Solent European Marine Site

Posted on 22 Aug 2005

This article describes how four conservation areas within the Solent are in the process of being formed, and how wider interests including the Solent Protection Society will be consulted. The United Kingdom Government is currently implementing the requirements of the European Habitats Directive 1992. One important outcome has been the designation under the Habitats Regulations 1994 of certain areas within the Solent and Southampton Water as a candidate Special Area of Conservation (known as a SAC), and three Special Protection Areas for conservation (known as SPAs). Within the Solent, these four areas have become known collectively as the Solent European Marine Site (SEMS).

Under the Regulations, certain statutory authorities including local authorities are required to establish measures that ensure that the requirements of the regulations are met with respect to their own functions. This may involve establishing a management scheme for the designated sites if they choose to do so. The relevant authorities around the Solent have agreed to prepare a single management scheme for the four sites, and to work together by forming a SEMS Management Group (SEMS MG) with its own Project Officer who will be hosted by Hampshire County Council. Government advice is also that while only relevant authorities have the statutory responsibility for establishing a management scheme, it is essential that ‘owners, occupiers, rightholders, local interests, user groups and conservation groups’ should be encouraged to participate in the development of the schemes.

While the statutory authorities in the Management Group have fully accepted the principle of wider consultation, the range of issues particularly significant to a large and complex area like the Solent has made it difficult for agreement on the form and structure of an advisory group. In the event, the Management Group has decided that the Solent Forum minus the relevant authorities (who are already involved in the Management Group) should form the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) for the Solent. It is intended that the first meeting of the Advisory Group will be held in October when its terms of reference will be agreed.

As a member of the Solent Forum, the Solent Protection Society has been invited to join the Strategic Advisory Group as one of its twenty six members.

English Nature has a statutory responsibility under the Habitats Regulations 1994, to advise relevant authorities as to the conservation objectives for European marine sites in England. It also has to advise these authorities as to any operations which may cause deterioration of natural habitats, or the habitats of species or disturbances of species for which the sites were designated. This advice will be a key component of the management scheme that is being developed for the Solent. The advice issued by English Nature is known as the Regulation 33 advice for the Solent European Marine Site.

Taken from the Autumn 2000 issue of the SPS newsletter.