Solent Protection Society submits evidence to the Landscape Review

In November 2018 the Government called for evidence to be submitted to the independent review of England’s National Parks (NPs) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). This is a brief summary of some of the key points SPS has made. The full submission can be found on the SPS website by selecting this link.

The Solent  Protection Society is primarily concerned with the shoreline and the view from the sea as it affects the National Parks, AONBs and the tidal river estuaries that make up the Solent from the Needles to Selsey Bill. We are concerned with the economic, social, leisure and environmental well-being of the Solent not just its appearance. Many of these aspects are interdependent and sometimes in conflict. The New Forest National Park and the AONBs on the north shore of the Isle of Wight and  in Chichester Harbour play a crucial role in safeguarding this special place and seascape.

The AONBs, however, hold less clout in the planning system than the National Park and in our view need strengthening to offset the pressure from development, particularly housing targets. The view from the sea is often not appreciated as much as it should be, particularly when this may be the only view that is easily gained of a densely wooded AONB, such as the north east shore of the Isle of Wight .

We have a concern that incremental enlargement of small scale houses and chalets or new builds which individually my not be great but cumulatively start to change the landscape is not sufficiently appreciated or controlled by local planning authorities. The effect on the AONB should have a greater priority in considering such applications.

In addition we would like to see the introduction of smaller area AONBs associated  with river valleys when viewed from the river or the opposite bank before such areas of important natural landscape are lost such as on the Hamble or the western shore of Southampton Water.

Finally Marine Plans in particular deliberately overlap land based plans and have a number of policies that have to be taken into account when considering changes to the landscape.  The difficulty with Marine Plans is deciding what weight to give to each policy in a particular circumstance. SPS considers that where NPs and  AONBs are concerned the protection of the landscape and seascape should be of a higher weighting and this needs to be endorsed by land based planning authorities and the Marine Management Organization.

Marine Licensing Applications – 3rd December 2018

The December 3rd SPS summary of Marine Licensing activity applicable to the Solent area can be found by taking this link.

The update post displays a list of applications published by the Marine Management Organisation since the last SPS summary update issued, and project background for those applications open for public consultation.

Applications for burial of human remains at sea are not included.

If an application is of particular interest to you, take a note of the application number and enter it into the MMO Public Register to view the detail on the register.  For guidance on how to access and search the MMO Public Register, please follow this link.



Marine Licensing Applications – 30th October 2018

The October 30th SPS summary of Marine Licensing activity applicable to the Solent area can be found by taking this link.

The update post displays a list of applications published by the Marine Management Organisation since the last SPS summary update issued, and project background for those applications open for public consultation.

Applications for burial of human remains at sea are not included.

If an application is of particular interest to you, take a note of the application number and enter it into the MMO Public Register to view the detail on the register.  For guidance on how to access and search the MMO Public Register, please follow this link.



Marine Licensing Applications – 23rd September 2018

The September 23rd SPS summary of Marine Licensing activity applicable to the Solent area can be found taking this link.

The update post displays a list of applications published by the Marine Management Organisation since the last SPS summary update issued, and project background for those applications open for public consultation.

Applications for burial of human remains at sea are not included.

If an application is of particular interest to you, take a note of the application number and enter it into the MMO Public Register to view the detail on the register.  For guidance on how to access and search the MMO Public Register, please follow this link.



Solent Habitat – Spartina Saltmarsh

Spartina Anglica
Spartina Anglica – Image by Jürgen Howaldt (licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence)

Cordgrasses, known scientifically as Spartina Anglica, occupy the lower shore areas of the coast at depths which are regularly covered at high tide. They offer coastal protection and create intertidal land; by trapping sediments they also increase the elevation of these land areas and stabilise sediment, thus aiding in the creation of new saltmarsh areas. Spartina has high productivity and its growth and decay flux large amounts of energy and organic matter through the estuarine ecosystem. It lies at the base of the Solent saltmarsh food web and is a possible food source for many organisms. It creates a characteristic habitat which offers shelter and sustenance to a wide range of shallow water and intertidal animals and plants.

