Solent Protection Society ‘Away Day’ 2019

This year our ‘Away Day’ to Eling Tide Mill took place on 7th October, a month later than usual in order to fit in with the availability of the Mill for a private visit.

Eling is in the centre of our region, close to Totton, at the head of Southampton Water. There has been a tide mill at Eling for over 900 years and the current Mill is over 200 years old, having been rebuilt c.1785 after storm damage in the 1770s. It is one of only two tide mills still operating in the UK. It was re-opened in 2018 as a fully operational flour mill after a restoration funded by a Heritage Lottery grant, to provide “The Eling Experience”. This includes the Mill itself, the visitor centre and a walk around Bartley Water (the mill pond). The Mill is a Grade II* listed building. The visitor centre includes a café and a museum. At the entrance to the Mill there is a small gift shop. Using the same method as millers from days gone by, freshly milled wholemeal flour is available for sale in the gift shop. The wheat, which is milled at Eling, comes from a local farm – Manor of Cadland – and carries the New Forest Marque.

The Mill is located on the seaward side of the causeway across Eling Creek. When the tide comes in, it pushes open one-way gates and fills up the millpond. When the tide turns and starts to ebb, it slowly uncovers the waterwheel, but the sea gates are closed, trapping the water in the millpond so the level in the millpond stays at the high tide level. When the tide has dropped to well below the waterwheel axle, the sluice gate can be raised. Water from the millpond strikes the lower blades of the waterwheel, spinning it round and allowing the milling to begin.

The photograph is an aerial view of Eling Creek facing East. In the centre is the artificial causeway which was once the main road from Southampton to Hythe and Beaulieu. The Mill is the red-roofed building on the causeway and the visitor centre is the white-roofed building to the left. The lake in the foreground is Bartley Water, the tidal pond which stores the water to drive the mill. In the distance, top right of photo is Goatee beach, which faces Southampton docks across the River Test.

For much of the mill’s life it was owned by Winchester College. A lease survives from the year 1418, when the College leased the mill to Thomas Mydlington, requiring him to maintain the mill and the causeway. The causeway was prone to collapse, for example it washed away in 1887. This problem continued up until 1940 when modern engineering calculations revealed the cause to be the design of the sluices. This was then corrected.

The tenancy of the mill included the right to collect tolls from vehicles using the causeway. Four-wheeled vehicles were charged 6d (2.5p) and two-wheeled vehicles 4d. These rates remained unchanged until 1970. In 1967, the toll collector was Tom Mackrell who had been one of the last people to operate the mill when it closed in 1946. Tom was toll collector and mill foreman, working for his brother Raymond, master miller of Eling Tide Mill. Having been out of action since then, the mill reopened in 1980.

This visit provided an opportunity to see two sides of your Society’s work – protection of ancient sites such as the Tide Mill, and mitigation of the effects of near-by large-scale industry such as the mountain of containers stored by Associated British Ports at the entrance to Eling Creek, top left of the photograph.

A blot on the landscape at Eling – ABP’s unsightly storage for empty shipping containers.

Fawley New Town

View of the site from the west

In the Autumn 2018 issue of the Society’s Newsletter we reported on the proposal to build a new town at Fawley on Southampton Water. This article is an update of developments since then. This is perhaps the most important development on the shores of the Solent this century and as such it is receiving close scrutiny from The Solent Protection Society. The new small town would be built on the site of the Fawley Power Station, which was closed in 2013. This is a brown field site but it is surrounded by the New Forest National Park and a small part of the scheme would be on National Park land.

The developer, Fawley Waterside Ltd., applied to both New Forest District Council and to New Forest National Park in May 2019 for Outline Planning Approval. The two applications are being considered together. NFDC invited comments by 31 August. Full details of the Plans, responses by interested parties, and comments from official bodies including local authorities and government departments are to be found on the NFDC Planning department website: at the last count there were 406 documents. NFDC had originally hoped to make a determination by 31 August but need more time and have now agreed with the developers to an extension of the time to 15 January 2019. Even when NFDC have made their determination the scheme might need to be referred to the Secretary of State for a potential call-in.

