Solent Protection Society, formed in 1956, is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, registration number 1154317. The Solent Protection Society exists seeks to ensure the ecological and environmental well being and wise management of the wider Solent area, its natural beauty and amenities, so that these may continue to be enjoyed by present and future generations.
Over the last ten days of 2020, Settled Storm Overflows (SSOs) from Southern Water’s Budds Farm holding tanks at Havant accounted for 172 hours – that’s over 7 days of almost continuous discharge into Langstone Harbour. These spills are additional to the regular and frequent discharges by Southern Water from multiple Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) around the Solent region. The fact that these discharges are legitimised by Environment Agency permits reinforces the urgency with which these permits need to be reassessed. With significant house building across the Solent Area, we believe that a reassessment of Southern Water’s current operations and future investment plans is long overdue.
It is therefore timely that we focus on the Philip Dunne’s Private Member’s Bill, the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, which receives its second reading in the House of Commons on January 15.
The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters. The Bill will require water companies to set out plans progressively to reduce their reliance on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). It proposes increasing levels of transparency, as firms will be mandated to report publicly not just on the frequency and extent of sewage discharges from CSOs and any other sewer catchment assets, but also on the impact on water quality as this is enabled by advances in technology.
The Bill also proposes measures to upgrade drainage infrastructure to separate household sewage from surface water drainage, helping reduce the risk of overspills. It includes measures to reduce harmful products such as non-biodegradable wet wipes, commercial fats and oils from being disposed down the drains. It also proposes measures to expand the number of inland bathing waters and establish targets to increase those classified as “good” or “excellent”.
We are seeking clarification that this Bill will also cover direct spills into the coastal estuaries and harbours which make up the water sources for the ancient river basin which is the Solent. SPS are deeply concerned about the scale of pollution of the Solent waters and welcome this Bill as an initiative which raises public and government awareness of the issue.
Copies of this year’s Autumn Newsletter have been posted to all members of the Society, packed from cover to cover with interesting and informative articles from the pens of our various Council members.
To view the content, please click on the image to open a copy in another browser tab.
If you’d like to receive your own copies of our newsletters hot off the press in their full glossy printed glory, please consider joining Solent Protection Society. To follow our simple online membership form, please take this link.
While Covid-19 restrictions have cramped our style this year, membership in normal years will also bring bring you invitations to topical talks and the annual SPS Awayday outing.
What do we do with the reports on Marine Licence Applications which we publish every month on this website?
Every month our council considers these applications and decides whether SPS should respond to the consultation invitation. Often, of course, there is no need for SPS to get involved but sometimes we respond, usually with requests for more information, suggestions for improvement, better mitigation of any adverse consequences, and proposals for conditions which should be imposed on granting the licence. In the extreme case we might oppose the whole application although this has not happened in recent years.
MMO consider us a serious contributor to their decision-making process, we do get responses, and sometimes they adopt our suggestions. Here are two recent examples of our intervention
Totland Pier MLA/2020/00142
We submitted robust comments to MMO, as follows:-
This is for a major development in the centre of a Marine Conservation Zone. Although the attached paper says that it will have no effect on the protected features, the government maps (Needles MCZ feature maps published by DEFRA) show subtidal sand, seagrass beds and stalked jellyfish in Totland Bay very close to the location of the pier.
The application is of course designed to attract more visitors to Totland Pier which will inevitably cause more disturbance to the protected habitats. !5 yachts staying overnight, mostly without holding tanks, will be discharging untreated sewage into the bathing waters of Totland Bay.
We are not sure about the disposal of sewage from the restaurant, which is planned to have 120 dining seats and many more casual seats for drinking etc. The paper addressing the Water Framework Directive says that the only water entering the sea will be surface water discharge (presumably from rain). But we were unable to find any reference to sewage disposal by means of a drain connecting the restaurant to the Isle of Wight main sewage system.
We are very interested in protecting the view from the sea. This application is for a large building with a footprint of 240 sq. metres, 2 storeys high, 100 metres offshore. It will be extremely prominent and make the view from the sea more urbanised than it was before. We are also opposed to the extension of the pier head by 43%.
We consider that the mooring area should be marked with lighted marks in accordance with Trinity House regulations because the area in question is often used by leisure sailors who are taking advantage of the back eddies when there is an adverse tide in the Needles Channel.
