Oct 28, 2016

Formal Consultation on the Potential Solway Firth Special Protection Area (pSPA)

A joint formal consultation is being undertaken by Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage regarding the Solway Firth potential Special Protection Area (pSPA). 


In 2015 Natural England (NE) submitted a report to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) setting out proposals for a marine extension to the existing Upper Solway Flats and Marshes SPA and for it to be renamed as the Solway Firth SPA.

The pSPA is a cross-border site shared with Scotland and therefore NE have been working in close collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) throughout. It was also jointly agreed that as the site lies mainly within Scottish waters, SNH will act as the lead Statutory Nature Conservation Body for the proposals and this consultation.

The pSPA consultation runs from 25th October 2016 to midnight on 17th January 2017 and seeks the views of all interested parties on the scientific case for the classification of the pSPA.

Documents relevant to the consultation can be viewed on the SNH website and can be accessed at the following:


Documents available to review on the website include:

Site Selection Document: This provides a summary of the case for site selection, a description of the site and site boundary (including maps), an assessment of the ornithological interest including bird survey work, information on individual species and the assessment against the UK criteria for selection of SPAs, plus comparison with other sites in the UK; and the

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA): This identifies the likely positive and negative impacts on the UK economy, society and the environment of the proposed designation.


The consultation deadline is Midnight 17th January 2017

Natural England works as the Government’s statutory adviser to identify and recommend potential Special Protection Areas in terrestrial and marine areas of England, in order to meet the requirements of the European Birds Directive. For cross-border sites, Natural England works closely with the equivalent Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies which in this case is Scottish Natural Heritage. Scottish Natural Heritage is acting as the lead Statutory Nature Conservation Body for the site proposals.

Together with the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive requires the creation of a network of protected areas for important or threatened wildlife habitats and species across the European Union known as ‘Natura 2000’ sites. Once sites are proposed as SPAs they are recommended to Government for approval to carry out a formal public consultation. When such approval is given, the site becomes a “potential Special Protection Area” (or pSPA) and treated as a fully designated European site subject to protection under the EU Habitats Directive1. Please note that in Scotland the equivalent stage is referred to as ‘proposed’ SPA. The formal consultation period runs for 12 weeks.

Solway Firth pSPA
The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) identified a number of Areas of Search (AoS) around the UK that had the potential to support important aggregations of overwintering populations of divers, seaduck and grebes that might warrant protection in SPAs. One of these AoS was in the Solway Firth. Data were collected during each winter season (October to March) over the period between 2000 and 2013. They were collected by the most appropriate survey methods, either using aerial surveys, shore-based counts or boat surveys. The AoS in the Solway Firth was shown to support an estimated 527 red-throated divers, over three times the UK SPA Selection Guidelines Stage 1.1 threshold of 170 birds, along with populations of other migratory species of European importance.

The Solway Firth pSPA boundary is an extension of the existing Upper Solway Flats and Marshes SPA. The existing SPA boundary has not changed and the extension covers the marine environment from Whithorn in Scotland to just north of Whitehaven in England. The extension also includes the intertidal area in Allonby Bay. A map is provided in Annex A below. All features of the existing SPA would be retained with the addition of a number of species which were identified in the 2001 review of the existing SPA. This review showed that in winter the mudflats, saltmarshes and grazing marshes also support important numbers of ringed plover, lapwing, cormorant, black-headed gull, common gull and herring gull.

The purpose of the formal consultation
The purpose of this consultation is to seek the views of all interested parties on:

The scientific case for the classification of the pSPA as set out in the Site Selection Document; and

the assessment of the likely economic, environmental and social impacts of the designation of the site as set out in the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA).

Under an EU ruling, the Habitats and Birds Directives do not permit socio-economic considerations to influence the choice of Natura 2000 sites (SPAs and Special Areas of Conservation) or their boundaries.

Member states, including the UK, must identify the sites and boundaries based only on the scientific evidence.

Government guidance requires Natural England to assess the potential costs of decisions such as classifying the Solway Firth pSPA. Whilst the information gathered in this assessment cannot influence the decision to classify the site, it will allow those with an interest in the site to understand the socio-economic impacts that could come from it.

How to respond
You are invited to respond to the consultation on the case for classifying Solway Firth pSPA by midnight on the 17th January 2017.

Responses to the consultation should be submitted to SNH online at -

Responses to the consultation can also be submitted by e-mail or post. Please contact SNH for an electronic / paper copy of the consultation questions:

Postal submissions -
Marine Bird SPA Consultation
Scottish Natural Heritage
Great Glen House

E-mail submissions -

Following the consultation
After the consultation during 2017, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage will report to the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Marine Scotland on stakeholder responses to the formal consultation and submit final site recommendations.

Following consideration of these final recommendations, the Government will decide whether or not to classify the pSPA and inform the European Commission.

If you have any general enquires regarding the SPA consultation, please email to them to or call 01463 725025

Annex A - pSPA extension Solway Firth

Solway Firth Partnership