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Conservation experts have looked at how the Exe Estuary is used by visitors and businesses, and have recommended proposals aimed at balancing tourism, business and leisure needs, with the estuary’s role as a sanctuary for protected birds and other natural habitat.
Amended proposals are now being suggested following widespread public consultation this year by the Exe Estuary Management Partnership (EEMP), on behalf of South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership (SEDHRP).
The consultation asked people’s opinion about dedicated areas, ‘Wildlife Refuges’, within the estuary that would request that certain activities, such as water sports, allow space for birds.
These ‘Wildlife Refuge’ areas will play an essential part in the ongoing conservation of the estuary, providing areas of protection for the most vital feeding and roosting grounds for internationally important bird populations that rely on the estuary for survival on long migratory journeys.
Such measures are essential for local authorities to consider when preparing for increased pressure brought about by local growth and housing development.
A handover in the process from the EEMP to SEDHRP has now taken place.
“The Exe Estuary is one of Devon’s most visited and used stretches of coastline, used by local businesses and visitors alike. It’s also a site of international importance to wildlife, so finding the right balance for all is vital,” says Stephanie Clark, Exe Estuary Officer.
“We’ve had a great level of interest in the consultation so far and having looked at all of the responses, we’ve now got a firmer set of proposals that we’d like people’s opinion on.”
The proposals will recommend ‘Wildlife Refuges’ in two strategically significant locations within the estuary, with boundaries that will allow the majority of users to continue using the water safely and responsibly.
Outside the ‘Wildlife Refuges’, the estuary will remain available for recreational activities. The proposals will be available online at www.exewildliferefuge.org.uk, alongside a six week survey that is being run by the SEDHRP to gather feedback on the amendments.
This final phase of the consultation will be open until the 10 August. The results will inform a final report which will be presented to the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committee in October, where a decision will be made on whether to approve the proposals for the new ‘Wildlife Refuge’ areas.
For further information about amended proposals, visit the EEMP website at www.exe-estuary.org.