Recreation : Management : Regulatory approaches

Regulatory approaches to managing recreation



Practical management

Integrated management

Where voluntary techniques are unlikely to succeed or have already failed, it may be necessary to instigate a regulatory approach to management for nature conservation. Before looking to set up such controls, however, it is important to determine what controls already exist, how effective they are and what statutory powers are vested amongst existing bodies in the area. A number of byelaws are already likely to exist in mSAC areas but new ones can be costly to introduce and bring with them the problem of enforcement, particularly on the water. The results of a consultation exercise on bylaws was published by DETR October 1998 and the findings are summarised below.


Bylaws give legal support to action on the ground, offer a clear basis for enforcement and can highlight broader aims and objectives. However, it can be difficult to achieve and maintain local support for such measures and enforcement can be difficult without appropriate funds. Byelaws should not, therefore, be considered as the first course of action to deal with difficulties or conflict resulting from recreational activities and their use should be avoided where problems are minor or occasional. However, if voluntary action or self regulation is not practicable, or has not proved effective at site level, byelaw management may be required.

An Inter-Departmental Working Party chaired by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions was set up in 1994 to review the effectiveness of existing local authority powers to make byelaws to regulate coastal recreational activities. The following information is based on their findings and recommendations. The working party reviewed five specific principal powers of byelaws, including those designed to:

  • regulate the activities taking place on the sea-shore and on promenades

  • licence pleasure boats for commercial purposes

  • regulate public bathing (primarily for safety reasons)

  • regulate speed, use and noise of pleasure boats

  • promote good rule and government in their area

Following a discussion paper and subsequent consultation, the working party concluded that there were significant improvements which could be made to bylaw making powers and made specific recommendations.

Throughout the review, the working party looked at the three main aims of recreation management: public safety; protecting amenity; and preventing environmental damage. For the purpose of this study, the latter issue is of most concern. Recommendations specific to the former may, however, be extremely valuable for the wider management of the mSAC site.

When considering issues of environmental decline or impact the working party acknowledged that "assessing damage to the environment is difficult as only limited research is available in this area." Site managers should bear this factor in mind when considering byelaws as possible management tools for their site.

The working party made 59 recommendations for the use of bylaws in the management of recreation on the coast. Many of these recommendations have relevance to management for amenity, safety and nature conservation purposes and for a more detailed review site managers and relevant authorities should refer to the DETR document, Review of Byelaw Powers for the Coast: Report of the Inter-Departmental Working Group, October 1998. The working party’s main recommendations on the future use of bylaws included:


  • Local authority powers for making and enforcing bylaws should be modernised and consolidated.

  • Any powers must include the ability to provide exclusive bathing zones – i.e. areas where all types of craft, powered and non-powered, can be excluded. However, such zones should not force users of craft too far out to sea.

  • In addition to specific powers, local authorities should be given more general byelaw powers (with safeguards to prevent indiscriminate use) to regulate activities affecting the wider environment.

  • Any extension of, or amendment to, byelaw powers should not conflict or overlap with powers held by other authorities.

Point 3 above is of direct relevance to mSAC area management and nature conservation issues. The discussion paper highlighted a number of gaps in the coverage of existing bylaw powers and many of these were with regard to protecting the environment. The working party considered that where another relevant authority did not have a specific power, local authorities should have the power to regulate coastal recreation activities in order to protect the wider environment. The working party made four specific recommendations regarding byelaw protection for the wider environment:

Local authorities should be given a general power to regulate coastal recreation activities which are outside the responsibility of other relevant authorities for the purpose of protecting the wider environment.

The framing of such powers should, as far as is practicable, take account of the need to regulate as yet unforeseen or largely undeveloped forms of recreational activities.

Any such power should include appropriate safeguards to prevent indiscriminate use, appropriate consultation, and ensure that the power is used reasonably.

This power should not conflict with, overlap or supersede existing powers held by other authorities.