Yar estuary - 1948
The River Yar estuary, Isle of Wight in 1948. Note the lack of Spartina saltmarsh

Yar estuary - 2017
The River Yar estuary, Isle of Wight 2017. Note the extensive additions of saltmarsh

The first appearance of Spartina occurred as a hybridisation in Southampton Water sometime prior to 1870 and it spread rapidly by seed to Lymington and the Isle of Wight by the end of the 19th century. However, from the mid 20th century, there has been an almost equally dramatic loss. This erosion generally takes two forms; the erosion of the seaward edge of the marsh as material is washed away and secondly internal destruction of marsh areas by the widening of channel margins.

What sort of future habitat do we want and can we influence future events? If the Solent loses its Spartina saltmarshes, it seems that these areas will not return to the original open mud habitats of the 18th and 19th centuries, but the Solent coastline presently protected by saltmarsh will suffer extensive and quite rapid erosion. It is worth considering why the mud flats will not reform. Part of this reason may be that fine sediment is no longer flowing into the Solent in the quantity it once did. It is also possible that dredging, as well as the wash created by boats and shipping wave action may have decreased the tendency for fine silts to settle in the Solent.

As humans, we have an extraordinary ability to alter the natural world and frequently do so in adverse ways. However, when confronted with major ecological events such as Dutch Elm disease and Spartina die-back, it is notable how passive and fatalistic we have all become. This need not be the case and using our science and engineering skills, we can reverse ecological change. There has been considerable debate about the reason for the die-back, one of which is the development of areas of algae created when nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are increased by human effluents. Spartina changes the habitat and in part is self-destructive by reducing sediment permeability. This leads to the conclusion that like almost all organisms, it needs constant new habitat– but without the fine sediments for it to colonise, the question must be asked of those who take actions to stop the flow of sediment down our rivers. Also to those who dredge and remove the sediment thus impacting on mudflat availability. The amount of oil residues found in Solent sediment is considerable and needs to be greatly reduced.


The South Marine Plan in a wider context

David Attenborough recently brought the issue of the sustainability of marine resources to all our attention.  A Marine Plan is a framework document and a tangible step towards sustainable seas.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOver many years there have been increasing and multiple pressures in coastal waters from dredging, windfarms, communications cables, pipelines, bottom trawling, shipping, leisure activities and many other activities. Much of this activity was insufficiently regulated and often uncharted, with a lack of formal channels of communication between either authorities or perpetrators, and with little thought to sustainability. The associated infrastructure can blight our coastline if cooperation in good planning is lacking. The Solent in particular is under pressure from increased development, both marine and terrestrial.

Concern as to the sustainable use of natural resources worldwide, the decline of biodiversity, food security and climate change led to the ground breaking UN “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 where the Convention on Biological Diversity (also known as the Biodiversity Convention or CBD) was adopted. It entered into force in December 1993. The Biodiversity Convention, to which the UK was a Party, was the first global treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity and conservation. Part of this Convention laid the foundation for a worldwide process of Marine Planning to promote sustainable use of marine resources and to halt the decline in biodiversity. The UK commitment to the Biodiversity Convention marine initiative is embodied in the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009), Parts 1, 2 and 3 of which covers Marine Planning. The UK coastline was divided into tranches and an inshore and offshore Marine Plan was created in each tranche. The South Inshore Marine Plan, which covers the Solent area, became law on 17th July 2018.

Marine Plans are not development documents such as terrestrial Local Plans. They are policy documents. In respect of the South Marine Plan, stakeholders were invited to consultations and workshops to discuss the desired strength of each policy so that a sensible, effective and acceptable level of governance and management could be achieved. Comment on the policies and their local effects, as well as The Solent Protection Society’s role in the consultation process, is covered by another article in this newsletter. Geographically, the South Marine Plan area stretches for 1000 kilometres of coastline from Folkestone to the River Dart. It is one of the most complex and used areas of the English coastline. As elsewhere, there are separate offshore and inshore sections.

