Seagrass and Recreational Yachting

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.

Pollution in its many forms

During the past year the Solent Protection Society (SPS) has been investigating the impact of pollution on the Solent. This is a huge subject covering everything from shipping to plastic, sewerage to chemicals, noise to pleasure craft disturbance. We have looked particularly at how pollution gets into the Solent and what action is being taken by the various agencies involved. This has also meant looking at what comes down the rivers and out of the many outfall pipes that discharge into Solent waters.

Water Quality

We are all familiar with beach water quality monitoring by the Environment Agency (EA) which is the prime government body charged with checking water quality round our shores and in rivers. These reports, usually available weekly online (except in this Covid year where they started late and are monthly at present), are produced between May and September. The beaches are not monitored at other times and there are large stretches of the Solent where there are no designated bathing beaches; the western Solent for example. Here some monitoring is done by the EA but the results are usually contained in annual reports published retrospectively. They do however give a guide to trends. England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters are as polluted as they were four years ago, with only 16 per cent achieving good ecological status, according to government data published in September.

Drainage Systems

Combined Sewer Outfalls (CSOs) are largely part of the sewerage system controlled by Southern Water though some may be private. There are hundreds of these CSOs around
the Solent. Most of the drainage systems in the Solent area are combined systems, that is sewerage water and rainfall flow through the same pipe. Consequently when there is a
discharge, say during a storm or if there is a malfunction, then diluted sewerage comes straight into the river or sea causing pollution. As summer storms have increased, this has been happening more frequently and may on occasions breach the legal limits on the number of times this is allowed. Many of these outfalls are not monitored. Southern Water monitors the main ones and has to report on discharges which are picked up in annual reports by EA. We still await the Water Company Performance reports for 2019.

The main culprits are increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, with nitrates in particular enriching the water too much causing green algae blooms. These starve the water of oxygen with the inevitable knock on effect on marine life and plants. Not only does this pollution come from sewerage but even greater amounts come from current and historic fertilizer use on farmland and other sources, all of which eventually washes into watercourses. According to reports commissioned by the Solent area local authorities, the bulk of the nitrate content of the Solent waters comes from unspecified ‘coastal background sources’. While much of that background will be from natural sources, we suspect that a significant proportion is likely to emanate from the long sea outfalls which discharge into the Solent. In the case of Langstone Harbour, we understand that it takes eleven tidal cycles to completely flush and with the overall flow of water eastbound through the Solent relatively slow, much of the material dispersed from these outfalls will remain in Solent waters for many days, moving backwards and forwards as it slowly disperses on the tide.

Nitrate Neutrality

House building in the Solent area has been on hold for most of the year while councils look for ways to make new development ‘nutrient neutral’. Natural England produced guidance in June for how new developments could theoretically achieve “nitrate neutrality”. It does not, of course, do anything to improve an already bad situation but it is better than nothing.

We remain seriously concerned about the volume of new housing proposed. The direction set by the new white paper on Planning for the Future, currently under consultation, suggests that house building in the Solent area will both increase and accelerate. Without significant upgrades to the waste water treatment network and the adoption of sustainable drainage systems on new developments, the risk of unconsented storm discharges from outfalls will only increase.

Addressing the Nitrate Pollution Issue

There are a number of potential options identified this year.

  • Acquire farmland in a river catchment area and take lower lying fields out of agriculture and ‘re-wild’ it. This method has been championed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) who have already used a government loan to acquire a farm on the Island. This will be taken out of production to generate “nitrate credits” which HIWWT can sell on to developers to offset the nitrate produced by their development. The profit made will enable HIWWT to pay back the loan and generate funds for the charity.
  • Increase the capacity and efficiency of the wastewater treatment network, improving the capability for handling peak storm water discharge events.
  • Continue to improve farming methods to reduce nitrate runoff. Over recent decades the farming industry has made significant progress in improving the sustainable use of fertilisers on farms and it is likely that much of the farm sourced nitrate load entering the Solent is historical. The nitrates being released into the ground from agricultural land take years or decades to finally leach through into the watercourses.
  • Strengthen Planning policy to ensure that more areas are protected and that building of housing is more tightly controlled with infrastructure contributions increased to assist with the improvement of CSOs.
  • Increase the mud flats and sub-sea plants like sea grass which, along with oysters, are proven absorbers of marine pollution, by vigorously protecting and perhaps expanding the marine protected areas around the Solent coast.