The application states that the moorings are for small to medium sized boats. What is the maximum length boat that can be put on these moorings? When the moorings are full, or when larger boats arrive, where may they anchor and what controls will enforce that?
We consider that the moorings should be eco or advanced moorings of an approved design which will do minimum damage to the sea bed. Will Natural England be involved in this approval?
The sea grass according to their chart extends in a northwesterly direction from about 100m off the end of the pier. The mooring area they propose is some 50mx150m to the northeast of the pier head but there will be a huge temptation for boats to just drop anchor in the seagrass bed when the moorings are all taken, or if they wish to avoid paying for a mooring, despite the ‘training’ the applicant is offering. The sea grass beds move over time. As a result of the above points we do not consider the potential effect on Needles MCZ to be insignificant.
Relevant Marine Plan protection Policies which this application does not avoid or even mitigate adequately – S-BIO-1. S-DIST-1. S-MPA-1. S-MPA-2. S-NIS-1(possibly). S-SCP-1. S-WQ-1.
We are of the opinion that MCZs should be one of the most strongly protected of all the many marine protected designations. If this application were to be accepted, what hope would there be for all the other coastal sites with a lower or no specific protection?
MMO responded as follows:-
“Many of the points in your consultation response have been addressed by the applicant in the communications that we have facilitated between yourselves and them. My letter therefore addresses the outstanding concerns you detailed in your email of 09 June 2020, to the then Case Officer, David Morris. You had outstanding concerns about impacts on the MCZ.. Based on the comments from consultees, yourself and on scientific advice, we have placed a number of conditions on the licence which we have determined will mitigate the impacts of this proposal. You can examine the licence conditions in detail on the Public Register; in brief summary, the conditions restrict the piling methodology, require alternative mooring anchors that are less damaging than block-and-chain, and require all seagrass near piling locations to be translocated in accordance with an expert approved plan. You expressed a desire for cooperation between the Isle of Wight Council and MMO on this application. The council was consulted but they did not provide any comments. You said that you would like the project to be monitored while it is in progress. The application will be subject to MMO’s monitoring procedure, which inspects ongoing projects both on a scheduled basis and in response to intelligence received from the public”.
Solent Gateway dredging MLA/2020/00272
We commented as follows:-
“The Solent Protection Society is concerned that this, and other, Marine Licence Applications do not give enough attention to finding beneficial uses for dredged material. The Environmental Appraisal recognises that dumping at sea is a last resort but says merely “No immediate opportunities for the re-use of the maintenance dredge material has been identified”. There is no indication that they have actually looked. Could the dredge material be used to replenish salt marsh which is being eroded, or replenish sea grass beds? Such uses do not even need to be beneficial, just not harmful. The ABP Mer report mentions Disposal Site W1085 Lymington Habitat Restoration but does not say that its use in this case has been considered. We feel that MMO should insist that applicants should take more seriously the need to find alternative uses and, if they cannot find one, should give details of all alternative”
And MMO replied as follows:-
“Following your representation the MMO requested further consideration of the Waste Framework Directive, to which the applicant submitted a document entitled ‘Solent Gateway Consultation Note_21Sept2020’ which is available to view on the public register alongside this application. The MMO is satisfied that this report contains sufficient consideration of the directive and concurs with the conclusion that disposal to sea is the most suitable option for this project.”
The Consultation Note is an 8-page document prepared for Solent Gateway by ABPMer. It says that Lymington Marshes could only take about 13% of the dredgings from SG, that it would be uneconomic and, if Lymington Marshes could accept more material, this could be provided from Lymington harbour.
We feel that MMO are treating SPS as a serious and legitimately interested party, our responses often cause them to require further information from the applicants, and do have an effect on their decisions.
The October 31st 2020 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.
The Lymington Times has published an article calling for ‘vision on protecting New Forest coastline’ amid a hike in the cost required to fix the sea wall at Milford. Take the link above to read the original article by Liz Hendrie:
“CALLS have been made for a clearer vision of how to protect the district’s coastline following news that £1.5m of emergency repairs to a section of sea wall at Milford had soared by £325,000.
Speaking at New Forest District Council’s latest full meeting which agreed to spend the extra cash, opposition councillors accused the Conservative-controlled council of a “piecemeal” approach to the crisis.