Illustrative view of Fawley Waterside across Southampton Water

We, Solent Protection Society, submitted our response on 27 August. Of course we have concentrated on those aspects of the plan which directly affect the Solent, such as view from the sea, and possible effects of pollution of the sea and of the Solent air.  The full text of our response is reproduced here.

“Dear Sirs,

These 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.

SPS is generally supportive of the planning policies laid down by both NFDC and NFNP, however, we are concerned that aspects of the proposals that front the waterside do not adequately meet some of those policies.

In particular:

  1. We consider that the size and scale of the buildings fronting the water, being much further forward than the former power station could be over dominant, with no landscape mitigation and will be unacceptable when viewed from Southampton Water. They do not sufficiently ‘scale down in density towards the water front’ as set out in policy ii a).
  2. We consider that the light pollution from these building will be to the detriment of the marine environment and have a far greater impact than the existing power station.
  3. We would expect to see the waterfront buildings set  further back with extensive tree planting in front to mitigate the impact and enhance the coastal margin, the coastal path and the proposed ‘Solent Promenade’.
  4. We would remind NFDC and NFNP that there is a real risk of storm water overflows from the proposed sewerage system and we would expect to see this fully mitigated with complete separation of storm and foul water and full storage capacity for foul water to prevent any storm discharge of foul water into Southampton Water or the Western Solent. Petrol interceptors to all roads and parking areas should be provided before discharge of storm water. Such storage capacity should not rely on Southern Water.
  5. We would expect to see regular monitoring reports on water quality adjoining outfalls and in the salt marshes as a legal condition of any approval with adequate penalties for any breach of EA standards and that this applies both during demolition and construction as well as in the future once the development is complete.
  6. We would expect any approval to condition by legal agreement any dredging activity and to ensure that there was beneficial use of dredging to replenish the salt marshes.
  7. While not of direct concern to SPS we note that the infrastructure of roads in particular will be seriously impacted by the size of this development and that more extensive works than those proposed will be needed if it is not to cause serious congestion and further pollution to the north.
  8. We would expect the scheme to include mitigation of climate change and for a substantial proportion of the development to be to Passive House standards.
  9. The proposal is likely to substantially increase the footfall on the coastal path and we would expect to see moneys from planning obligations directed to ensuring that the coastal margin and the many protected areas in the vicinity falling as spreading room, whether or not there is a Section 26 notice, are adequately protected by fencing to restrict both pedestrian and dog access in particular.
  10. We note the National Grid building on the waterfront is to remain which is a pity as it will assume a greater prominence and has no merit in the landscape. Planting in front of this would be of assistance in mitigating the impact.
  11. We have not been able to find a specific reference to the ‘view from the sea’ which is critical from the busy shipping lane of Southampton Water. It may be in the documents somewhere but we would expect to see a photomontage of the view from Southampton Water superimposed on the existing buildings and including the National Grid building and the landscape to the south. Only then will it be possible to really judge the scale and mass of the proposals.”

The Principal Development Management Officer of NFDC, Mr Ian Rayner, has written to Deloitte, the agent of Fawley Waterside Ltd, to set out the latest position of the Local Planning Authority on their application proposals, and has published his letter on the NFDC website. It is 12 pages long so we will not reproduce it here, but pick out the points which may be of most interest to SPS members:-

He says:

