Feedback on review of zonation of the Exe Estuary: You said, we did
You said: Implementing the refuges would make it far too dangerous as users would have to use the narrow main channel with fast flowing currents, stronger winds, more and larger water traffic. Most talked about it being too dangerous for kayaks, gigs, canoes, small sailcraft, and dinghies in the fast flowing currents.
We did: The safety of people using the Exe Estuary is our top priority. We have taken this into account with our new recommendations. We have added a 100m safety buffer at Dawlish Warren in response to your concerns that some users would be pushed into the navigation channel. The Exmouth Wildlife Refuge is smaller than the original proposal, allowing users more sheltered space and more space away from the navigation channel.
You said: There will be less space and freedom to do my on water based activities.
We did: The northern boundary of the Warren Wildlife Refuge area is now aligned with the steps at Cockwood, almost 0.5km further south, making the refuge smaller than before and allowing water-based activities to continue in this area. The new Wildlife Refuge at Exmouth protects key feeding areas for a short period of time (only 14 weeks) during low season when many users said they do not normally use the area.
You said: We don’t really disturb birds and wildlife with our non-engine powered activity based on the water (most talked about small sailcraft, dinghies, canoes and kayaks).
We said: Evidence shows that disturbance from recreational activity is currently influencing the distribution and behaviour of birds on the Exe. Bird watches at Dawlish Warren roost found that the roost was flushed around five times per hour. Recent monitoring (after the Exe Disturbance Study) observed roosts in the proposed Wildlife Refuges being disturbed by unpowered water activities.
You said: There’ll be nowhere for novices and beginners to train and practice their chosen activity on the water.
We did: We have taken this into account so that the peak usage time for tourists and learners is not affected at Exmouth. Full access is available to novices during Summer and early September. The impact on regular users is low, with 60% of respondents stating they had used the Estuary less than 6 times in the past year.
You said: There is no/very little credible evidence for the reasons behind the proposals.
We say: Currently there are 8.8 million visits per year to the Exe Estuary from people living within 10km. This is predicted to increase by 2.4 million by 2030 as a result of providing much needed homes for local people. The best available research provides evidence that current levels of access and recreation are affecting the behaviour and distribution of birds on the Exe. We cannot wait until disturbance reaches a point where the number of birds decline before taking action. A precautionary approach is taken to make sure these species are protected. The Exe Disturbance Study clearly makes the case for taking these precautions.
You said: Have the Voluntary Exclusion Zone in place only when the tide is low.
We say: It is important that high tide roosts are protected, as well as access to feeding grounds at various states of the tide. If not disturbed, protected bird species still prefer to wait and rest in and near the eelgrass areas at high tide, as well as feeding at low tide.
You said: Abandon the proposals
We say: The protection of internationally important wildlife is a strict legal obligation which Local Authorities must meet. For much needed new housing for local residents to be delivered, the likely effects of increased recreational pressure from an increased population must be addressed. This is a key legal test in the planning process.