The ‘Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’ and its applicability to the issue of Solent pollution

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 urge you to read the content of Philip Dunne’s webpage by clicking this link., and encourage you to contact your Member of Parliament to ask that they support this important private members when it receives its second reading in the house of commons. To find the contact details and email address for your MP, please take this link, enter your post code and follow the directions.

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.

The Autumn 2020 Newsletter is here

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.


Actions from our Marine Licence Application updates

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:-

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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%.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. 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.   
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Paul King – 3 Nov. 2020

Milford Sea Wall

Photo: Pete Linnington, reproduced from Lymington Times.

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.

Quote ends.

To read the original articles on the Lymington Times, please take the highlighted links.

Fawley New Town

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).

The Master Plan

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

SPS Article in ‘The Yachter’ – Autumn 2020

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.

Hurst Castle

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.

Erosion of Hurst Spit – Undercutting the foundations of Hurst Castle

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.

David Sizer – Chairman, SPS

Reproduced by permission of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club.

Southern Water – The worst performing water company in the UK

The Environment Agency is the environmental regulator for the water industry in England, tasked with oversight of the nine water and sewerage companies that operate in England.

On Friday October 2, 2020, the Environment Agency published their long awaited ‘Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) results 2019 for water and sewerage companies’ document and we are deeply concerned to see another decline in the performance of Southern Water. This private utility company is accountable for waste water discharge into the Solent and on the strength of this report, now has the unenviable position as the worst performing water company in the United Kingdom.

Click on the chart if you want to zoom in on the detail of why Southern Water has just been revealed as the poorest performing water company in the country.

The SPS Council has set up a working group to analyse the detail in the data now publicly available and will report our findings in due course.

Solent News – August 2020

Each month we will bring you news relating to the Solent Area, edited from source material from the Solent Forum.

Select from this list to jump to the appropriate section:

In all articles, clicking on underlined text will open the referenced article in a new browser window.

Local News

Natural England and the Environment Agency have developed a Project ‘tool’ which can be used by members and external organisations to see what projects are happening in the Greater Solent catchment. This has recently been updated and the latest version can be accessed here.

A £1bn plan to build a 1,380-home community on the site of Fawley Power Station has been given the go-ahead. It will also encompass a canal, as well as a 2,100-space car park and open areas for the public. An amendment was also passed that proposed cycle routes must be completed before any of the homes are occupied. The oil-fired power station, between the New Forest and Southampton Water, was decommissioned in 2013 after operating for more than 40 years. As the proposals encompass land within the New Forest District and New Forest National Park, separate outline planning applications were submitted to both authorities. Both have worked closely together over the past five years to draw up policies in their Local Plans which set out their requirements and expectations for the site. These were subject to several rounds of consultation and an examination in public by Government planning inspectors.

Take a virtual tour of RRS James Cook in your web browser by taking this link.

New Forest DC have received funding from the Local Government Association to help it tackle a rise in littering in the district, and have launched a litter intervention initiative at the coast. Find out more here.

Wightlink has partnered with the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) to place cages containing hundreds of young oysters into the Lymington River as part of its initiative to re-introduce the shellfish to the Solent. View the online video here.

The Total Ecosystem Management of the InterTidal Habitat (TEMITH) project evaluation webinar will take place in early September. It will be pre-recorded and so can be accessed at the convenience of the participants.

The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) is developing the next iteration of its Coastal Management Strategy, which aims to continue to sustainably address coastal flooding and erosion around Hayling Island. You can find details at this link.

Read a fascinating study of the history of Oyster fishing in Chichester Harbour prepared for the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.

The Isle of Wight Council and the Environment Agency have agreed to work together over the next six years on several flood defence schemes representing around £37 million worth of potential Government investment. The new partnership has already secured £400,000 in funding to accelerate early design work on four projects in Ventnor, Bembridge, Sandown and Shanklin.

The New Forest Tour bus is back for 2020 running from Saturday 18th July until Monday 31st August.

Chichester Harbour Conservancy have been counting the number of seals in the Harbour since the 1990s and last month recorded the highest number yet with 65 spotted.

HMS Victory’s new support system is in place featuring 134 props. Each one contains a load cell which monitors the ship’s weight and distribution on a minute by minute basis, mimicking the variable pressures of the sea. More importantly they provide early warnings of any faults and weaknesses.

Bird Aware Solent are asking Solent based recreational clubs whether their members would like to learn more about the Solent’s diverse birdlife. Its rangers are offering free online presentations. Email Bird Aware Solent to find out more and book a date.

