SPS Article in ‘The Yachter’ – Autumn 2020

The following article written by our Chairman, David Sizer, appears in the Autumn edition of ‘The Yachter’, the house magazine of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club.

The Solent Protection Society (SPS) is a registered charity which was established over sixty years ago at the time when controversially, a Nuclear Power Station had been proposed in Newtown Creek. The Solent is constantly under huge pressure from shipping, leisure and development along its shoreline.

The aim of the Society is to protect the Solent and its environment for future generations and our interest extends from the Needles Channel to Selsey Bill, just to the East of Chichester Harbour, including the adjoining rivers and estuaries. Our membership includes individuals, clubs and other stakeholder organisations led by our Council, many of whom have particular expertise and professional interests relevant to our purpose.

Having originated as a protest group, our activities have, over the years, developed to provide independent and constructive advice, together with observations in the best interests of preserving the natural environment of the Solent. Our observations and reports are forwarded to an increasing number of central and local government organisations and quangos which plan the future of our shores. We always aim for constructive engagement rather than simply raising objections.

Hurst Castle

SPS has, for example, been involved in the consultation processes that led to the designation of Marine Conservation Zones for the protection of our most important wild-life habitats. SPS has also made representations to the various Local councils involved, Natural England and the Government on the creation and routing of our local Coastal Paths, all of which have now been published for consultation, except for a small part of the Northeast coast of the Isle of Wight.

We are pleased to say that many of our comments have been taken into account in the final plans so far published. SPS has a particular interest in protecting our coastline from unsightly development and from time to time submit comment and when necessary, objections, to Planning Authorities when visual intrusion could and should be avoided.

The Solent Protection Society has frequently been invited to join consultation groups on various projects in the Solent and currently we are represented on the panels of six different local groups. It is interesting to look back through our records to discover how many years we have been pressing relevant authorities on such topics as marine pollution and the management of waste both of which, today, have a high profile. Back in 2005, after a long crusade, SPS was successful in persuading the oil companies using the Solent waters to use only double hull tankers, significantly diminishing the possibility of an oil spoil in the Solent, which would of course, have had devastating consequences. Pollution remains high on our list of priorities particularly to ensure that foul water discharge does not contaminate our rivers and coasts. We are pleased to see that Planning Authorities are now required to pay particular attention to this in regard to new housing developments, but we will continue to monitor the situation closely. From our own observations and reports made to us, there has been a notable improvement in water clarity since the Covid-19 pandemic and following the closure of harbours and marinas and a reduction in commercial traffic. We are awaiting the result of tests measuring water quality itself to see if this has improved during “lockdown”. This may present some guidance as to how water quality can be improved and a consequential enhancement of the prospects for marine life.

New proposals have been submitted for the redevelopment of Fawley Power Station. This is a major scheme and, although we still have some reservations, we are pleased to see that some of the observations we have made on the earlier application have been addressed. This project will take many years to complete and will have a longstanding impact on the shoreline.

Erosion of Hurst Spit – Undercutting the foundations of Hurst Castle

Another potentially long running saga will be the work needed to address the erosion on Hurst Spit and consequent damage to the Castle. The Society has been invited to join a discussion group that is intended to develop proposals for the future of Hurst Spit together with the coastline through to Lymington. This is of great importance, not only for the Spit but also for the protection of the salt marshes and birdlife. We are pleased to see that essential preservation work to secure the Castle is now well under way.

Two other concerns that have been drawn to our attention within the last couple of months; firstly, the use, or misuse, of the shore line by commercial shellfish diggers, reports have been made to the Environmental Health teams at Portsmouth and Farnham. The second is the increasing use of recreational craft, such as jetskis and paddleboards which enable easy access to previously undisturbed shores with consequent disturbance to bird and other wildlife. Of particular concern is Gull Island at the entrance to the Beaulieu River. Income raised by SPS is used for such recent causes as supporting PhD students in their maritime research, the restoration of Yarmouth Pier and the Maritime Archaeology Trust, who have discovered two areas of Mesolithic Settlement dating from 8,000 years ago at Bouldnor Cliff on the Isle of Wight. This incredible discovery was made following an inspection along the eroding edge of the drowned forest at Bouldnor Cliff which now lies 11m underwater.

Society Members are invited to hear monthly talks on subjects of interest within the Solent area; these have recently included the development of Fawley New Town, Bembridge Harbour and re-establishment of our Native Solent oyster fisheries by the Blue Marine Foundation. We are dependent on our members for the continuation of our work, so should you wish to learn more about, or join the Solent Protection Society, please visit our website.

David Sizer – Chairman, SPS

Reproduced by permission of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club.