  1. we do need to have a clear understanding of the scheme’s viability”.
  2. “The south-east corner of block 11 extends very close to the harbour entrance and ought to have a greater setback.”
  3. “In my view, 3 of the landmark buildings are of particular concern. The 98 metre high tower would be a very significant building. It seems that the driver for the height of this landmark building is to provide a structure that is visible from both ends of the Solent. I don’t believe this should be the overriding driver for determining the height of this building. The key objective should be to design a landmark building of a scale that is appropriate to the new townscape and to its location on the edge of the National Park, which I think could be equally achieved by a lower building.”
  4. “The 49 metre high landmark building in the site’s north-west corner is set fairly close to the taller 98 metre high landmark building. We need to see clearer images of how this tower would work in proximity to the larger tower, but together I do feel that these 2 landmark buildings would present too dominant an edge to this part of the development.”
  5. “The 56 metre high crystal tower has been designed to reflect the glass end of the existing power station building. However, it has been confirmed that it would not be viable to rebuild the existing structure and that the proposed new building would therefore need to be built with new materials… I think this building, as proposed, is inappropriate.”
  6. “In the light of the Environment Agency’s response, we would ask you to clarify the detail behind the foul drainage proposals, and to confirm what discharge consents are being utilised for these works.”
  7. “As set out in Natural England’s response, you need to better demonstrate how nutrient neutrality will be secured. This a critical matter, and unless you can demonstrate that nutrient neutrality will be achieved, it will not be possible to grant planning permission.”
  8. “In their consultation response, our Environmental Health team have asked that you provide additional information in order to clarify the development’s potential impact on air quality, as well as to ensure that future occupants have an appropriate quality living environment. I would ask that you respond to the specific questions that have been raised.”
  9. Our Environmental Health team have also posed a number of questions relating to noise and lighting (aside from the noise concerns raised earlier in this letter). Again, I would ask that you provide additional information to address the concerns that have been raised.”

We believe that, if approved, this project is likely to take about 10 years to complete. We intend to keep members up to date by reporting on progress in future SPS newsletters and on the SPS website.

Eastney – Fraser Range development proposal

Solent Protection Society takes a close interest in the conservation of the natural heritage and historic assets of the Solent shoreline. In particular, we are concerned with safeguarding the views towards that shoreline by users of the Solent, a viewpoint not always given priority in planning applications.

The fortifications at the eastern end of Southsea seafront are of significant historical value, with Fort Cumberland a particular highlight, considered the most impressive piece of eighteenth century defensive architecture remaining in England. The context within which the fort is situated, on the low shingle spit at the entrance to Langstone Harbour, should be protected with any development in the vicinity suitably moderated.

SPS has objected to a plan to redevelop the former Fraser Range for housing, a site immediately to the south west of Fort Cumberland in this image from Google Earth. The existing buildings on the Fraser Range site date from more recent occupation of the land by the Ministry of Defence and while we note that there have been valid objections raised by others on grounds of twentieth century archaeological significance, our objection to this proposal is based on the adverse impact on the views towards Fort Cumberland from the sea.

The plans show five significant buildings immediately fronting the sea, two of which (Building 2 and Building 5) are redevelopment of existing structures, while Buildings 3, 4 and 6 are completely new developments.

Building 2 and Building 5 are existing two storey structures with flat roofing which includes small covered service access structures. We do not consider that these existing roof structures provide a precedent for the addition of a full third storey that the developer has added to each of these buildings.

While the increased height of Buildings 2 and 5 alone represents an unacceptable impact on the view from the sea, the new structures, Buildings 3, 4 and 6, are significantly more damaging to the skyline. All three of the buildings are new, and buildings 4 and 6 are drawn at a full five storeys in height, dwarfing the two redeveloped buildings and obliterating the view of Fort Cumberland from the south west.

Given the potential for future development of the south east corner of Portsea Island as an important destination for cultural tourism within the city, in our response to the planning application we have urged Portsmouth City Council to reject this development and safeguard the heritage context of the Eastney spit.

This is a particularly pertinent example of Solent Protection Society’s commitments both to the preservation of the Solent area’s cultural heritage and the maintenance of the view of the Solent shoreline from the sea.

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.

