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The SMP Review has been undertaken by consultants

on behalf of

Durlston Bay / Studland Bay / Poole Harbour / Poole Bay / Christchurch Harbour / Christchurch Bay / Hurst Spit / Swanage Bay

Christchurch Harbour (CHB)

Mudeford Sandbank to Hengistbury Long Groyne

Christchurch Harbour comprises the lower sections of the flood plains of the Rivers Avon and Stour, immediately north of Hengistbury Head.  The extent of the Harbour lies between Mudeford Spit to the south and Mudeford Quay to the north, separated only by a narrow entrance known as the run.

Housing developments line the low lying northern and western side of the Harbour and the banks of both the Avon and the Stour.  Much of this residential property is located within the 1:200 year return period tidal flooding event zone.  As a consequence there are a number of flood defences which consist mainly of seawalls, with revetments and embankments also present.  Flood defences form part of the riverbank on both sides of the River Stour at Wick (south of the river) and Twynham (to the north).  The defences along the northern banks extend along the Quomps to Priory Quay.

The Avon flows to the east of Christchurch town centre and is defended along both riverbanks and around Avon Island.  Parts of the northern and eastern banks of the Harbour are also defended (the defences around Mudeford are privately owned).

The Harbour is a popular tourist and recreational facility, and very important to the town of Christchurch in terms of its economic contribution.  It offers well developed leisure boating, windsurfing and rowing facilities, and Mudeford Quay is the centre of the local sea fishing industry.

The Harbour is also an ecologically sensitive and important nature reserve with extensive habitat for breeding, migrant and wintering wetland birds and enjoys several national and international conservation designations, including:

Avon Valley Ramsar Site

Dorset Heaths SAC

River Avon SAC

Avon Valley SPA

Christchurch Harbour SSSI

Avon River System SSSI

Stanpit Marsh Local Nature Reserve

Key: SAC - Special Area of Conservation.  SPA - Special Protection Area.  SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest

The physical nature of the Harbour, receiving sediment loads from the Rivers Avon and Stour, leaves it vulnerable to siltation which can become a problem for navigation.

The construction of the Hengistbury Long Groyne in 1938 has led to the accumulation of beach material to the west, thus reducing the risk of the sea breaking through to the harbour and surrounding low land.  Nevertheless, harbourside properties are vulnerable to tidal flooding events and wave attack, a risk that can only increase with sea level rise. 

Coastal management issues here include:

  • The risk of increased flooding from either a breach of Hengistbury Head or Mudeford Spit

  • Maintenance of natural processes, especially the supply of sediments from the Rivers Avon and Stour to ensure the ecologically important mudflats in the Harbour.

  • The need to plan for managed retreat to mitigate loss of national and internationally important marine habitats from sea level rise

  • The impact of any coast protection works on bird populations (disturbance must be minimised)

  • The impact of any coast protection works on the natural historical and archaeological value of the area

  • The impact of harbour dredging works, for navigation purposes, on natural coastal processes

In SMP1 The shoreline of Christchurch Harbour is divided into 5 Management Units:








Christchurch Harbour



Harbour side of Mudeford Spit



South side of Christchurch Harbour (to Grimbury Point)



Stanpit and Grimbury Marshes



Mudeford Town Frontage



Mudeford Quay

Administrative Responsibility

Bournemouth Borough Council, Christchurch Borough Council

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2007-2011 Poole & Christchurch Bays Coastal Group; last updated 05 August 2011

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