St Bees Head Heritage Coast extension proposals

What is a Heritage Coast?

Heritage Coasts were established to conserve the best stretches of undeveloped coast in England and are defined by agreement between the local authorities (in this case Copeland Borough Council) and Natural England.

Heritage coasts were established to:

  • conserve, protect and enhance:
    • the natural beauty of the coastline
    • their terrestrial, coastal and marine flora and fauna
    • their heritage features
  • encourage and help the public to enjoy, understand and appreciate these areas
  • maintain and improve the health of inshore waters affecting heritage coasts and their beaches through appropriate environmental management measures
  • take account of the needs of agriculture, forestry and fishing and the economic and social needs of the small communities on these coasts

St Bees Head Heritage Coast

The St Bees Head Heritage Coast was defined in 1992 and is currently 6km in length. It is the only stretch Heritage Coast between Wales and Scotland and is one of only 5 ‘orphan’ heritage coasts in the country, which means it does not fall within AONB or National Park boundaries.  The Heritage Coast definition sits alongside the existing designation of Marine Conservation Zone, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Ancient Monuments which recognise the unique qualities of this stretch of coast.

The proposal

In 2015 the National Trust and Colourful Coast partnership saw the opportunity to open discussions with relevant authorities regarding a potential extension to the St Bees Heritage Coast north towards Whitehaven.  The aim was to take this forward through the Copeland Site Allocations Development Plan Document, including defining an extended area for the Heritage Coast.  After an initial site visit Natural England confirmed they would be willing to consider a proposal for extension.  Consultants were commissioned to produce the relevant evidence base in autumn 2016.  In the process of preparing the evidence base the consultants made site visits to the area and held two workshop sessions with the National Trust, Natural England, Copeland Borough Council and Cumbria County Council to discuss progress.  The evidence base report was formally submitted to Copeland Borough Council and Natural England for their consideration in January 2017.   The whole document can be found below.  This showed that the area marked on the map is of Heritage Coast quality, and proposed that the current boundary should be amended.

Proposed St Bees Head Heritage Coast extension

Map showing boundary of the proposed St Bees Head Heritage Coast extension


Opportunities and benefits

A northwards extension to the existing St Bees Head Heritage Coast boundary could:

  • Bring a wider recognition of the quality of the area
  • Increase tourism opportunities
  • Generate opportunities for grant funding which would contribute towards the further enhancement and ongoing management of the area.
  • Heritage Coasts are protected through the planning system. Local Authorities should ‘maintain the character of the undeveloped coast, protecting and enhancing its distinctive landscapes.’ This can also ensure that development is of a higher quality.
  • Opportunity to put together a steering group to create a Management Plan for the area. Legally every Heritage Coast should have a management plan incorporating targets, and a timetable for their implementation. St Bees Head Heritage Coast does not currently have a steering group or management plan in place.



Copeland Borough Council held a public consultation on our proposal to extend the St Bees Head Heritage Coast boundary towards Whitehaven in January and February 2019.  The full proposals, along with all consultation feedback, were presented to all council members on 9th April 2019 and we are delighted that the proposals were passed.

What next?

The next step is for Copeland Borough Council and Natural England to agree on the proposed boundary extension and name change for the area (to become St Bees Head and Whitehaven Heritage Coast) and then officially re-define the extended area.  We will keep you updated.


Heritage Coast extension front page

Read the complete St Bees Heritage Coast Extension evidence base report