Emergency work to safeguard a 180-metre section of sea wall near Paddy’s Gap was launched by the authority in August following a consultants’ report which warned that around 50 properties, including the Grade II listed White House, were at “imminent risk” this winter.
But project costs shot up after storm damage and bad weather led a further 38-metre section of the sea wall to fail, resulting in the erosion of a seven-metre section of cliffs.
To read the original articles on the Lymington Times, please take the highlighted links.
This is the third report in our annual newsletter concerning plans by Fawley Waterside Ltd. to build a new small town on the site of the former Fawley Power Station.
The development of this power station site will provide 1500 new homes and commercial properties. Some 470 of the homes will be affordable properties in a scheme which will cost nearly £1bn. There will be an underground car park with more than 2,000 spaces, a 98-metre-high landmark building to replace the former power station’s iconic chimney, a 150-bedroom hotel and boat stack to store up to 600 vessels.
The plan features almost 100,000 square metres of new commercial, civic and employment areas, along with public open space. An urban forest will be planted to create a buffer between the industrial and residential areas. A canal will be formed to create a dock area and berthing facilities for leisure boats and yachts and a two hectare area has been cleared to provide a habitat for wildfowl.
The scheme requires final approval by the New Forest District Council (NFDC) and the New Forest National Park (NFNP).
When we wrote our last report, the NFDC planning department had published a twelve page letter to the developers asking for clarification of several aspects, more information on other aspects, and expressing concern about some features of the plan. As a result the developers issued a revised plan in April.
The main revisions are:
Residential properties in the Northern Quarter have been removed and replaced with commercial floor space.
Height and location of the landmark buildings in the Heart of Town have been amended and the height and form of the principal landmark building has been reduced.
The 11 storey crystal tower has been replaced with a mixed use building of 4-5 storeys.
Tree Planting Plan has been amended to create an oak tree lined boulevard and introduce trees along the esplanade.
The form and layout of the Saline lagoon/creek has been amended.
Flood defence works have been included within the design code.
Following this there was a second round of public consultation and Solent Protection Society sent the following reply:
These further comments are from the Solent Protection Society (SPS) which exists to protect the Solent and its tidal rivers and estuaries for future generations. The comments are primarily directed at the element of the scheme within the control of NFDC however we have copied them to NFNP as that aspect of the scheme in the national park, while of less concern to SPS, is an integral part of the whole and does have some impact on the waterfront.
The comments are a response to the revisions in the 2020 application referred to as Applications 1 & 2 but under the original reference 19/10581. We understand our comments on the original application will remain valid though clearly some of them have been addressed in the latest documents, which is welcome. SPS welcomes the overall revisions that have been made including the additional information such as views from the sea and greater environmental information. We may have missed some of this information in the many earlier documents but have found more this time.
We support the revisions to the landscape proposals and articulation of some of the buildings particularly along the waterfront. It is a pity that no trees are proposed in front of the National Grid Fawley Sub-station (NGFSS), where the coastal path will run. While we recognize that this land is presently outside the application boundary there seems to be a space between Eastern Rd and the High Water Line of about 20 metres, so room for trees. The NGFSS buildings and land are, we understand, leased from the landlord, Fawley Waterside so the trees could be conditioned as off-site works in support of the proposal.
The plan says “Office uses and a marina may be included … subject to demand and viability.” We are concerned if this means the central canal may not be an obligation as it is central to the proposals whether or not it has a marina use.
The Marine Management Plan (MMP) is admirable and we would hope could be implemented in its entirety. We would like to see, as a minimum, monthly water quality testing throughout the year with an annual report, for the life of the project as part of the legal agreement. We would like to see the type of craft to be managed, listed under Scope of MMP Requirements, Schedule of Actions, point 4, expanded to include PWCs (Personal Watercraft). These are not categorised as boats and they are the type of craft most likely to offend.
The surface water drainage system relies on drainage direct to the Solent, we would like to see evidence that the applicant has considered whether this drainage will remain satisfactory taking into account the likely sea-level rise that will take place during the life of the development.
