Preview of West Solent Marine National Park Report

Posted on 04 Jan 2006

Our last two newsletters have had short articles about the idea of having the West Solent designated as a Marine National Park. In preparation for a campaign on this, we have now drawn up a report that describes the idea in detail and looks at the case for it, primarily as a conservation measure. This will shortly be published on our website, and we hope that members will have a look at it and give us their views.

In essence, the report says:

  • The West Solent’s outstanding qualities are widely recognised and are different from those of the East Solent, Southampton Water and Portsmouth Harbour. It is a coastal waterway with few equals in England and Wales, needing special protection. The main pressures on it arise from recreation, but to an extent also from shipping, fishing, climate change, and pollution.
  • Looking at these, it is apparent, firstly, that although the number of craft moorings in the West Solent is small compared with the Solent as a whole, there is a significant influx of coastal and marine recreation from outside, the implications of which need consideration. Secondly, the maintenance of the local fishing industry would be helped by a study of the ecology, health and exploitation of the stock. Thirdly, difficult decisions will have to be made on how to deal with the impact of climate change on the West Solent, and there is likely to be some re-thinking of pollution control strategy for the area as a result of the Water Framework Directive. Fourthly, as there is no marine planning system in the West Solent (and in other sea areas) comparable to those for adjoining land, e.g. the New Forest National Park and the Island’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, its protective status will needs special provision.
  • Ideally, the multitude of users and their interests in the West Solent might well be best co-ordinated, represented, administered and strategically developed through a Marine National Park, covering an area from the Needles/Hurst Spit (in the west) to Lepe/Gurnard (in the east), bounded by mean low water mark and the harbour limits of Lymington and Yarmouth. In our view, the ‘pluses’ of such a Marine National Park outweigh the ‘minuses’.
  • It is important, therefore, that the proposed Marine Bill, to be published in the autumn of 2006, should provide for the establishment of Marine National Parks generally, somewhat on the lines of the landward National Parks that exist in England, Scotland and Wales. We think that it would be better for the Society to pursue this in conjunction with other organisations, rather than alone, particularly if the idea can be debated in the Solent Forum.
  • Thus the aim, in principle, should be to have the West Solent designated a Marine National Park, planned and managed through an appropriate partnership of statutory and non-statutory bodies concerned with the area.
  • And in preparation for this, there is a need to develop in more detail the aims, administration and funding of such a partnership. To do this effectively would require a research study, possibly through one of our local Universities, aided by a financial grant, for which we are seeking a sponsor.

An appendix to the report gives brief particulars of 11 Marine National Parks overseas, proposals for at least one in Scotland, and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

Copies of the report have been sent to Defra who are responsible for drafting the Bill in the first instance. In addition to it being on our website, we now intend to circulate it more widely for comment from interested parties, hoping especially for the support of our MPs.

Report by Professor A.D.G. Smart, CBE