About the SMP

SMP2 in full

The Project Team

The Review

Our Shoreline



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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 Harbour & Islands (PHB)

Poole Harbour and Port, looking south west to Poole & Christchurch BaysSouth Haven Point to North Haven Point

Managed by Poole Harbour Commissioners, Poole Harbour is a large natural estuary, 38km2 in area.  It is comprised of separate channels, bays and inlets, which combine to produce a 100km long section of enclosed coastline.

Its extensive mudflats, salt marshes, reedbeds, sand dunes, heathland and islands are of great importance to wildlife and bird populations, many of which are protected by a raft of national and international conservation designations, but which could easily be damaged by inappropriate coastal defences.

Many of these areas are afforded protection by National, European and International designations, including:

Dorset & East Devon World Heritage Site

Dorset Heathlands Ramsar Site

Poole Harbour Ramsar Site

Dorset Heaths Purbeck & Wareham & Studland Dunes SAC

Dorset Heaths SAC

Poole Harbour SPA

Dorset Heathlands SPA

Poole Harbour SSSI


The Moors SSSI

Hartland Moor SSSI

Ham Common SSSI

Holton & Sandford Heaths SSSI

Luscombe Valley SSSI

Rempstone Heaths SSSI

River Frome SSSI

Studland & Godlingston Heaths National Nature Reserve

West Dorset Heritage Coast

Dorset AONB


AONB - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  SAC - Special Area of Conservation.  SPA - Special Protection Area.  SSSI - Site of Special Scientific Interest

Brownsea Castle and motorboatThe Harbour is a popular destination both with tourists and recreational water users. Yachting, water skiing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, wildfowling and the use of personal watercraft need to be managed to minimise conflict and to reduce disturbance to ecologically sensitive areas.

Four rivers (the Frome, the Piddle, the Corfe and the Sherford) drain into the Harbour from the west; the largest of these are the River Frome and River Piddle at Wareham.  The tidal limit of the River Frome lies just upstream of Wareham, whereas the tidal limit of the Piddle lies just downstream of the town.

The entrance to Poole Harbour is just 300m wide.  A chain-link ferry operates across it, defying the strong tidal currents.  In order to maintain the economic viability of the Port it was recently necessary to deepen the Harbour approach channels from 6m to 7.5m below chart datum and to widen the middle ship channel to 100m.  Approximately 1.1 million cubic metres (1.65 million metric tonnes) of sand was dredged and used to replenish the beaches at Poole, Bournemouth and Swanage (see www.poolebay.net for further information).

The port is located 4 miles north-west of the Harbour entrance.  It is an important local and regional asset, which makes a significant contribution to the economy of the area.  There are approximately 100 registered fishing boats based at the port and sections of the seabed are used for the cultivation of shellfish. The Harbour is also home to Europe’s largest onshore oilfield.  In addition there is a significant area of light industry at Hamworthy & Holes Bay.  The largest private sector employers in the County (Sunseeker) construct luxury motor craft at their factory on the side of Back Water Channel.  There are also a number of yacht clubs, several thousand moorings and an MOD base along the northern side of the Harbour.

Windsurfer, Poole HarbourThese many uses must be carefully managed to avoid conflicts of interest, but possibly the most significant long-term trend affecting Poole Harbour is sea level rise. The predicted sea level rise for the Solent area is around 35cm by 2050 and climate change is also expected to affect the incidence of storms and extreme water level events.  Many of the important areas of habitat are located on low-lying or inter-tidal land which is sensitive to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

Coastal structures in the Harbour are generally restricted to the developed northern side, predominantly in the form of seawalls, with revetments and breakwaters at a few locations and mudflats generally characterising the foreshore.  Sections of the western flanks of the Harbour and riverbanks are protected by embankments.  Rockley Caravan Park is situated on a soft sandy cliff on the north of the Harbour at Rockley Point; although defended in places the park suffered a landslip in March 2008.

Coastal management issues at Poole Harbour include:

  • The potential impact of any coastal defence works on the Harbour's wildlife habitats and ecology, navigation, public access to the shoreline, inshore fisheries & shellfish grounds, maritime archaeology and recreational value.

  • Strategic coastal defence options should be able to adapt to sea level rise without compromising life and property.

In SMP1 the extensive shoreline of Poole Harbour is divided into 17 Management Units:









The Islands (excluding Brownsea)



Brownsea Island (eastern half, defended)



Brownsea Island (western half, undefended)



South Haven Point to Hydes Quay



Hydes Quay to Holton Point



Lytchett Bay



Rockley Viaduct to start of defence 681/2442



Defence 681/2442 to Hamworthy Quay



Hamworthy Quays



Holes Bay (E, N & W)



Town Quays



Parkstone Bay & Baiter Park



Parkstone Yacht Club to Salterns Marina



Salterns Marina to Lilliput Pier



Whitley Lake



Whitley Lake to North Haven Point



North Haven Point to Sandbanks Ferry Slipway

Administrative Responsibility

Borough of Poole and Purbeck District Council

Poole Harbour Commissioners

The Harbour and its Port are managed by Poole Harbour Commissioners

In 2006 Poole Harbour Commissioners published the Poole Harbour Aquatic Management Plan which looks at ways of maintaining sustainable levels of economic and social activity within the Harbour and its hinterland, while protecting its natural environment.




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

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