We have not seen any evidence that beneficial use of dredgings will be considered whenever possible. While this may, we hope, be part of a Marine Licence under the South Marine Plan in the future it should in our view also be included in the Marine Management Plan as part of the replenishment of the salt marshes which are subject to erosion. Finally we consider the illustrated views from the sea for the revised proposals to be an improvement on the waterfront including the landscaping, lighting and the landmark buildings which, despite some reduction in height, remain sufficiently distinctive.
On 19 July the planning officers’ report to the NFDC Planning Committee was published. This included a short section on the response of the Solent Protection Society which, we feel, is a good summary of our position and gives SPS due weighting. It reads as follows:
10.6 Solent Protection Society:- Concerns were initially raised that the proposals would not adequately meet policies for the area. In particular, there were concerns relating to the size and scale of buildings fronting the water; it was felt light pollution would be to the detriment of the marine environment; it was considered more tree planting was needed to the coastal edge. There were also concerns about storm water overflows and the monitoring of water quality. With the amended proposals, the revisions to the landscaping are supported, but feel the visual impact on the retained national grid building could be better mitigated; consider the Marine Management Plan to be admirable; would expect dredged material to be beneficially reused; the amended designs as seen from the sea are an improvement and are sufficiently distinctive.
On 27 July NFDC’s Planning Committee met and gave Outline Planning approval which included 69 conditions some of which will be of interest to SPS, for example:
approval will be needed for the source and transport to the site of the material needed to raise the height of the land by about 1 metre.
regarding the foul drainage, approval of sewage disposal plans will be needed before each development stage.
The developers expect to continue demolition of existing buildings this year and next, including the iconic 198m high chimney, with infrastructure development beginning in 2022. The first houses are expected to be available by 2024 and the development will continue until 2035. It is expected that detailed planning permissions will be sought separately for each stage. SPS intend to continue monitoring throughout and to make representations whenever appropriate.
In all articles, clicking on underlined text will open the referenced article in a new browser window.
Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is running Restart and Recovery & Kickstarting Tourism Grants. These have been created specifically to help SMEs in the Solent LEP area to adapt and diversify in response to the impacts of coronavirus, with at least £157,000 ring-fenced to support the visitor economy.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines is launching four new itineraries from Portsmouth, on their ship Balmoral. Passengers sail along the Seine, search for the Northern lights, visit the Canaries or Christmas markets in Germany.
Cowes Harbour Commission has confirmed that after over 20 years as CEO/Harbour Master, Captain Stuart McIntosh is planning to retire in 2021. The Board of Commissioners will split his combined role of Harbour Master and Chief Executive Officer. This move will see the progression of Deputy Harbour Master Marine Services, Ed Walker, to the role of Cowes Harbour Master with responsibility for the safety and security of the Trust Port.
A £10 million investment is set to see Ryde Pier’s redundant tram line transformed into a dedicated cycle and pedestrian walkway. It comes following a successful bid to the government’s Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) by the Isle of Wight Council. The proposals include the regeneration of the town’s transport interchange with improvements for pedestrians and cyclists along the entire length of Ryde Esplanade to Appley.
One year ago, the Help Our Kelp Partnership was formed with the aim of regenerating the much depleted West Sussex kelp forests.
Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust has been given a grant of £698,600 to continue to maintain their historically important buildings and boats, and keep open the doors of the International Boat Training College.
Notice has been given by the Queen’s Harbour Master Portsmouth that small arms firings at Tipner Range have permanently ceased, the Danger Area in Portchester Lake and associated measures are now rescinded.
Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour on the Beaulieu River has been nominated for Marina of the Year in The British Yachting Awards 2020, as the second phase of its £2m redevelopment is about to get underway.
Bird Aware Solent has been presented by the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) with a prestigious environmental award. They won their category for effective planning and a strategic vision in protecting local nature reserves, while also engaging with policymakers, local government, and housing developments.
Hampshire County Council, Portsmouth City Council and the Isle of Wight Council have jointly secured nearly £56 million from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund for new infrastructure to improve the way people travel around South East Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by foot, bicycle, or bus.
Plans to build new homes on greenfield land at Newport Harbour have been reconsidered by the Isle of Wight Council.
The redundant tramway on Ryde Pier looks set to be transformed into a dedicated cycle and pedestrian walkway as part of a multi-million pound package of active travel and public transport improvements.
Portsmouth has welcomed Galicia, Brittany Ferries’ brand-new ship serving routes to Spain and France. She will undertake berthing trials in port before her entry into service for passengers in December 2020.