Other aspects of the discussion that also have implications for nature conservation include the control of launch points. Earlier chapters of this study suggested that environmental impacts can occur when a recreational participant is accessing the water. The byelaw discussion paper highlighted that the control of launching and landing points for craft is one way of exercising a degree of control over watercraft users. For example, some local authorities operate schemes requiring third party insurance as a condition for using local authority controlled launch points. This, however, can only be applied to powered craft and so cannot effectively work as a management tool for the wider recreational community.

The use of personal watercraft was also raised in the document. However, the working party found that most concern was placed on the potential dangers posed to other users of the sea, noise nuisance and the difficulties of enforcing existing controls. These aspects relate in most part to amenity issues and do not therefore have specific relation to nature conservation issues. In relation to the management of this particular type of activity, a specific guide for local and harbour authorities for the management of personal watercraft has been developed.

The use and management of personal watercraft often presents many problems for local and harbour authorities. This is due in general to the wide and often divergent views on the use of personal watercraft around our coasts. In response to this a consortium of groups with interests in this particular recreational activity have collaborated to produce a guide for the effective management of this activity in close inshore waters, a Practical Guide to the Management of Personal Watercraft (1998) This guide does offer some useful information for the management of this activity. It is, however, only targeted at busy beaches and harbours and does not therefore deal with personal watercraft issues arising on the undeveloped and remote coast, particularly areas of high nature conservation importance.


If regulatory controls are not supported by the end user it is likely that they will require enforcement measures to ensure that they are adhered to. Such measures can take the form of policing of the site by relevant authorities. However, this is often a very expensive method of control both financially and in terms of time required to monitor and maintain regulatory measures. A programme of education and interpretation to gain the support of the end user for regulatory controls is a much more cost-effective management tool.

Prior to the development or discussion of new regulatory management techniques for site areas relevant authorities, site managers and recreational users must reach some agreement on the methods, implementation, funding and policing of such schemes.

Good Practice in Policing and Enforcement, Langstone Harbour, UK

One third of the harbour is protected by the Farlington Marsh local nature reserve and an area of mud flats and islands owned by the RSPB. The 2,000 hectares of the harbour have been notified as SSSI on account of the importance of the intertidal zone, its plant life and the birds that it attracts. The harbour is used for sailing, board sailing, fishing, pleasure boating and water-skiing.

A water-ski zone has been defined for use between March and October within which a ten knot speed limit does not apply. With the scheme operated on a voluntary basis, many water skiers ignored the boundaries of the restriction and entered the reserve. By agreement with the Langstone harbour Board, the Langstone Harbour Water Skiers Association is now responsible for policing the zone. All skiers must obtain a licence and become members of the association and display the licence on the bow of ski boats.

The scheme ensures that all skiers are aware of the bylaw e.g. the limits to the zone, speed restrictions, direction and time of skiing within the zone and the position of the nature reserve. The scheme has ensured that transgressors of the rules are easily identified.

Practical Management Techniques

In addition to managing recreational impacts on marine features it may also be possible to reduce the potential for certain impacts by sensitive modification of habitats. This may take the form of bank stabilisation measures, provision of additional refuges for wildlife and habitat restoration.


Integrated Management: A Suite of Management Methods

Often a number of different management methods can work together to provide effective site management. This is particularly the case for techniques such as voluntary zoning, regulatory byelaws and education and interpretation. Often education can be used to support other practical methods of nature conservation at site level. When used together, the different management techniques can effectively support one another and provide added value.

Wildfowling, Lleyn, North Wales

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has developed an award winning demonstration site at Lleyn Ystumyllyn SSSI in North Wales to show how nature conservation, shooting and farming interests can co-exist. The BASC’s long-term aim is to develop integrated management strategies both nationally and at estuary and wetland level, in which the location and positioning of shot and unshot land would be agreed to the mutual advantage of all user and conservation interests.

The BASC issues a series of codes of practice which are distributed to its member clubs. These cover legal and safety requirements, identifying the prey species, details of close seasons, a code of shooting etiquette and advises against shooting out-of-range birds. There is also a conservation code covering habitat and wildfowl conservation, the establishment of reserves and refuges and their management.


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