Havant Borough Council is urging groups from across the borough to apply for a share of around £500K to help support projects which deliver new or improved community services and facilities. Funding has been made available using Community Infrastructure Levy, an income which is generated by new development taking place in the borough.

The new Dorset Mariculture strategy aims to provide a route for sustainable marine aquaculture development across Dorset for the next five years.

It was two storms in February and one pandemic lockdown lasting four months that made it late, but finally the Bouldnor Isle of Wight MARINEFF research project with Bournemouth University is underway with the installation of forty five Vertipools on the sea defences.

Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour has completed the first phase of a major redevelopment plan and is now taking reservations for an increased capacity of permanent berths and moorings, which include deeper berths, a greater number of walk-ashore pontoons and improved facilities.

British Marine has announced that Southampton International Boat Show Ltd will present Boats 2020 at Mayflower Park, Southampton from 11 – 20 September 2020. This outdoor and on the water event will be a not-for-profit showcase of boats and equipment.

Bembridge Harbour Authority (BHA) is remodelling its Duver visitors’ pontoon in the wake of Covid-19 restrictions. Historically, boats have rafted out on what was one long pontoon. Now, BHA has invested in 36 additional finger pontoons (72 berths) which arrived by barge from Portsmouth in July.

Pioneering research from the University of Portsmouth, that aims to find a solution to the global plastic pollution crisis, is to share in £15.9 million of investment from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The Solent LEP will use the Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’ allocation to finance the expansion of the University’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI), which takes enzymes from the natural environment and adapts them in the laboratory to recycle and reuse some of our most polluting plastics. The CEI will receive £1m investment from the Solent LEP.

Southampton based HPW Architecture are submitting a planning application to Test Valley Borough Council to transform the old World of Water site on Greatbridge Road, Romsey into a nature based campus, whilst also providing enhanced access to the adjacent Fishlake Meadows Nature Reserve. The scheme is being developed to attain “Building with Nature” accreditation standards which recognises the design and delivery of high quality green infrastructure.

Southern Water are adopting a new approach to plan for the future of drainage, wastewater and environmental water quality. As part of this, they are currently developing 11 Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans (DWMPs) across their region.

A Mayflower 400 rally, hosted by the Royal Southampton Yacht Club and Royal Naval Reserve Yacht Club, following the route sailed by the Mayflower and Speedwell in 1620 takes place from the 15 – 26 August, linking Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth. The flotilla will be carrying ‘Mayflower Badges’, created for Southampton’s 1920 Mayflower Pageant, to gift to these cities.

Six organisations have come together to launch a new code to help protect the landscape, livestock and wildlife of the New Forest. The New Forest code focuses on nine simple ways visitors and residents can help care for this unique place.

Progress continues on the construction of a new £23 million distribution centre in the Port of Southampton, which will strengthen capacity for Import Services, a leading port-centric logistics company. Once complete, the 200,000 sq ft warehouse facility will adjoin Import Services’ existing distribution hub, which will double operational capacity.

National News

Oxford University are carrying out a survey to determine attitudes towards marine wildlife growing on historic blockwork or masonry maritime structures by those responsible for their management. Specifically, the survey focuses on structures built pre-1960 that are regularly submerged and exposed by the tide (harbours, ports, jetties etc.).The survey will ask you to consider how marine wildlife (e.g. seaweed, limpets) is managed at structures under your care and whether you perceive the colonisation of marine wildlife as beneficial or detrimental. The survey should take approx. 12 minutes

Associated British Ports (ABP), has announced it has successfully embedded drone technology into its asset management practices and policies, following an 18 month programme. Development in the past 6 months has been focused on site testing across 8 locations in the UK. Analysis and data collection from the flights has demonstrated considerable cost saving and benefits; operations were safer, 25% more cost effective; and took 55% less time compared to traditional methods for selected assets.

The Protected Wreck Association, in partnership with MSDS Marine, has been awarded a grant of £29,000 from Historic England to support the licensed volunteer divers that are invaluable in helping to protect our nationally-important wreck sites.

On 23 July, IUCN launched the first-ever Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions.

BCP Council have launched a Beach Check app with a simple traffic light system to show which of its beaches are the most congested.

The MMO have published an ad hoc statistical release: UK Sea Fisheries Statistics June 2020. It was published in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to provide evidence on impacts on commercial sea fishing activity.

Google has announced plans to build a new undersea network cable connecting the US, UK and Spain. The tech giant says it is incorporating new technology into the cable, which it claims is a significant upgrade to older existing lines. The project is expected to be completed by 2022.