To understand the concept of the Marine Plan more clearly, it is worth examining the legislative steps from the “Rio” Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) to where we are today. There are many daughter conventions to the UN “Rio” Convention on Biodiversity (1992) and the more significant conventions relevant to Marine Planning include the OSPAR Convention (1998) which is the UN Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic under which authority the UK marine area falls, and also the more familiar UNCLOS (1982), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Nineteen years after the “Rio” Convention, the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) created a new Agency within Defra called the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).

The MMO operates as the competent marine planning authority on behalf of UK Government, delivering marine functions in English territorial waters. The MMO has overall responsibility for Marine Planning, Licensing, Environment, Marine Conservation Zones and Marine Protected Areas, Fisheries (offshore and inshore), and enforcement. It carries out these duties with advice from other appropriate government agencies, mainly within Defra, such as the Environment Agency or Natural England, depending on the relevant issue.

Confusion may arise between the United Nations initiative (UN OSPAR Convention etc.) behind Marine Planning, and European Directives (where transposed into UK law) which are used to enforce the actions of the MMO, for instance the use of the Habitats Directive (UK Habsregs 2010) to enforce Marine Conservation Zones.

Further confusion may have arisen in July 2018 when the South Marine Plan became law just as Defra was consulting on the designation of Marine Conservation Zones, two of which are in the Solent area, the subject of another article in the Newsletter.  To explain the relationship between the two issues, we have to return to the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) where, as already mentioned, Parts 1,2 and 3 deal with the creation of the MMO and Marine Planning, while Part 5 covers Nature Conservation. This Part 5 gives the ultimate responsibility for the enforcement of the Marine Conservation Zones to the MMO, although the advisory agency for the science behind MCZs lies elsewhere in Defra, namely Natural England. The MMO also has the mandate to create local regulations where habitats may be suffering damage, and when considered necessary.

The Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) also gives responsibility to the MMO for all Marine Licensing between High Water and the extent of UK waters. There was a need to clarify and simplify marine licensing and the MMO has responsibility to speed up decisions and to introduce transparency into the system by publishing all marine licensing requests. Marine licensing applications can be found on the MMO website. The overlap with Local Authorities between HW and LW was a deliberate ploy to require Local Authorities and the MMO to cooperate in the tidal zone. Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) the MMO also holds ultimate responsibility for fisheries management and enforcement. Inshore Fishing Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) have been created to manage and enforce fisheries. At sea, IFCA vessels may assist other patrol boats with for enforcement on different issues, including the contravention of regulations regarding MCZs.

Part 9 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act concerns Coastal Access and the Coastal Path.
The South Marine Plan is the second Marine Plan to be created in English waters (the Eastern Marine Plan was the first), and its birth seems to have been long and complex. The initiative brings together the plethora of authorities and stakeholders for whom MMO has a duty to provide a “one stop shop” to coordinate the many authorities and demands on our waters.

There may be teething problems but the future of this initiative is encouraging.

Coastal Access

Proposed English Coastal Path (South) Making Progress.

The English Coastal Path (South) is part of the proposal by Natural England (NE) to achieve as full a coastal path as possible along the area bordering the Solent. It is part of the coastal path project around the whole of England brought about by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

There are seven stretches along the South Coast from Highcliffe to Shoreham including the Isle of Wight, each of which is progressing at different speeds.

There are 5 stages to the process, Stage 4 being the one in which the inspector makes recommendations to the Secretary of State and on which the public, including The Solent Protection Society (SPS), can comment.  Stage 1 is an information gathering stage and involves detailed ecology and land use/ownership assessments. Stage  2 involves discussion with interested parties and walking the proposed route on the ground and this is clearly taking time.  Stage 3 is when proposals are finalized and published for public consultation. Stage 5 is implementation.

