Society axes proposal for Marine National Park and calls for a more flexible and sensitive approach to managing marine areas

Posted on 16 May 2007

Solent Protection Society (SPS) is to urge the Government to adopt a more sophisticated and flexible approach to managing marine areas which are subject to a number of different uses.

In its response to the White Paper on the Marine Bill, Solent Protection calls for a more thoughtful and sensitive approach. SPS Chairman, Professor Malcolm Forster, said:

“The Marine Conservation Zone concept in the White Paper is essentially a hierarchy of traditional protected areas. This is a twentieth-century concept and out of touch with the expectations of users of the near offshore. SPS discovered this when it consulted on its now-abandoned proposal for a Marine National Park in the West Solent. The idea attracted a lot of flak and forced us back to the drawing-board. It seems to us that what is needed is a much more imaginative approach, where competing uses and interests in the sea-space are integrated, rather than relegated in favour of a “super-interest”, even if that is conservation-related.

“SPS is calling for a new approach, where the near-offshore is managed so that each use of the area interferes with the others to the minimum extent possible. We see this as the way ahead in complex areas like the West Solent, where we think conservation can successfully cohabit with other uses, including sailing and other water-based recreation. In these areas (which SPS calls Marine Multiple Use Areas), regulators should employ a lighter touch, if they are not to forfeit public support. On the other hand, all interests in the near offshore, not just government and the conservation bodies, will have to muck in to ensure that a balanced strategy can be hammered out. Government, even in the form of a Maritime Management Organisation, does not have the expertise or experience to achieve the delicate balance needed to deliver, which is why SPS feels that direct involvement of other interests in devising and implementing marine plans is essential.”