Innovative sea defence repairs using ‘Concrete Canvas’

We are interested to note this piece from the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership website.  Parts of the sea defences on the Warblington shore line, compromised during last winter’s storms, have been effectively repaired using a new technique.  IMG_5065

The repairs commenced on 1st August 2018 to the worst damaged sections of wall, where the concrete rendering had detached itself from the main wall structure and was laying on the foreshore of the harbour. The works were delivered by ESCP and were carried out by contractors Graham Attrill Civil Engineering Ltd., from the Isle of Wight on behalf of Havant Borough Council.

Within two weeks the works were completed using an innovative material called Concrete Canvas, used by Havant Borough Council for the first time. The Concrete Canvas was delivered to site as a roll of concrete impregnated fabric, which was cut to length and draped oIMG_5116ver the wall, allowing the fabric to follow the contours of the internal wall beneath. Once in place, the fabric was sprayed with freshwater to activate a concrete fibre embedded within.  The concrete fibre forms an impermeable, energy absorbing concrete casing, perfect for withstanding wave action. The material repaired the seawall and will protect the internal structure from further erosion.

Following completion of the works, ESCP staff will continue to monitor coastal structures within the harbour on an annual basis. This will help inform any future works and allow ESCP to identify changes in structure condition within the HBC borough.

(Information Source – Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership.)

Southsea Seafront consultation closes on the 27 August

The Southsea Coastal Scheme have had well over a thousand survey responses so far – but still want more.

You can view the consultation materials here. There is scheme visualisation on YouTube here with audio description. If you visited their events and want to jump straight to the survey, you can find it here.

Once the feedback has been analysed, a cross-party working group at Portsmouth City Council will review the evidence and make a decision on which options to take forward. The Southsea Coastal Scheme will hold further public exhibitions in early November, before seeking planning permission towards the end of this year. Residents will again be able to give feedback to the council at this stage.

The consultation closes at 11.59pm on Monday 27 August 2018.

The secret’s out!

Hampshire & Isle of Wight wildlife Trust has been awarded a £640,300 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant through the National Lottery to deliver a new programme called ‘Secrets of the Solent’ (SOTS) over the next four years.

5.1 Secrets of the Solent PHOTO Seahorse and seagrass CREDIT Julie Hatcher
“Seahorse and Seagrass” © 2013 Julie Hatcher

Thousands of people live and work along the coast of the Solent, which supports important industries, fisheries and leisure businesses, and many more visit every year. Yet very few are aware of the incredible, hidden life under the surface, including beautiful seagrass meadows, chalk reefs, seahorses, thresher sharks and cuttlefish. Fewer still are aware of the threats that our Solent’s habitats and species face.

The aim of ‘Secrets of the Solent’ is to raise the profile, appreciation and understanding of the marine environment in the Solent, so that, in turn, its coastal communities can develop a sense of ownership, benefit and a desire to protect it. The project is in its initial phase at present. Secrets of the Solent will include the development of various creative ideas in order to build an understanding of the diversity and importance of the Solent’s marine wildlife. We are also trying to change public understanding of its locally-sourced seafood, and help increase the demand for those seafood species that are mainly sold abroad due to the lack of a market in this country. “Lives of the Solent” is part of the campaign that will bring an exhibition and photography project showcasing the lives and stories of those who work on the Solent.

One of the main ways the Trust is planning to achieve its aims is through creating the new role of a Marine Champion. Marine Champions are proactive, enthusiastic volunteers who want to give their time to inspire others to care for the Solent. Marine Champions will receive training to deliver a programme of inspirational and engaging marine activities that raise awareness about the importance of the marine life in the Solent. Secrets of the Solent will also be establishing a Marine Champion schools’ network in the years to come.

The Trust has already recruited Emily Stroud as Community Engagement officer for the project and look forward to welcoming its Project Manager, Rachel Bryan and Communications Officer, Sophie Evingar, at the beginning of October. Tim Ferrero, who has been working for the trust some years now, will be helping alongside the project as Marine Conservation Lead.

If you would like to find out more about the project  or would like to volunteer, please email Emily on emily.stroud@hiwwt.org.uk.