Natural England Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas
Northumbria Coast SPA

Natural England guidance

This site collection contains Natural England’s conservation advice for this site. It fulfils Natural England’s responsibility under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), to give advice on how to further the conservation objectives for the site, identify the activities that are capable of affecting the qualifying features and the processes which they are dependent upon.

Natural England's conservation advice for this site is made up of a number of components. You will need to consider: Additional information for consideration:

Site information

Site name: Northumbria Coast SPA
Designation type: SPA
Site identification: UK9006131
Latest classification date: 29 January 2017
Qualifying features
(click to see site specific description):

General information on the site features:
You can find generic information on the qualifying species from the following websites: The generic information on the supporting habitats for the qualifying features is useful for understanding the qualifying features, and should be used in conjunction with the site specific information.
Designated area (ha): 1097.45
Moderation/boundary changes: The site was classified on 02 February 2000. On 29 January 2017 the site was amended to include Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea).
Component Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI):
Overlapping Protected Areas:

Last updated: 14th September 2018

Background information and geography

The Northumbria Coast SPA was classified in 2000, qualifying under Article 4.1 of the EC Birds Directive because it supported 1.7% of the GB population of breeding little tern listed in Annex I of the Directive and under Article 4.2 of the Directive because it supported two regularly occurring migratory species: 2.6% of the biogeographic population of turnstone and 1.6% biogeographic population of purple sandpiper.

The Northumbria Coast SPA is located in north-east England and includes much of the coastline between the Tees and Tweed Estuaries. The site consists of mainly discrete sections of rocky shore with associated boulder and cobble beaches. The SPA also includes parts of three artificial pier structures and a small section of sandy beach. In summer, the site supports an internationally important population of breeding little tern Sterna albifrons and Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea, and two species of wintering waders occur in internationally important numbers, turnstone Arenaria interpres and purple sandpiper Calidris maritima.

The inter-tidal rock platform and strandline of sandy beaches form an important resource for wintering purple sandpiper and turnstone, as these areas support high densities of invertebrates which are important food for waders. Purple sandpiper are almost entirely restricted to the rocky shore where they feed on a variety of marine invertebrates but their main food preference is mussels, winkles and dog whelks. Turnstone feed on seaweed covered rocks congregating at high tide to roost on the mainland shore or continue to feed on the washed up seaweed on the strandline. Discrete areas of estuarine intertidal mudflats and sand flats are also included within Northumbria Coast SPA. Man-made structures such as the south pier at the mouth of the River Tyne and Seaham Harbour are used as high tide roosts. The tops of the piers and the sides are used by birds throughout the tidal cycle.

Arctic and little terns in the Northumbria Coast SPA nest at Newton Links/Long Nanny. The Long Nanny tern site is situated at the mouth of the Long Nanny burn, in Beadnell Bay and compromises of a long section of sandy beach ending in small, low-lying sand spit at the mouth of the river, bordered by an accreting sand dune system to the west. The site has been a National Trust reserve since 1977. The beaches of fine sand, vegetated banks of sea rocket and dunes of marram and lyme grass provide good conditions for nesting. Terns forage in Beadnell Bay and the surrounding coastal waters within Northumberland Marine SPA, which support large numbers of lesser sandeel Ammodytes lancea.

The Northumberland coast and surrounding sea supports important breeding colonies of seabirds and auks, protected at four existing SPAs: Farne Islands SPA, Coquet Island SPA, Lindisfarne SPA and Northumbria Coast SPA. The surrounding waters are protected by Northumberland Marine SPA, these areas are used by the seabirds and auks for foraging and maintenance activities, such as bathing and preening.

Site maps

Use the MAGIC website to see site maps, including habitats, species and other marine designations.

These maps are based on best available evidence, there are some caveats associated with the maps on MAGIC.

Conservation objectives

The site’s conservation objectives apply to the site and the individual species and/or assemblage of species for which the site has been classified (the "Qualifying features" listed above).

The objectives are to ensure that, subject to natural change, the integrity of the site is maintained or restored as appropriate, and that the site contributes to achieving the aims of the Wild Birds Directive, by maintaining or restoring:
  • the extent and distribution of the habitats of the qualifying features
  • the structure and function of the habitats of the qualifying features
  • the supporting processes on which the habitats of the qualifying features rely
  • the populations of each of the qualifying features
  • the distribution of qualifying features within the site

Qualifying features

Refer to the site information table above for the list of features within this site.

This should be read in conjunction with the accompanying supplementary advice section, which provides more detailed information to help achieve the objectives set out above, including which attributes should be maintained and which restored.

The conservation objectives apply under the Habitats Regulations, and must be considered during a Habitats Regulation Assessment, including an Appropriate Assessment.

The conservation objectives and accompanying supplementary advice provide a framework to inform the management and measures needed to conserve or restore the European site, and the prevention of deterioration and significant disturbance of its qualifying features.

Where the objectives are met, the site will be considered to show a high level of integrity, and to be contributing to achieving the aims of the Habitats Regulations.

Supplementary Advice on Conservation Objectives

See supplementary advice on conservation objectives for this site, which aim to describe the range of ecological attributes that are most likely to contribute to a site’s overall integrity.

Last updated: 13th September 2019

Advice on Operations

See the advice on operations for this site to view information on the sensitivity of features in this site to the pressures exerted by different activities.

Last updated: 13th March 2020

Advice on Seasonality

See the advice on seasonality for this site, to view the months in which each mobile feature occurs in this site.

Last updated: 16th March 2018

Feature Condition

In 2016, Natural England trialled and rolled out a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) condition assessment methodology that provides robust results and information on the condition of marine features designated within MPAs in England. With guidance from National teams and using all available evidence and condition monitoring data, Area Teams conduct these assessments following a standardised approach that assesses if the feature and sub feature conservation targets set for each MPA have been met.

To date, condition assessments have been completed for a number of features in a range of marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) by the National and Area Teams. Further marine habitat features in SACs and other MPAs will continue to be assessed in the future. The new method can now also be applied to complete habitat and species condition assessments for other MPAs in England, whilst still meeting the different processes in place to report on the results of condition of features in Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Different processes are currently in place to decide and report on the condition of non-marine habitat and species features of SACs.

The main part of the assessment process is directly undertaken and stored here on Natural England’s Designated Sites View. The details for the most recent assessments of this site can be found here.

Management measures

If you are carrying out an environmental assessment, planning an operation or assessing an operation or proposal, it is important to consult with the following organisations where applicable. To find out if any management measures, byelaws or other restrictions apply to your activity see the management measure page or you can use the following links for more information.

The Marine Management Organisation license, regulate and plan marine activities in the seas around England and Wales so that they’re carried out in a sustainable way.
Environment Agency are responsible for regulating major industry and waste, water quality and resources, fisheries, inland river, estuary and harbour navigations, conservation and ecology.
Offshore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) regulates oil and gas, CCS and gas storage activities in the marine environment.

Further information

For further information relating to this designated site you can refer to the following resources:
Site specific information: Other information:
For further information about this site contact: Natural England enquiries Telephone: 0300 060 3900. Email: