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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

Poole Bay (PBY)

Poole Bay December 2005 (pre-replenishment)Sandbanks Ferry Slipway to Hengistbury Long Groyne

Poole Bay comprises a 16km long section of open coastline extending from the Sandbanks peninsula to Hengistbury Head.  Preservation of the tourist beaches is vital to the local economy and the foreshore is characterised by recently replenished sandy beaches, which become coarser at the eastern end of the Bay.  The central section is characterised by cliffs (some stabilised) between 10m and 35m in height, with extensive cliff-top residential areas.

There is significant cliff-top development all along this section of coast and the residential areas of Canford Cliffs, Bournemouth, Boscombe and Southbourne form a single conurbation. 

Bournemouth beach front and pierTourism is vital to the local economy with beaches one of the most important assets.  There are a number of large hotels, conference facilities, restaurants, nightclubs, an aquarium, museums and other associated infrastructure.  The seafront affords opportunities for a range of water based activities including bathing, surfing and fishing, while sailing, power boating, water skiing, windsurfing operate from Poole Harbour.  Seasonal local cruises on the paddle steamers Waverley and Balmoral operate from Bournemouth Pier, as do regular trips by the Dorset Belles and the Shockwave speed boat.

There are a number of cliff sections which are designated as nationally important geological sites and comprise:

Poole Bay Cliffs SSSI

Christchurch Harbour SSSI (which includes Hengistbury Head)

Boscombe to Southbourne Overcliff Local Nature Reserve

Branksome Dene Chine Local Nature Reserve

Hengistbury Head Local Nature Reserve


SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest 

Construction of the many seawalls and promenades over the course of the last century effectively put a stop to the natural supply of beach material from cliff erosion and the groynes serve to retain imported material which moves predominantly from west to east.

Between Sandbanks Ferry Slipway and Branksome Dene Chine in Poole the coastline is defended with a concrete revetment and rock groynes.  During the winter of 2005/06 the beaches were replenished with 450,000m2 of beach material from Poole Harbour dredging operations (see www.poolebay.net for further information).

Poole's beach May 2006, post-replenishmentFurther to the east the central section of the Bay (West Cliff through central Bournemouth, Boscombe and Southbourne to Point House Cafe) is defended by concrete seawalls and timber groynes.  The promenades along this section are backed by soft sandy cliffs up to 35m in height, lower where the cliff line intersects chines.  Between Alum Chine and Warren Hill the beaches were renourished (early 2006) with 650,000m2 of beach material from the Poole Harbour dredging operation, and a further 897,000m2 from a Licensed Dredging Area off the Isle of Wight in early 2007.  The first of three annual top-ups of 70,000m3 was added in March 2008 (see www.poolebay.net for further information).


The construction of a £2 million artificial reef just east of Boscombe Pier was completed in 2009, forming an integral part of the wider regeneration of Boscombe's seafront area.  It is made up of large geotextile bags filled with sand, some up to 30m long.  The reef - the first of its kind in Europe - gives the beach its own identity, raises the profile of Boscombe and should attract a large number of visitors on an annual basis. 

As part of the preparation for installing the reef, the Council took advantage of the beach replenishment scheme to deposit extra sand across the beach to the east of Boscombe Pier.

See www.bournemouthsurfreef.co.uk for details of the surf reef project.

To the east of Point House Cafe the cliffs give way to an open grassy amenity area with low dunes and a sandy shingle beach.  Beyond Warren Hill is Hengistbury Head comprising a 30m cliff composed of inter-bedded sand, clay and ironstone doggers, fronted by a mixed beach.  Hengistbury Head Long Groyne represents the eastern boundary of Poole Bay.

Hengistbury HeadThe flood risk around the majority of the bay is minimal, but low lying areas exist at Sandbanks and at Double Dykes, adjacent to Hengistbury Head.

Hengistbury Head

Hengistbury Head is an important historic feature and nature reserve for many species of flora and fauna.  This area of coastline is of high ecological geological and landscape value.

It also forms a natural defence for Christchurch Harbour.  A breach to the harbour at the Iron Age defences known as Double Dykes (a Scheduled Monument of important archaeological interest) would increase flooding and erosion and ultimately affect the evolution of both Poole and Christchurch Bays.  The SMP will consider the risk of a breach and take it into account when setting the management policies for this section of coast.

Coastal management issues at Poole Bay include:

  • The monitoring of coastal erosion and flood risk, with special attention to Double Dykes

  • The monitoring of beach levels along the Poole and Bournemouth frontages

  • The monitoring of beach widths and levels at Sandbanks

  • Maintaining the supply of sediments around the coast to prevent erosion of eel grass beds off Hengistbury Head

  • Managing the erosion of cliffs below Warren Hill to maintain geological exposures and provide sediments to Christchurch Bay whilst protecting the valuable wildlife habitats they provide

  • Maintenance of sand dune and herbaceous vegetation habitats for the rare sand lizard and rare coastal plants

  • The potential impact of any coastal defence works on inshore fisheries and offshore wrecks

  • The potential impact of coastal defence at Sandbanks on the harbour entrance and channel.

In SMP1 the 16km shoreline of Poole Bay is divided into 3 Management Units:








Sandbanks Ferry Slipway to Point House Café



Point House Café to Warren Hill



Warren Hill to Hengistbury Head Long Groyne

Administrative Responsibility

Borough of Poole, Bournemouth Borough Council


Southbourne Pier some time between 1901 (when it was damaged) and 1907 (demolished).  The old seawall visible in the photo was about 20m in advance of the present seawall. © Bournemouth Libraries


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