Southern Water’s Unflushables team visited the Isle of Wight to help prevent blockages of wet wipes, fat, oil, grease and other nasties. The team knocked on 258 doors in total, and more than 130 manhole covers were lifted between two of its pumping stations at Main Road, Ryde. Material clogging up its pumping stations was also removed. Unblocktober is the world’s first month-long national campaign and awareness month to improve the health of our drains, sewers, watercourses and seas.
On 8 October, RRS Discovery sailed from Southampton to the Iceland Basin and Rockall Trough, as part of a research expedition aimed at enhancing understanding of the role of this critical part of the ocean in the climate and weather in Europe and the Arctic.
The fifth and final of Britain’s next-generation patrol ships will make her debut in Portsmouth before the end of the month after successful trials. HMS Spey is undergoing fine-tuning and final tweaks following an intense ten-day workout around the Firth of Clyde and waters of western Scotland before preparing for a long-term mission thousands of miles from the UK.
Southampton is bidding to become UK City of Culture 2025.
The 59th Annual General Meeting of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is to be held online via Zoom, on Tuesday 10 November 2020 at 7pm – 9pm.
Southern IFCA members decided at their September Authority meeting to apply the Temporary Closure Byelaw to all native oyster beds in the Solent, Southampton Water, Portsmouth & Langstone Harbour for the 2020/2021 season. Chichester Harbour oyster beds will also not be opening for the 2020 dredging season.
A webinar, to show how coastal resilience to flood and erosion hazard could be measured and applied within policy-making processes, using England as a case study, is being held on 28 October. Register at this link.
The ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds came into force in England on 1 October.
The government has a new Port Infrastructure Fund as part of the preparations for life outside the European Union. The scheme will enable ports in England, Scotland and Wales to bid funding for capital projects for infrastructure that will be used to accommodate new customs and border process in 2021.
Ecostructure are studying eco-sensitive designs on artificial coastal structures (harbours, seawalls, breakwaters) along the Irish Sea coast. Watch a video here.
The organisers of the Coastal Futures conference and Restoring Estuarine and Coastal Habitats (REACH) project have joined with World Wildlife Fund-UK to develop a major online conference. This will take place from January 19th to the 21st, 2021. There will be 12-15 sessions covering a wide range of major themes that relate to the way we are intending to restore and recover our coastal and marine environment. If you have any agenda suggestions please take this link to email the organisers.
A three-year project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council aims to assess how tyre particles, as a form of marine litter, affect our seas and the species within them. Bringing together the Universities of Plymouth, Exeter and Newcastle, together with Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the research will aim to quantify tyre particle concentrations at their points of entry to the marine environment. It will then explore how far they can spread, and any harm they might cause, by measuring concentrations in the sediment, water and biota up to 15km from the shoreline.
The Swiss scooter pioneer Micro Mobility Systems is launching a sustainable children’s scooter line that uses recycled ocean plastic. The new Micro ECO kids’ scooters will be available in over 80 countries from January 2021.
The UK’s first sea-going electric ferry has set sail for the first time in Plymouth. The e-Voyager is the result of a project designed to reduce the environmental impact of maritime transport.
ABPmer was recently commissioned by Natural Resources Wales to understand the role marine habitats play in climate change mitigation. The study confirmed that marine habitats in Wales, such as saltmarshes and seagrass beds, can lock up huge amounts of carbon every year; the volume of carbon they can store is similar to those of terrestrial areas such as the Welsh woodlands and forests.
In 2016 Solent Gateway Limited (SGL) was awarded a 35 year concession by the Ministry of Defence to manage, operate and develop Marchwood Port on the River Test. SGL is consulting with the local community and stakeholders on its emerging plans for Marchwood Port from 10 September to 23 October 2020.
Portsmouth City Council’s Planning Service has now prepared the draft Seafront Masterplan SPD for consultation. The updated Seafront Masterplan SPD sets out a vision for Southsea seafront, providing planning guidance, identifying development opportunities, and highlighting elements of the seafront that should be enhanced and conserved. Deadline is 30 October.
Havant Borough Council is reviewing the rules for dogs in designated public places and wants to hear from residents. A public consultation has been launched to seek resident’s views on plans to continue the current Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) for dogs on beaches and in parks and open spaces in the borough. Deadline is 27 November.