Watch an Environment Agency short video about how tipping dirty water down the wrong drain can impact marine life.

In July 2021, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will present its statutory advice on UK climate change risks and opportunities to the UK Government. To inform that advice, around 450 people from over 130 organisations are contributing to the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) Evidence Report. A new independent website collates and presents that evidence. Factsheets on marine life and flooding and coastal change will be published.

Government has announced a fund of up to £40 million to create jobs in nature recovery and conservation. The ‘Green Recovery Challenge Fund’ will fund areas such as protecting species, finding nature-based solutions to tackling climate change, conservation rangers and connecting people with the outdoors.

Protecting large areas of ocean will play a key role in capturing carbon emissions from the atmosphere, George Eustice, Environment Secretary, told Blue Marine Foundation’s conference entitled ‘Rewilding the Sea’. Mr Eustice revealed that his department is considering restoring habitats such as seagrass and saltmarsh.

RNLI are looking for ‘local ambassadors’ to promote its safety messages and to encourage local community and visitors alike to contribute to raising much needed funds to support lifeboats.

Cornwall, Buckinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Northumberland and Cumbria local authorities have been selected by the government to help kick-start nature recovery on a countrywide scale. The selected authorities will receive a share of £1 million of funding to set up ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategies’ (LNRS) pilot studies to help map the most valuable sites and habitats for wildlife in their area and identify where nature can be restored. The forthcoming Environment Bill will require all areas in England to establish LNRSs.

Scallop fishing in the North Sea around Dogger Bank will continue to be suspended until 29 August 2020.

Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) and Barclays have announced a new three-year, £5 million partnership to promote a stable climate through marine conservation.  BLUE will seek to increase its ambition to secure world-class marine reserves, combating overfishing, proving the value of carbon-capturing marine habitats and restoring vast tracts of sea as part of a four-pronged joint programme.

British Marine, the Zoological Society of London and the Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) celebrated  World Oyster Day (5 August) with an award of £1,180,000 to boost British native oyster populations – the biggest project of its kind in the UK.  The funding has been raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and awarded as part of the Dream Fund, which gives charities the opportunity to bring a dream project to life. It will help the ‘Wild Oysters’ project to recover the native oyster populations.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is investing more than £170m in a new radio network built and maintained by telent Technology Services. The programme will replace old existing copper telephone wiring with modern fibre-based technology to each of the HM Coastguards 155 remote radio sites, as well as adding new connection points to increase resilience.

New research led by Centre for Environment, fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and Substance provides estimates of the numbers of sea anglers, participation rates, catches and economic impact across the UK in 2016 and 2017.

A new EU report presents findings from a review of over 30 EU-funded research and innovation projects conducted as part of the EC’s Valorisation of Nature Based Solutions Projects Initiative.

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching a new inquiry into biodiversity and ecosystems. The inquiry will examine how best to protect and enhance biodiversity whilst considering nature-based solutions to climate change and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Hong Kong-based marine scientists have created 3D printed terracotta tiles they say will act as artificial reefs to help give corals a fighting chance against climate change.  Each tile is almost two feet in diameter and gives the coral lots of ‘nooks and crannies’ to anchor to, they interlock organically, allowing expansion when needed without disturbing existing settings. The tile design can also be adapted for the specific environment and underwater conditions where they are placed.

The climate change team at Natural England ran a series of webinars in May to introduce a range of climate change topics. All four sessions and an introductory video are available on Natural England’s YouTube channel.

As part of preparations for mandatory biodiversity net gain, Natural England is leading a pilot project which will support the design of the national Biodiversity Credits Scheme.

In the wake of recent fatalities involving personal watercraft (Jet Ski’s) in UK waters, the UK Harbour Masters Association have written to the Minister for Maritime calling for action in regulating the use of such non-defined craft within ours Ports and along our coasts.

The Royal Navy has shown its commitment to using autonomous and robot systems for underwater survey work. It comes as the navy, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and the National Oceanography Centre have renewed and expanded their Memorandum of Understanding for the underwater environment. The agreement will see the organisations continue to collaborate in trials and testing of marine autonomous systems and sensors to collect data, broadening the navy’s capabilities in this area.

Recent Consultations

Natural England invited comment on conservation advice packages for a range of sites including Utopia MCZ. Visit this site and look for sites that are ‘draft’. The deadline for consultation was 28 August.

The Rivers Trust and partners launched the new Catchment Monitoring Cooperative Consultation Hub on the contribution of citizen science and community monitoring.