4.1 Coastal Access PHOTO  of Tennyson Downs, I.O.W..JPG

 None of the proposed sections have yet reached implementation. Three are now going through stage 4 and are past the stage of public comment, though the detailed proposals are still available to see at: These are the Portsmouth to South Hayling, East Head to Shoreham and Highcliffe to Calshot pathways.

Generally the project is running behind the somewhat optimistic earlier timescales and even the revised ones are proving difficult to maintain. This is largely due to the complexity of many of the coastal margins around the Solent, with special protection areas, private parks and gardens and substantial commercial interests all needing to be worked through to try and establish a path as close to the shoreline as possible.

During 2018 the important stretch from Highcliffe to Calshot on the Western Solent fronting the New Forest and Beaulieu River was published and SPS commented in May 2018.

The full text of our comment is set out below:

The route of the proposed ECP and   its associated Spreading Room  has the potential to cause significant damage to several  notified  SSSI together with internationally important wildlife sites (SPA, SAC and Ramsar sites) on the shores of the Western Solent. Many of these potential impacts have been identified by Natural England in their Sensitive Features Appraisal. However, we do not believe Natural England have fully understood the range of impacts likely to arise from  the designation of this section of the ECP. Natural England have powers (under section 26 of the CROW Act, 2000) to control or prevent public access to these ecologically sensitive wildlife sites, but we do not consider they have used  these powers sufficiently to protect these sites from the damage that will result from the designation of this section of the ECP.

We note that in a number of instances a S26  Direction has been recommended  for some of these sites in which our understanding is this removes the ‘spreading  room’. We would strongly suggest that a S26 Direction is made for all of the protected  sites where the ECP is adjacent  to it, so that there is no spreading  room  off  the path.

We are also concerned that there is an adequate barrier provided to stop the public, or dogs in particular, straying onto protected areas, while still enabling the public to enjoy the protected areas from the path.

In the case of  the revision to the route at Pennington  Marsh, where a S26 Direction  is rightly proposed, SPS is concerned  that   the drainage channels, that can often  become blocked, will be more likely to do so with increased foot traffic. Some strengthening of the crossing points should be considered before damage is done.

We note that  large amounts of spreading  room will be created as a consequence of the proposed  route going inland, which could in turn  have a detrimental impact on sensitive areas. We also note that in some instances S26 Directions have been proposed, however, we are of the view that  the concept of spreading room is inappropriate where the path  turns inland and so spreading room  should automatically be excluded.

We are aware that the Beaulieu Estate  has taken or has cited  legal opinion on  some aspects of the report and if these are  upheld  SPS  would support them.

Finally we are of the view that  it may be necessary to revisit the path  route if problems arise in future so that more protection can  be added. We are not sure if this is in the legislation somewhere but hope  that it is.  Linked to this is the need for adequate maintenance in the future, properly funded, so that the upkeep of this important  national route does not fall disproportionally on certain local authorities.

We anticipate the next stretch to come forward will be Calshot to Gosport but this has been put back to Winter 2018/19 . We are awaiting Gosport to Portsmouth which is also delayed. South Hayling to East Head and the Isle of Wight are the last stretches scheduled to come forward for consultation. Whenever possible we will post updates on the SPS website. Hopefully by next year’s newsletter all the proposed stretches will have been published, though the final approvals are likely to be sometime after that.