Solent Protection Society have been engaged as a public stakeholder in several of the Solent’s coastal sea defence enhancement schemes as part of our watching brief over the preparations to confront the inevitable impact of climate change on the region.
Low lying Portsea Island lies at the heart of the City of Portsmouth and with significant historical building assets and a population in excess of 200,000, the engineering effort required to protect the city is immense. The work has been driven by the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership, recently rebranded as Coastal Partners , who have been managing an extensive programme of engagements with the wide variety of local stakeholder groups involved.
With our background in coastal engineering and marine sciences, the members of the SPS Council understand that on a rough 80:20 rule, the bulk of the work involved is coastal engineering. However at times some of the public stakeholders appear to expect the greater part of the focus to be on maintaining and enhancing the fabric of the historic assets. The Coastal Partners team have approached this stakeholder management task to good effect with notable effort and commendable patience. The decision whether to adopt a policy of managing natural re-alignment of the coastline or one of actively ‘holding the line’ is always going to court local controversy approaches’. However, when a hold the line policy is the only option, as in the case of Portsea Island, the need to literally raise the level of the sea defences inevitably leads to protests from groups who feel that the value of sea views and property is being compromised.
Coastal Partners have secured central government funding for the engineering side of the Southsea Coastal Scheme, with Historic England and Portsmouth City Council contributing to the funding and management of the more publicly visible assets. In parallel with the coastal engineering work, the city council’s Seafront Masterplan is available for public consultation until October 30.
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.
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.
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.
The Solent is now centre-stage in an important new initiative, led by Natural England, to find ways to protect critically endangered Seagrass Meadows. The Life Recreation ReMEDIES project (Reducing and Mitigating Erosion and Disturbance Impacts (E) affecting the Seabed) will particularly focus on the threats raised by the mooring and anchoring of recreational boats. Five sites have been chosen along the south coast for the study, the largest and busiest being the Special Area of Conservation, Solent Maritime. It includes areas of Chichester Harbour, Langstone Harbour, the stretch of Coast between Stansore Point and Hurst Castle, and that between Osborne Bay and Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
Boat owners are learning what ecologists have known for years, that seagrass meadows are highly important; they stabilise the seabed, absorb carbon, slow climate change and are the natural habitats for a plethora of marine animals, algae, rare seaweeds and are nurseries for many of our commercially valuable fish. They buffer wave energy, reducing erosion of our coastline, always a concern in the Solent. The evidence shows that traditional buoyed mooring chains scour deep abrasions in the sediment, thereby destroying the habitat. Recovery is slow and difficult as the scar will often fill with debris rather than allow the sediment to settle to its previous depth, thus enabling the rhizomes and root systems to re-establish. Evidence of long-term damage to the seabed from anchoring is less apparent but the random nature of the fall of the anchor and chain, whilst not scouring the sea-bed, will ‘harrow’, typically, 40 square metres over the rise and fall of a tide. Seagrass beds flourish in relatively shallow, sheltered bays and alas, enjoy the same merits that make for a good anchorage!
For a generation now, Advanced Mooring Systems (AMS) have been trialled around the world, particularly in North America and Australia. The outcomes have been mixed. The options have usually been different adaptions of a helical screw into the sea floor, rather than a concrete block or an anchor, together with a floating rode, either a chain whose weight is supported by small floats or one made of synthetic elastic or rubber. All of these have proved to work better in waters with a lesser tide range and moderate wave depth. There is no ‘one size fits all’ with AMS; they need to be designed to cope with the specific conditions of the site in question. They are expensive to make and need regular maintenance; the synthetic materials do not weather well and organisms are prone to grow in between the fibres and weaken the elastic. The need for reliability of the installations is emphasised by the high value of the vessels using them and the Insurance implications.
The ReMEDIES project sets out to square the circle by finding solutions to all forms of anthropomorphic damage to Seagrass, exploring the most effective means of preventing it, and then seeking the co-operation of the recreational boating community. To that end The Royal Yachting Association and its environmental programme, The Green Blue, who along with the Ocean Conservation Trust and the Marine Conservation Society are partners in the Project, are working with many local stakeholders to identify their needs.
Persuading chart makers to plot the Seagrass beds in question on Marine charts is an early initiative already under the microscope.