One of our major tasks is to check proposed developments in Solent waters to ensure they will enhance, or at least not damage, those features of the Solent which we all want to preserve and improve. Since February 2017 we have been doing this by monitoring Marine Licence Applications in the Public Register issued by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). The public register covers the whole coastline of England and is divided into regions – not the same regions as those used for the Marine Plans. The Solent is included in the South East Marine Licence region which extends from Southend to west of the Isle of Wight. Sometimes Solent applications are misallocated to the South region, which extends west to Dartmouth so we have to look there too. The summary of Applications is supposed to include location but often this is left blank or uses some extremely local designation such as the name of a house where the owner wants to build a slipway. In such cases we have to dig deep into the associated documents, sometimes as many as 25, to find whether the application is for work in the Solent.
Most applications involve work on or very close to the shoreline but some, not usually in the Solent, are in deeper offshore waters, such as offshore wind farms and new power cables to/from France, enhancing Britain’s capacity to import or export electricity.
Each month we issue a report to our Society’s Council showing all those applications which are open for consultation, together with a summary of the proposed work; those applications which the MMO have already decided whether to permit or refuse; and those applications which have been submitted but not yet decided. Our Council decides whether we should object, ask more questions, or suggest some improvements to the scheme or some conditions which should be imposed.
In August there were four applications open for consultation which all happened to be in the Southampton area although two of them were found in the wider MMO’s South region. And there are five applications which have already been completed by the MMO.
Current applications open for consultation, which we are considering at the time of writing are:
- Extending the Ocean Quay Marina on the River Itchen, where we are concerned about excessive narrowing of the navigational channel and have asked for the extensions to be reduced in length so as not to extend into the river any more that the neighbouring Shamrock Quay.
- Maintenance at Hythe Marina Village comprising replacement piles and augmenting the rock-armoured sea defences.
- Capital dredge at Ashlett Creek to improve access to the moorings of Ashlett Sailing Club.
- Maintenance dredging by Solent Gateway Ltd., who own and operate the military port at Marchwood. This together with item 3 are cases where we encourage MMO to get applicants to take seriously the need to find beneficial uses of dredged material such as replenishment of salt marshes and seagrass beds instead of assuming it can be dumped at sea as has always been done in the past.
Our comments are taken seriously by the MMO who often pass them on to the Applicant and we usually get a reply giving more information or agreeing to consider our concerns. When the decision is made there are often changes or conditions imposed which reflect our concerns and so we believe that our interventions have a beneficial effect in mitigating any adverse effect of developments, and improving conditions in the Solent.