This is an extremely complex issue both legally, environmentally and technically, and there are certainly no quick and/or simple solutions. Each of the above options will play a part, but more effort and investment is needed if we are to turn neutrality into a positive decline. Some of this will require further legislation by government and some of it will inevitably mean increased water bills.

The ‘rewilding’ of farmland to generate nitrate credits has already been used by Fareham and Havant Borough Councils to kick start new housing development and in September 2020, the UK government approved the investment of £3.9 million to set up a first-of-its-kind national online ‘nitrate trading’ auction platform. This is a worrying development since SPS believes that any mitigation actions for housing development around the Solent should be taken for the benefit of the local area.

While the objective of ‘re-wilding’ farmland is admirable, the benefits are unlikely to be seen in our lifetime. What we will see, however, is the impact of the additional development which the ‘nitrate credit’ approach will now permit. The problem for the Solent and its wildlife will get worse, not better, for the foreseeable future.

What actions can SPS take?

SPS has limited resources but we can continue to monitor the reports that are produced by the various agencies and apply pressure where we find objectives are not being met.

We can press for further legislation along with the many other specialist conservation groups who share the same goals.

We will try during the coming year to draw our monitoring into a form which illustrates the trends we find around our precious Solent.

The Proposed English Coast Path (South)

Our progress report

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

Click on the image to view full size.

In our last newsletter we set out progress on four of the six sections that border the Solent. This left Section 2 – Calshot to Gosport and Section 3 – Isle of Wight to be published for consultation in late 2019 and early 2020.

This report brings the developments up to date. Calshot to Gosport came out for consultation in July 2019 and the Solent Protection Society (SPS), submitted comments by the deadline of 11th September. 2019. Our comments are set out below.

In March 2020 the Isle of Wight section came out for consultation but left out the tricky section between East Cowes and Wootton which is due later this year. The final consultation date for the published section was delayed by Covid but SPS submitted detailed comments in June. These comments are also set out below.

This year we have included the progress map for the whole of England as well as the progress map for the Solent area which puts the Solent progress into context.

Our sections are 15 to 21 on the “All England” map and you will see that some sections have been partially approved. These are in the Calshot to Gosport, Gosport to Portsmouth and South Hayling to East Head sections. However these partial approvals are often very short stretches within the section, so approval by the Secretary of State is fragmented. Having said that, any approval is better than none if it means some of the proposed improvement works, which can be extensive, can get under way.

We believe that the experience Natural England has gained, as the progress of the path consultations has developed over the years, has improved both the information available in the documents and the degree of protection for the many Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around the Solent coastline. That is not to say everyone will agree, either as a landowner or a conservationist, but generally we feel Natural England has found a fair balance. In some sections we have disagreed with the proposals and suggested alternatives to get a path closer to the coast, in others we have supported them. Our guidance has been to make the Solent shore as accessible as possible without unduly affecting the protected sites of which we are rightly proud.

The task of defining the Coastal Path is a mammoth one and the complexity of our Solent coast has meant a great deal of research and very detailed proposals for which Natural England is to be commended. Of course parts will be controversial but overall we hope it is successful and the new sections and various improvements will come to fruition in the not too distant future.

There remains the East Cowes to Wootton section on the Isle of Wight where there is presently no access to the shore line on a very significant part of the Solent. We hope Natural England and English Heritage and other land owners can find a suitable route through.

Our Comments

Calshot to Gosport:

Generally the Society supports the proposals and is pleased with the links that have been proposed to join up various sections of path and create a more continuous route. It would indeed be nice to find a seaward route past Fawley oil refinery and we would hope NE would keep such an option in mind should circumstances change. Similarly the small detours required on the eastern shore of Southampton Water at Netley and the Holiday Park are a pity. SPS would not favour the alternative routes proposed in various places but would support the proposed line.

SPS accepts that the best of the three options and has been chosen at the three estuary crossings. We support the decision to use the pink ferry at Warsash and the Hythe ferry and note and support the reserve position that Natural England reconsider the matter in the event that either of the ferries cease to operate.

