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SMP2 in full

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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

Link to The National Trust websiteStudland Bay (STU)

Studland Bay  NTPL / Joe CornishHandfast Point to Shell Bay

Studland's 5km of sandy beach is a popular tourist destination, owned and managed by the National Trust since 1982.  It is characterised by an extensive ridged dune system that has developed since 1700 and forms a key site for coastal geomorphology studies.

Behind the dunes lies large tracts of heathland, designated a National Nature Reserve.  Studland Dunes comprise the only large dune heath site in the south and south-west of Britain and provide an important habitat for rare butterflies, Red Data Book insects and all six of Britain's reptile species, including the endangered sand lizard.  Other important wildlife habitats include intertidal mudflats and saltmarsh.

Old Harry Rocks, Handfast Point, StudlandThe coastal frontage is predominantly undeveloped although there are some defences protecting beach huts, beach cafes and water sports facilities. 

The transition between the harder geology in the southern part of the bay marks the eastern limit of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site. 

Whilst northern parts of the bay accumulate large quantities of sandy sediment, continued erosion of the cliff and beach to the south of the bay present a threat to the bay's 'temporary' built environment (beach huts, visitor centre and car park) and to the amenity value of the beach.

The coastal front is covered by a number of significant environmental designations, including:

Dorset & East Devon World Heritage Site

Dorset Heathlands Ramsar Site

Isle of Portland to Studland Cliffs SAC

Dorset Heaths Purbeck & Wareham & Studland Dunes SAC

Dorset Heathlands SPA

Studland Cliffs SSSI

Purbeck Ridge SSSI

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

Studland Bay is sheltered from prevailing southwest approaching waves by the Isle of Purbeck but exposed to easterly and south-easterly waves generated in the English Channel. Erosion of the soft chalk cliffs has produced a series of embayments and stacks that define the prominent headland at Handfast Point, known as Old Harry Rocks.

Coastal management:

  • The National Trust have a policy of 'managed realignment' at Studland beach and have no desire to attempt to 'hold the line'

  • The Trust views sea level rise and increased erosion as major issues in respect of the provision of services to Studland's 1.1m annual visitors.

In SMP1 the shoreline of Studland Bay is divided into 4 Management Units:

Process Unit






Handfast Point to the Warren



The Warren to Studland Sandspit



Studland Sandspit



Shell Bay

Administrative Responsibility

Purbeck District Council

Managed realignment - allowing natural physical processes to act on a stretch of shoreline by removing existing defences altogether or moving them to higher ground.

Hold the existing line - keeping the line of defence as it is by maintaining existing defences or changing the standard of protection


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

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