have prepared joint formal conservation advice for Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC. This advice is accessible through Natural England’s Designated Sites System for Haisborough Hammond and Winterton SAC.

The formal advice reflects the most up-to-date evidence held by both Natural England and JNCC and must be taken into consideration when undertaking an assessment of the effects which a planned activity can have on the site’s integrity and when making decisions regarding management and consenting of marine activities in or near the site. For more information on JNCC’s approach to conservation advice please see the offshore Conservation Advice webpages. Information can also be found on Natural England’s website.


Activities and Management


Last updated: June 2017


Management status: Progressing towards being well managed


Impacts of licensable activities are regulated through licensing processes. Progress is ongoing with the recommendation of fisheries management proposals to the European Commission. Specific areas of the inshore portion of the site are, however, subject to a fisheries byelaw prohibiting the use of bottom-towed gear in order to protect the biogenic reef (Sabellaria spinulosa). There is currently limited condition monitoring available and therefore further progress will need to be made to assess whether this site is moving towards or achieving its conservation objectives.


This site forms part of the UK's contribution to the OSPAR commissions network of MPAs, Europe’s Natura 2000 network and the Emerald network established under the Bern Convention. As the UK is a signatory to the OSPAR commission, JNCC are committed to ensuring that the OSPAR MPA network is ‘well-managed’ by 2020. The site straddles the 12nm limit. JNCC and Natural England have joint statutory responsibility to advise on the conservation of this site.


JNCC consider ‘well-managed’ to mean the timely progress of an MPA around the ‘MPA management cycle’. This involves:

1)    The documentation of appropriate management information - conservation objectives, advice on activities capable of affecting the protected features of a site, and spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected features of a site.

2)    The implementation of management measures - management actions considered necessary to achieve the conservation objectives of a site.

3)    Site condition monitoring programmes – collecting the information necessary to determine progress towards a sites conservation objectives.

4)    Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives – using available information to infer whether or not a site is moving towards or has achieved its conservation objectives.


The sub-sections that follow provide an account of the progress of Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC around each of the four stages in the MPA management cycle.


The documentation of appropriate management information

  • The conservation objectives and advice on activities capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected feature of this site are available under the conservation advice tab.
  • JNCC are in the process of improving our MPA conservation advice packages. Further information is available on our conservation advice pages.
  • Spatial information on the presence and extent of the protected feature of this MPA is available via JNCC's MPA mapper.
  • JNCC are in the process of developing downloadable MPA data packages where appropriate permissions to share datasets are in place.


The implementation of management measures

This section details progress towards the implementation of management measures for activities considered capable of affecting the conservation status of the protected features of the site. The protected features of the site are considered to be sensitive to pressures associated with fishing and ‘licensable’ activities.



  • The south-eastern corner of the site is heavily fished by trawlers. UK and non-UK registered vessels have been active in the area.
  • As this site straddles the 6-12nm limit, fisheries operating within the offshore portion of the site are subject to regulation under the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
  • The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has created a byelaw to protect biogenic reef (Sabellaria spinulosa) in the inshore portion of the site by prohibiting the use of bottom towed fishing gear in specified areas of the site within the 12nm limit. Additonal information on wider management measures which overlap the site are available on the Natural England's Designated Sites System for this site.
  • In accordance with Article 18 of the revised CFP, requests for management within the offshore portion of the site will be developed jointly between the UK Government and any Member States with a direct management interest in the area affected.


Licensable activities



  • A moderate level of commercial and recreational shipping activity takes place within the site. Due to the location of the site, vessel anchorage is unlikely.
  • Under international law (UNCLOS, Article 17), ships have a right of innocent passage at sea including in areas designated as MPAs. The pressures associated with shipping activity within Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC are not considered likely to impact the protected features of the site.



  • Telecommunications cables pass through the site.
  • Cables are largely an unregulated activity in offshore waters depending upon the type of cable being laid (or maintained), where it is being laid between and whether the cable is part of a larger development (which may be regulated). Any cable not directly associated with an energy installation does not require a marine license beyond 12 nautical miles. 
  • JNCC encourages early discussion from operators regarding any plans related to new or existing cables, and encourages the undertaking of non-statutory environmental impact assessments for new or existing cable projects to assess their effect on the protected features of the MPA. 


Recreational activities 

  • Royal Yachting Association racing areas, sailing areas and recognised cruising routes overlap with the site.



  • Over 100 wrecks have been recorded within the site.


Site condition monitoring

A baseline condition survey was undertaken in 2011 to identify the location, extent and condition of Annex I habitat features within Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton SAC and Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge SAC. Further information is provided in the evidence and monitoring tabs.

A site condition monitoring survey took place in 2016 to monitor and inform assessment of condition of the designated features. Further information will be made available under the monitoring tab in due course.


Assessment of progress towards conservation objectives

No long-term condition monitoring data are available to determine whether the MPA is moving towards or has reached its conservation objectives. The conservation objectives for the features within the site were based on findings of a vulnerability assessment. The feature Reefs (Sabellaria spinulosa biogenic reef) has 'maintain or restore' conservation objective which suggests this feature is unlikely to be moving towards its conservation objectives. The conservation objective for Annex I Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time is 'maintain', suggesting the feature within the site may already be achieving or moving towards its conservation objectives. Further information will be provided under the assessment tab as it becomes available.




Last updated: June 2017


JNCC is currently leading on the development of a strategy for biodiversity monitoring across all UK waters, to include MPA monitoring. For MPAs, data and evidence collected from monitoring activities will aim to:

  • Enable assessment of condition of the features within sites;
  • Enable assessment of the degree to which management measures are effective in achieving the conservation objectives for the protected features;
  • Support the identification of priorities for future protection and/or management; and,
  • Enable Government to fulfil its national and international assessment and reporting commitments in relation to MPAs and help identify where further action may be required.


Information on monitoring of this MPA will be provided when it becomes available.



Last updated: June 2017


Assessments of the condition of designated features in offshore MPAs are required to report against our legal obligations. Ideally these assessments should be based on observed data, and then measured against targets for predefined indicators. However, for MPAs in offshore waters we do not always have the appropriate information to be able to do so. This is particularly true for seabed habitats, which are the main type of feature designated for protection in offshore MPAs. 


To address these challenges, JNCC has been an active partner in the development of new approaches and tools for the assessment of habitats and species for a variety of national and international status reports. They include the second cycle of the Conservation Status Assessment reports under the EU Habitats Directive, Charting Progress 2 (CP2) and the OSPAR Quality Status Report (QSR). JNCC continues to develop and pilot tools for the assessment of marine habitats and species in offshore waters to improve the quality and transparency of our offshore MPA assessments, and contribute to the monitoring of marine biodiversity in UK waters. These tools cover methods for producing interim assessments of site features and their responses to pressures, as well as developing more robust indicators for determining condition of the features.


Every six years, Member States are required under Article 17 of the EU Habitats Directive to report on the Conservation Status of Annex I habitats and Annex II species on the Habitats Directive.  The assessments should consider the habitat or species both within the Natura 2000 network and in the wider sea.  The latest report was submitted by the UK in 2013 and provided a second assessment of the conservation status of relevant habitats and species within UK marine waters during 2007-2012. The next report is for the period 2013-2018 and is due in 2019; information on the condition of features within SACs will make a contribution to this report. The assessments of features within MPAs will also feed into six yearly reports on the state of the marine environment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020.



Image Gallery