Open meetings to share ideas about future of Studland Bay

Purbeck residents are being invited to attend two open meetings to say why Studland Bay is so important to them – less than a fortnight after Storm Ciarán caused five years of erosion there in one day.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will hold community workshops in Studland village hall on Wednesday and Thursday, 15th and 16th November 2023 to bring together as many people who live and work in Studland together with those who visit it.

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As well as destroying two beach huts, others were undercut by the storm leaving patios partially collapsed

Managing shore and sea activities

As part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the MMO is responsible for managing shore and sea activities within protected marine areas, including boating, sailing, mooring and anchoring, while the National Trust manages the shoreline.

While the events were organised before Storm Ciarán left widespread damage along the shoreline, causing landslips, damaging beach huts and toppling trees, the MMO wants a broader picture of locals’ thoughts, experiences and values associated with the bay’s natural environment.

This will potentially be used to inform future conservation projects in the bay, such as the voluntary no anchor zone which was introduced with support of the local community to help protect Studland Bay’s seagrass habitats.

MMO communications manager Daniel Cutler said:

“We appreciate the increased interest in our event following recent storm damage to the shore.

“However, beach, cliff, coastal erosion and shore management is not within the responsibility of the Marine Management Organisation and the event is not a consultation to plan a way forward or introduce changes with the bay area.”

A day of very low atmospheric pressure and high tides on Thursday 2nd November 2023 caused significant and rapid coastal erosion, reclaiming up to five metres of beach along the coastline between Knoll Beach and Middle Beach.

It is estimated that Storm Ciarán, over two high tides, created the amount of coastal erosion that would normally be expected to happen over four to five years.

What next for Studland after Storm Ciarán caused five years of erosion in one day?

Shed light on why the area is so important

Aisling Lannin, head of evidence and evaluation at the MMO, said:

“Studland Bay has a rich natural environment, cultural heritage and sense of community. We look forward to welcoming as many local people as possible to these workshops, to help shed light on why the area and natural environment is so important to the community.

“Separate from the work that has already been undertaken in the area by MMO, the workshop also forms part of a new project to amplify the voices of residents, visitors and stakeholders by sharing their perspectives.

“This will help to highlight the social and cultural importance of Studland Bay in future decisions and initiatives related to its management.”

Traffic from the village hall emerges onto the busy crossroads at the heart of Studland

Two public meetings will be held at Studland village hall in November 2023

Group discussions and activities

The workshops will be interactive events with group discussions and activities, asking visitors to share their experiences of what is important to them about Studland Bay’s natural environment, whether business, pleasure or leisure.

Refreshments will be provided, and places are limited, so all those interested in attending are encouraged to register online as soon as possible.

Dates and times of the meetings are:

  • Wednesday 15th November 2023, 10am to 1pm
  • Thursday 16th November 2023, 1:30pm to 4:30pm

Studland’s sea defences of rocks in wire baskets were torn down by the storm on 2nd November 2023

“Local voices do matter to us”

Aisling Lannin added:

“We would like our guests to share their personal experiences which highlight how Studland Bay holds meaning for them, and explore how local people and visitors engage with the bay for recreational and cultural activities.

“Sharing this local knowledge will help us identify any gaps in our understanding about the cultural and social importance of Studland Bay.

“Local voices do matter to us, and by sharing local insights it will ensure that your community’s voice is heard in shaping the future of the bay.”

Over the last three years, MMO has introduced a voluntary no-anchor zone in Studland Bay with the support of the community to help protect and conserve the area’s valuable seagrass habitats.

The seagrass is a designated feature of the conservation area and is an important nursery and feeding ground for rare species of seahorse, pipefish and rays as well commercially valuable species such as seabream, bass and flat fish.

MARINE MANAGEMENT ORGANISATION

Nationally important seagrass fields exist in Studland Bay near Old Harry

No change to no anchor zone

However, the seagrass is at risk from both climate change and the dropping of boat anchors which can scour the seabed and permanently damage the fragile habitat – the only known area in the UK in which the long-snouted seahorse breeds.

Although the workshops will not change the voluntary no anchor zone, the MMO says that it does want to hear all points of view so that they can all be considered in making future decisions about managing the bay.

The Studland Bay Marine Partnership (SBMP) has worked with conservationists, boating groups, academics, residents and local businesses to find working solutions that meet leisure needs, whilst also protecting and restoring the sensitive seagrass habitats.

They have held pop up events throughout the summer on Studland’s South Beach and at Poole Quay, to talk with visitors and local people.

They have also installed another 21 ecomoorings, an environmentally friendly alternative to anchoring, bringing the total number in the bay up to 43 out of a planned 100.

Sea going pedal cars, the only ones of their kind in the UK, are proving very popular at Knoll Beach, Studland

Knoll Beach in summer with sandy beaches and shallow sea

More and more boaters in the bay are complying with the voluntary no anchor zone

“Making a real difference in the bay”

Local boater and SBMP member, Jim Atkins said:

“This year I’ve seen all these initiatives making a real difference in the bay. On one summer’s evening I was pleased to report 100 percent compliance with the voluntary measures and many boaters opting to use the many ecomoorings that are available for all to use.

“Chatting with those boat owners, I was pleased to hear that all were aware of the seagrass, the voluntary no anchor zone and importance of conserving the area for the future.’”

Although the National Trust has worked hard through summer to improve access, Storm Ciarán has damaged pathways

Further winter rains are likely to cause yet more damage to the paths, cliffs and dunes at Studland

Support within the local community

David Brown, from National Trust Purbeck, who chairs the SBMP, said:

“Over the last year, the SBMP has continued to build support within the local community and wider stakeholders and we are now taking positive action to conserve the seagrass while still allowing people to enjoy Studland Bay.

“The MMO has become an increasingly supportive partner in this work; rather than just being a hands-off regulating body.

“We now work closely together to develop ideas and plans, find funding support and raise awareness of marine conservation with wider audiences.”

Further information

  • Learn more about the work of the Marine Management Organisation on its website
  • Reserve free places for the consultation events at Studland Village Hall online

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