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Site Visit 1 – What future Heritage Coasts?

Event date: 26 July, 2018

Heritage Coasts are much loved by the nation and many of them form the coastal extent of the UK’s AONBs and National Parks. Whilst mentioned in the NPPF, there is less focus on Heritage Coasts than previously. The ”Hobhouse” review detailed in the 25 YEP, along with experience from Welsh colleagues, presents an opportunity to think about their place in the future of Protected Landscapes.

The site visit took delegates to the two Kent Heritage Coasts and included the White Cliffs of Dover – voted the nation’s favourite coast – following the England Coast Path and North Downs Way National Trail. They saw the work of the Kent Downs AONB Partnership-initiated ‘Up on the Downs’ Landscape Partnership, the National Trust, and the White Cliffs Countryside Partnership.  Delegates looked at a volunteer-led conservation plan for an important lighthouse led by Canterbury Archaeological Trust, underground defences – excavated by volunteers – and visitor management where issues of over-visiting are affecting the European wildlife importance of the area.

Continuing along a less well-managed area of Heritage Coast, their discussions included issues on protective ownership and engaging land owners with differing agendas.

The site visit showed some great examples of people engagement, land management, and the contrast between a Heritage Coast in ‘protective ownership’ and one in disparate ownership. They discussed the French approach of Government having the opportunity to buy French coastal areas, when on market, and consider whether this could/should be replicated in the UK post-Brexit. Delegates also discussed the North Downs Way work with VisitBritain as part of the Discover England Fund project and considered the extensive seascape character assessment for the Strait of Dover that the AONB Partnership has taken forward.

Outputs and Outcomes

The aim of this site visit was to create debate about the place of Heritage Coasts in the Protected Landscapes Family – drawing from what we see on the ground and what delegates bring from their own experience. They produced key points for the “Hobhouse” review and suggested a new, contemporary future for Heritage Coasts.  They hope to spawn a new coastal protected landscapes network to discuss opportunities to promote protected seascapes.


  • Nick Johannsen, Director, Kent Downs AONB Partnership
  • Crispin Scott, Wildlife and Countryside Advisor, National Trust
  • Virginia Portman, General Manager, White Cliffs and Winchelsea portfolio
  • Rob Sonnen, Head Ranger, White Cliff of Dover
  • Richard Haynes, Project Manager, White Cliffs Countryside Partnership

Photo Credits: Amber Carter