Finally SPS supports the proposed S25A designations proposed throughout the route to exclude the public from the seaward coastal margin in these extensive and important protected areas. We would hope that adequate signage is proposed throughout the route to inform the public of the exclusions and that in critical areas fencing is proposed to physically restrict public and particularly access by dogs.

This will be important if the proposed Fawley Waterside development takes place which will put increased pressure on the path and its margins at the south west corner of the route, but we strongly support the path going on the seaward side of the proposed development.

Isle of Wight Wootton to East Cowes:

IOW-2-S017 and IOW-2-S018. Quarr Abbey Section. There is too long a section of the path between Kite Hill and Ryde where there is no view of the sea. We sympathise with Quarr Abbey as quiet contemplation and prayer is the reason for their being there. Quarr is an important and historical Abbey. However we think there is an important opportunity here to improve the view of the sea. If it is not possible to go along the foreshore, even with a winter exclusion using Quarr Road as the alternative, then perhaps a fenced route through Fishbourne Copse would be possible.

The path could then proceed past the heronry (with adequate conservation safeguards) to return up to Quarr Road to the west of the private properties.

Priory Woods. Map 2g. IOW-2-S089 to end of IOW-2-S092. We would strongly support the proposals through Priory Woods. The path at high level becomes very muddy and sticky in winter so a board walk is needed.

Nodes Point. Map 2g. IOW-2-S093 to end of IOW-2-S097. Strong support again for this section with adequate steps due to the underlying ground.

Ferry Point. Map 2h. IOW-2-S113. Remove this section. We suggest the path should not pass in front of Ferry House to avoid trampling on developing shingle spit with interesting floral assemblage. Suggest short fenced path between the end of IOW-2-S112 and the start of IOW-2-S114. Information board sited at end of IOW-2-S112

Yar Quay Bridge. Map 2h. IOW-2-S125 and S126. We draw your attention to the current Planning Application P/00637/14 for nine houses to be built on IOW-2-S126. Suggest Coastal path to follow the current route to join the B3395 about 150 yards to the West unless a route past the housing can be agreed.

From the “Crab and Lobster carpark” to Bembridge Boarding Campus IOW-2-S150 to S158. This section is frequently closed due to cliff slumping. The option is either to roll back or take Howgate Road (suburban with no view of the sea) so roll back provision is important here.

IOW-7-S025-S112 Hampstead to Porchfield.
Maps 7b ,7c, 7d & 7e. It is clear that NE have tried hard to improve the Coastal Path around the highly sensitive waterside at Newtown and this is welcomed. The section at Western Haven will cut out a long and uninteresting inland section of track on the Hampstead trail and the proposed 7 month exclusion is appropriate for wildlife. As this is a new path we are not familiar with it and more fencing may be required both here and through the nature reserve to ensure there is no access, particularly for dogs, between the path and the water’s edge. Similarly the section through Walters Copse, past Clamerkin and through to Porchfield removes a long section of road walking.

The protections at S095 to S097 seem appropriate and essential but we have no direct knowledge of this section. We are generally pleased with the detailed work on the Isle of Wight path to identify the places for restrictions and signage.

IOW-7-S119-S122 MOD land and Burnt Wood 7f, 7g & Directions Map IOW 7B
We are less happy with this section. While the revision from Porchfeld to Thorness cuts out a section of road which is welcome it does nothing to improve access to the shoreline.

The approximately 1.5 mile section of coast from Newtown to Thorness is the second largest gap in the coastal path fronting the Solent after East Cowes to Fishbourne. The Solent on this stretch has beautiful views across to the New Forest and is an area of water with lots of recreational activity to observe.

We would strongly support the proposal put forward by NE under the option S119 –S125 to align the trail to Brickfields Farm via Shepherds Hill or north of it to return to Burnt Wood, fenced if necessary and following field boundaries. We would ask that this is revisited with the MOD to seek a permissive path which can be closed by the MOD where it leaves the Public Right of Way (PRoW) whenever necessary. A similar arrangement has been made for the ECP at Thorney Island in Chichester Harbour.