Annex to the report on changes to the South Marine Plan

Following on from our report on the South Marine Plan becoming law, we have made further analysis of the detail.  In brief the changes on which SPS may have had some influence would seem to be:

  1. Vision amended to be more relevant to SMP area. (Vision)
  2. More information on the Coastal Concordant. This may relate to our concern that local authority boundaries in the Solent did not meet up. (General considerations)
  3. Additional text on monitoring. (We had suggested 3 years was too frequent)
  4. Wording on aquaculture to define it as ‘sustainable’ not just any aquaculture. (Obj 1)
  5. No restriction on dredging for ports and harbours. We were concerned there should be no extraction in the Solent. (Obj 1)
  6. Wording to make clear that land based infrastructure must be ‘appropriate’. (Obj 2)
  7. Wording on employment to make clear the skills and activities to be supported. (Obj 4)
  8. The words ‘enhance and promote’ related to Marine Protected Areas. We had been concerned that these do not displace traditional use so may be the reverse of our comment, though from an ecological point of view we would support it. (Obj 5)
  9. Climate change defined as ‘greenhouse gas emissions.’ We had asked for clarification in the technical annex. (Obj 7)
  10. We had asked for the view from the sea to be specifically stated however the wording has not been changed. (Obj 9)
  11. MPAs. Wording added to ‘enhance and promote’ and to ensure boundaries can be changed until such time as all Marine Conservation Zones are confirmed. (Obj 10)
  12. Reference to the government’s litter strategy added. (Obj 11)
  13. Some ‘enhance’ text added on biodiversity though no specific mention of salt marshes as we had suggested. (Obj 12)
  14. Support for re-use of material. (Obj 12)
  15. More emphasis on water quality and moved to be under Obj 11 to add weight. (Obj 12)
  16. More strength and clarification given on the use of the hierarchical format of a) to c) or d). for each policy. We were concerned that the weighting appeared equal and in certain cases considered more emphasis should be given to avoid.

Two new Marine Conservation Zones

In July 2018, the Government announced Tranche 3 of the proposals to create Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) around the coast of England. More information on exactly what is an MCZ can be found elsewhere in the newsletter.

3.1 Two new MCZs PHOTO Newtown MorningThis article concentrates on the two new proposals between Yarmouth and Cowes  and  off Bembridge on the Isle of Wight and how The Solent Protection Society (SPS) responded to the consultation. We responded where we were able, but some questions involved commercial financial data, or additional scientific evidence, which SPS did not have.

SPS supported both these designations as part of the Blue Belt initiative; however, we consider there is little, if any additional scientific evidence, to support restrictions on recreational use beyond the protections already afforded by existing designations.

We are concerned that Osborne Bay has been omitted from Tranche 3 but accept that the important sea grass beds (if more accurately mapped) could be protected by by-laws.

We questioned why Sea Pens has been listed as a feature off Bembridge as there is “low confidence”  that it exists or if it does, its extent. We see no basis for any restriction and  that the Special  Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive already gives sufficient protection.

Following earlier consultations SPS supported the sensible revisions to the zones now proposed. However, we consider that both Newtown and Bembridge Harbour should be omitted as these are already very well protected by existing designations and are both highly managed. Further designation is superfluous in our view.

We were asked if we had scientific data to support these designations. One of the difficulties is that there is very little scientific evidence to support some of the designations, as Natural England themselves have pointed out. For example, the assertion that the spread of slipper limpet may be reduced by a restriction on fishing is, as far as we know, not supported by any scientific evidence.

Finally we were asked for any other general comments. SPS, while supportive of the proposed MCZs, were concerned that these should not restrict existing important recreational use.

For example under the designation Yarmouth to Cowes, “recreation” is not listed as ‘affected’ it should therefore be listed as ‘not likely to be affected’.  Where and if there is any evidence of damage by recreation, then sensible management and monitoring arrangements should be put in place with stakeholders. A blanket restriction would not be appropriate. This particularly affects sailing activity to the east of Yarmouth pier.

Similarly at Bembridge,  the RLNI use of a mooring in Priory Bay must be based on accurate surveys and sensible management.

SPS are supportive of the reintroduction of oysters into the Solent and would not want the MCZ to restrict controlled commercial development in the future.

Yarmouth to Cowes and to a certain extent Bembridge are important for Marine archaeology which these proposed MCZs would help to protect but should not restrict further investigation.

