Poole Harbour from Arne by Sue Macpherson ARPS

Wild Purbeck

In February 2012, the Wild Purbeck area was designated as one of 12 Nature Improvement Areas across the country. Wild Purbeck partners are now into their third year of being a Nature Improvement Area, Click here to find out what they have achieved to date.

What is a Nature Improvement Area?

NIAs have been proposed by Government as the principal mechanism for delivering wildlife restoration and management.  They are intended to achieve significant enhancements to ecological networks by improving existing wildlife sites, building ecological connections and restoring ecological processes.  Delivering at a landscape-scale, these areas should connect with their local economies and communities.

A competition was established to award 12 NIAs a share of £7.5M to deliver a 3-year programme from 2012.  For more information visit Natural England's NIA pages here

Where & why?

This is a very special area for wildlife, including the 10km square with the greatest diversity of plant species in the country.  With internationally important heathlands, Poole Harbour, Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, valley wetlands and much more, the outstanding natural heritage is a huge asset and a large reason why people live in, work in and visit the area.

It is facing increasing pressures, however: sea level rise will affect much of the low-lying area around Poole Harbour and the water in the Harbour is eutrophic; the number of visitors to this area increases year-on-year; some heathlands are afforested, all are vulnerable to fire; numbers of grazing animals are in decline as are farmland biodiversity indicators; a large proportion of the area is under agri-environment schemes nearing expiry.

An indicative googlemap can be seen here.

Who’s involved?

The Wild Purbeck Partnership comprises of Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Dorset County Council, Country Land and Business Association, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West, Forestry Commission, Kingston Maurward College, National Farmers Union, Natural England, National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The Partnership will work closely with Environment Agency, the District Councils, Wessex Water, Perenco, and Woodland Trust.

The Wild Purbeck Partnership have recruited an officer to coordinate the project, but much of the delivery will be carried out by those partners listed above.

What difference will it make?

Wild Purbeck NIA will mean, by 2020:

  • the area’s natural assets are richer and more resilient to changes
  • there is more natural function in the landscape - for example rivers are re-connected with flood plain and catchment
  • plans are in place to enable people and wildlife to adapt to sea level rise around Poole Harbour
  • the landscape contributes more strongly to the local economy, particularly around sustainable tourism and products from land and sea; those industries also contribute strongly to that landscape
  • communities and businesses from both within and outside the area understand the importance their contributions make
  • a landscape where the connections between the natural world and human activity are understood and celebrated


As part of the NIA programme Wild Purbeck NIA is required to undertake monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of our projects. A monitoring and evaluation framework including indicators under four themes (Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services, Social and Economic Benefits and Contributions to Well-Being, and Partnership Working) was developed in a Phase 1 project commissioned by Defra.

The framework aims to provide a useful tool for the NIAs to measure the progress of their delivery within and beyond the three year programme. Some of the indicators are ‘core’ indicators that must be adopted by all the NIAs, while the others are optional. Details of the Wild Purbeck NIA choices can be found here