Have your say on proposed ‘Wildlife Refuge’ areas for the Exe Estuary

Local residents, businesses and users of the Exe Estuary are invited to a drop-in event this Thursday 29 June, between 2pm – 8pm at County Hall, Exeter.

People will have the opportunity to view recommendations on new ‘Wildlife Refuge’ areas for the Exe Estuary, formerly known as Voluntary Exclusion Zones.

Stephanie Clark, Exe Estuary officer, said: ‘On behalf of the Exe Estuary Management Partnership (EEMP), I would like to thank everyone who participated in the public consultation on the ‘Review of Zonation of the Exe Estuary’ which closed on 28 April 2017.

‘We have listened to all the comments and views received and taken these into account to form new recommendations for Wildlife Refuges, formerly known as Voluntary Exclusion Zones.

‘The proposals have been discussed and amended by the EEMP Officer Working Group and South East Devon Habitat Regulations Partnership (SEDHRP) officers. These final recommendations will be presented to the EEMP Management Group for review and endorsement on 21 June.

‘We would like to share these updated proposals with the public and answer any questions at the drop-in event.  People will also be able to view and comment on the recommendations through an online survey from the 29 June.’


RYA concerns

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) welcomes the invitation for local users to attend this public drop-in event, however a spokesman said they continue to have concerns over the proposals being presented for new Wildlife Refuges, formerly known as Voluntary Exclusion Zones, on the Exe.

Emma Barton, RYA planning and environmental manager, said: ‘The findings of the public consultation clearly supported our voiced concerns over a lack of consideration of the safety requirements for recreational boaters when designing the exclusion zones, including the need to shelter from strong tides and weather, tidal windows for transit through areas, exit points and training needs for novice participants.

‘As part of the public consultation, we also expressed concerns regarding lack of engagement on the proposed new codes of conduct, safety implications and lack of understanding of participants needs with regards to these proposals.

‘We have met with EEMP and a number of proposals were discussed in order to address these safety concerns, including changes to ensure that access could continue in areas important for boaters on the Exe.

‘The detail of the new recommendations for Wildlife Refuges is not clear at this stage, so it is important that we continue to make our views known by ensuring that recreational boating interests are taken into account.

‘We would encourage everyone that currently enjoys boating on the Exe to attend the drop-in event on Thursday 29 June to view the new recommendations on Wildlife Refuge areas.’

How to get involved

From 29 June until 10 August, there will be a six-week period when people can help refine the final recommendations. This means that local people can comment on the amended proposals, as well as people who tend to use the Exe Estuary during this peak holiday season.

Details of this survey will be available on the South East Devon Habitat Regulations Executive Committees’ (SEDHREC) website at: http://eastdevon.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/committees-and-meetings/south-east-devon-habitat-regulations-executive-committee/

Following the close of the survey, all comments will be reviewed for the final report. The report will be published by SEDHRP prior to the October SEDHREC meeting which will decide whether to approve the proposals.

Details of the next steps are outlined below (these may be subject to revision):

  • 21 June: Final recommendations presented to the EEMP Management Group for endorsement.
  • End June: Final recommendations available on SEDHRP website.
  • 29 June, 2pm-8pm: Drop-in event at County Hall for display of final recommendations.
  • 29 June – 10 Aug: six-week online survey for comment on recommendations, carried out by SEDHRP.
  • Aug-Sept: Analysis of results and accompanying report produced by SEDHRP.
  • October: Final report of EEMP and SEDHRP presented to SEDHREC for consideration.

In addition, codes of conduct for users of the Exe Estuary will be reviewed by talking to local user groups. The codes will be updated to ensure safety, consideration of other users and nature conservation.

Codes of conduct are important for the Exe Estuary because there are a wide range of users who may not be linked to a particular club.  They may have different interests, where activities overlap.

Next steps for review of codes of conduct:

  • May-August: Drafting of updated codes of conduct, based on existing codes and national guidance (working with user groups and national recreational bodies).
  • September: Draft codes publically available for feedback.

Please note that further information about the review of zonation, including minutes and detail about the various groups involved, is available on the EEMP website.

The results of the online questionnaire and comments which were received by letter and email are also available at https://www.exe-estuary.org/results-of-consultation.

The consultation on the Exe Estuary Voluntary Exclusion Zone proposals began in December 2016. The process included 18 meetings with different user groups, 2 general meetings and an online questionnaire which closed on 28 April 2017. The EEMP will analyse all responses and comments to help inform the final recommendations.