We would also support the proposal put forward by NE under the option S120 –S124 to align the trail through Burnt Wood, preferably in conjunction with the MOD land so that it is available when the permissive path is closed. We recognize that there are sensitivities in going through Burnt Wood rather than the cliff edge but would suggest that this option must be included in the proposals for the future. The route could be fenced back from the cliff edge with explanatory signage, a resited badger set could be provided if there was no way round it and the path could return to S123 if there was problem with erosion through to S124.

In the meantime there needs to be a link across the southern end of Burnt Wood from the Public Right of Way (PRoW) to the proposed route at S121 on the east side of Burnt Wood. This would also provide an alternative to the PRoW going through Elmsworth Farm. If the connection through Burnt Wood could be achieved rapidly then there would be no need for the path to the east of the wood.

IOW-8-S001-S014 Thorness to Gurnard Maps 8a & 8b This section of path has fine views of the Solent but does become almost impassable in winter due to the muddy clay conditions. The proposed surfacing works will be a big improvement. The roll back proposals are essential as the cliff is prone to frequent erosion. In at least one section of S011 steps will be required cut into the path.

Just before S014 we would ask that a spur is created and steps provided to the beach in lieu of the path reverting to the old route even though the path would not then go behind Marsh Cottage and would use the present permissive path.

IOW-9-S014 to S021 Spencers Wood. Map 9a
SPS supports the proposal to take the ECP down through Spencers Wood. Replacement steps will be required at S014 and new steps by the slipway to allow safer access to the beach at S022.

IOW-10. Generally Maps 10a to 10f
SPS supports the tidal River Medina being included in the coastal path and are pleased to see that all the land in the coastal margin between the path and the water’s edge at all states of the tide are to be excluded under a S25A direction as set out in 10.2.15.

IOW-10-S070 to S074. Whippingham. Map 10f.

While the reason for following a more inland route from Folly Works is understood, we wonder if a route from just north of the boardwalk and proposed kissing gate could follow the field boundaries to run North to join Saunders Way at S074 and so avoid road walking on Beatrice Avenue and be a more pleasant path and somewhat closer to the water’s edge.

The Isle of Wight coastal path from Gurnard looking across Thorness Bay

There is no access beyond the bay to Newtown in the distance. SPS have asked that this 1.5 mile section be reviewed to provide a permissive path through part of the MOD land similar to arrangements at Thorney Island.

Coastal Path South – General and Isle of Wight Consultation.

Report of progress 27 May 2020

Due to Covid 19 all consultation dates had been put on hold until further notice so we did not submit our comments on 13th May as planned. It has now been announced that all consultations should be submitted by 9th June 2020.

While Natural England (NE) have improved access in a number of areas with appropriate protections there is an important 1.5mile stretch from Newtown to Thorness Bay which could be improved, again with safeguards,( MOD land  and a wood of archaeological / environmental interest) There is also a section past Quarr which could be better and there is a small section at Bembridge which may be better routed slightly inland at the point.

Apart from the Newtown to Thorness section the other long and important gap on the Solent Shore is between East Cowes and Fishbourne but this is not yet out for consultation.

NE have issued further information on how they are dealing with the Coastal margin which is set out below. As far as we can see they now tend to restrict all public access in the coastal margin in any area that has a Marine Protection  designation of any sort including birds, which is a change from earlier sections of the path and welcomed, even though they do not say explicitly below. They have also produced a map of where they have got to all round the country which you may find interesting and which I have attached. Click on the map image above  if you want to look more closely.

Coastal margin

As part of this work a ‘coastal margin’ is being identified. The margin includes all land between the trail and the sea. It may also extend inland from the trail if:

  • it’s a type of coastal land identified in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act), such as beach, dune or cliff
  • there are existing access rights under section 15 of the CROW Act
  • Natural England and the landowner agree to follow a clear physical feature landward of the trail

In the coastal margin, you’ll usually have new rights to enjoy areas like beaches. Some areas will not have such rights because they’re:

  • excepted land, such as cropped land or buildings and their courtyards or gardens
  • not suitable for public access, such as a saltmarsh or mudflat

Other parts of the coastal margin may be steep, unstable and not safe to access. You must take care of your own safety and look out for local notices.

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.