Yarmouth to Cowes


What would this site protect?

Designation would protect the following features. You can read more about the features this site protects and why they are important here by following the links at the end of this article.


General Management Approach
Bouldnor Cliff geological feature Maintain in favourable condition
Estuarine rocky habitats
Intertidal coarse sediment
Intertidal under boulder communities
Littoral chalk communities
Low energy intertidal rock
Moderate energy intertidal rock
Subtidal coarse sediment
High energy circalittoral rock Recover to favourable condition
High energy infralittoral rock
Moderate energy circalittoral rock
Moderate energy infralittoral rock
Native oyster (Ostrea edulis)
Peat and clay exposures
Sheltered muddy gravels
Subtidal chalk
Subtidal mixed sediments
Subtidal mud



 What would this site protect?

Designation would protect the following features. You can read more about the features this site protects and why they are important here. Feature General Management Approach
Sheltered muddy gravels Maintain in favourable condition
Short-snouted seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus)
Stalked jellyfish (Haliclystus species)
Stalked jellyfish (Lucernariopsis campanulata)
Subtidal coarse sediment
Subtidal sand
Native oyster (Ostrea edulis) Recover to favourable condition
Seagrass beds
Maerl beds
Sea pens and burrowing megafauna
Peacock’s tail (Padina pavonica)
Subtidal mixed sediments
Subtidal mud

 More information can be found at this link.


The South Marine Plan finally becomes law

In July 2018 the government finally approved the draft South Marine Plan (SMP) on which The Solent Protection Society (SPS) and many others had commented in early 2017 and which was covered in last year’s newsletter.1.1 South Marine Plan PHOTO of Southampton Docks

With the final plan, the Marine Management Organisation also published a Modifications report, setting out the changes that had been made in the light of the comments made.

Overall, as expected, there has been no significant change to the 12 main objectives or the 50+ individual policies. There has, however, been a change in emphasis or clarification on about 20 of the policies and on 7 of the general principles such as the Vision and the relationship to land based plans.

Eighty one organisations or individuals commented, generating over 1500 comments. Of these 81 organisations, some 50% came from 21 local authorities, 12 Ports and Shipping and 9 NGOs. We assume SPS was counted as an NGO but no breakdown is given.

We were asked to agree, or agree with comment, or disagree, with the 75 questions asked about the objectives and policies. Overall the percentage of respondents answering yes, no or no comment showed 58% agreed, 18% agreed subject to comment, 6% disagreed and 18 % gave no response.

In SPS’s case we agreed with 43% of the policies and commented on 57%. We did not disagree with any, nor did we not respond to any question.

This perhaps reflects the fact SPS has a broad range of interests in the SMP area, whereas many organisations are from a particular sector and focus. For example, referring to the second reference below, it is not clear exactly what the pie chart is showing… is it the % of respondents or the % of questions answered in a particular way.  So did we have any influence?

It is difficult to say as there is no direct correlation and the modifications report does not show the exact changes to wording on each policy. This requires a detailed-reading of the final Plan itself and the Technical Annex.

We had sought to make the vision more relevant to the Solent area and while supporting aquaculture we did not want a free for all. In both cases there have been changes of emphasis.

Other policies on which we may have helped to get a change in emphasis related to land based infrastructure, support for small scale marine industries, litter prevention, bio diversity and water quality.

The South Marine Plan is now an important consideration for both Marine Licence applications and land-based planning applications on the coastline of the UK. Any application must be judged against the policies in the plan and if it cannot comply fully, must demonstrate how it mitigates the impact. If this is insufficient then it is likely to be refused.

Judgement on Marine Licence applications falls to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in consultation with various statutory bodies and government departments. The public can also comment, although the process of finding out about applications is not as easy as it should be.

Within its area of concern SPS now monitors all applications monthly and more information can be found elsewhere on this site.

The South Marine Plan can be found at this link.

The Modifications report can be viewed by selecting this link.