Recreation Mitigation Strategy


Freshfield Dune Heath 23 08 16In total there are 11 European sites/designations covering the Ribble Estuary, the Sefton Coast, the Mersey Estuary, the Dee Estuary and Liverpool Bay with interest features that that encompass a range of coastal habitats, rare reptiles, amphibians and plants, together with wintering, passage and breeding waterbirds. The network of European sites are Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for species and habitats, and Ramsar sites that are recognised as internationally important wetlands (Ramsar sites are a global designation but for policy purposes in the UK are treated the same as European sites). Following withdrawal of from the E.U. the network of European sites are now referred to as National Site Network and can be viewed on an interactive map.

Pinkfeet Altcar Moss 10 1 18These interest features all have different sensitivities and vulnerabilities to recreation pressure (e.g. trampling or noise disturbance) which vary over the year (e.g. breeding time or severe weather). Any strategy will need to demonstrate that it is able to protect and sustain these interest features and mitigate recreation effects.

Why is a Recreation Mitigation Strategy Needed?

The coastal sites in the Liverpool City Region, which are internationally important for nature conservation, are under increasing pressure from recreation. The coast is a very strong attractor for residents and visitors to the City Region. Recreation use is already known to be damaging the nature interests on these protected areas through, for example, trampling and wildlife disturbance from a wide range of activities.

Greensefton SignageAinsdale Beach 3 6 18










FootprintsThere is evidence that the sites are already being damaged, and the condition of different areas are deteriorating. This is acknowledged in the formal conservation advice for these European Sites (Conservation Advice Packages and Site Improvement Plans) and the Habitats Regulations Assessments of the Local Plans for each of the 6 Local Authorities.

All the Local Plans across the LCR include housing targets and policies for housing and tourism which have the potential to increase the recreation pressure on the European Sites. This raises the prospect of further damage and significant effects on the nature conservation features of the European Sites including site integrity.

The Local Authorities have a legal responsibility under the Habitats Regulations to demonstrate that their housing growth aspirations and changes in the patterns of development and pressure on the coast, will not have an adverse effect on the European Sites.

For more information see the RMS frequently asked questions page.

Emerging Recreational Mitigation Strategy - Progress 

MEAS have been appointed project manager on behalf of the LCR Local Authorities and together with a Steering Group and technical expertise from consultants Footprint Ecology are preparing a Recreation Mitigation Strategy (RMS). The strategy is at an evidence gathering phase which is due to restart following successive national lockdowns in 2020/21 as a result of the Covid pandemic. Recreational use surveys will be undertaken at our coastal sites from summer 2021 with completion of the RMS currently timetabled for early 2023.

As the project moves forward we are now able to publish evidence base documents and strategic mitigation which can be used to inform and secure mitigation for development management where residential proposals are likely to have significant recreational pressure effects.

A Document Library is available here

 Photo credits: Dr P.H. Smith, Andrew Clark, GreenSefton