The Environment Agency launched a consultation on the future approach to managing the water environment and it will also be used to update the existing river basin management plans in 2021. You can watch a video relating to the consultation here. Deadline for consultation was 24 September.
Read the Partnership for South Hampshire response.

Government is consulting on reforms to the tax treatment of red diesel and other rebated fuels. Deadline is 1 October.

Solent Marine License Applications

Visit: to find the detail and status of a marine licence application and type in the case reference number.

Licence Applications Open for Public Consultation:

Capital Dredge in Ashlett Creek (New Forest). Case reference: MLA/2020/00255. Deadline 11 September.

Other Marine Licence application variations, completions and requests in the last month in the Solent are shown below. 

Gosport Sea Wall Repairs.  Case reference: MLA/2019/00509/2.

Wildlife Applications

None reported.

March Speaker – Blue Marine Foundation

Our lunchtime speaker in Southampton for March is Jacob Keen–Hammerson, UK Project Co-ordinator for the Blue Marine Foundation.

Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) is a charity dedicated to restoring the ocean to health by addressing overfishing, one of the world’s biggest environmental problems. Globally, an estimated 85% of oyster beds and oyster reef habitats have been lost, making them among the most imperilled marine habitats in the world. BLUE is creating a model for restoration of this key habitat by relaying millions of oysters into the Solent, in cages hung in the water beneath pontoons, facilitating the release of millions of larvae. The cages have been shown to provide a refuge for other marine life, with 97 different species having been found living within the cages so far, including critically endangered European eels, juvenile spiny seahorse and sea bass.

For location details and joining instructions, please see our post on 2020 SPS Lunchtime Speakers by taking this link.

Seagrass in the Solent

I can still remember as a young teenager my amazement when told that there were flowering plants living completely submerged in the sea. Our sea grasses or eelgrasses, Zostera spp, form an important inshore plant community in the Solent and surrounding areas.

There are 3 eelgrass species in British waters and all are considered vulnerable and in need of protection and all live in the Solent. There are large eelgrass beds along the north coast of the Isle of Wight, Langstone, Portsmouth and Chichester Harbours and in Stanswood Bay, near Calshot, intertidal beds are easily seen. Leaves shoot from a creeping rhizome system that binds and stabilises the seabed sediment reducing coastal erosion. Leaves and rhizomes contain air spaces that aid buoyancy.

Eelgrass have separate male and female flowers on the same flower head. It usually flowers in late summer, dispersing threadlike pollen grains into the sea. Z. marina beds develop on firm sand, sometimes mixed sediments and usually grow below the low water spring tidal limit. Patches have been found in the Solent including to the west of Needs Ore, between Newtown and Gurnard Point, and to the east of the mouth of the Medina River on the north coast of the Isle of Wight (Tubbs, 1999).

The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust have been running the Solent Seagrass Project to gather information on the extent of seagrass beds in the Solent area.

Eelgrass underwater. Image by Ronald C. Phillips PhD, creative commons.

Zostera beds are species-rich, particularly the subtidal beds of Z. marina. A large number of algal species occur as epiphytes on Zostera leaves (some species are found only in eelgrass beds). Other algae grow amongst the eelgrass or as mats on the sediment surface. Eelgrass offers an attractive and protective habitat for small animals including many crustaceans and fish.

For example, in Solent seagrass beds you can find deep-snouted pipefish, seahorse and fifteen-spined stickleback. There are also plentiful prawns and cuttlefish. When an area has healthy seagrass beds it is almost certain that it will hold plentiful marine life. Zostera spp. is also an important food for wildfowl including the dark‐bellied brent goose and wigeon which feed on intertidal beds.

Deep-snouted pipefish caught in Stanswood Bay Zostera bed. Image © P. A Henderson
Short-snouted seahorse captured in Southampton Water Image © P. A. Henderson
5-spined stickleback caught at Calshot. © P. A. Henderson

Although seagrass beds are critically important habitats that support human well-being the extent of the beds throughout the world are declining at a rapid rate. Within British waters the decline in extent and well-being of seagrasses is linked to pollution from industrial effluents and sewage, mechanical disturbance, land reclamation etc. Zostera marina is susceptible to a wasting disease caused by a slime mould. In the 1930s populations were decimated by this disease and some have never fully recovered. Zostera angustifolia and Zostera marina are both affected by nutrient enrichment from nitrates, oil pollution and anti-fouling paints used on boats.

Recent reductions in pollutant discharges have aided seagrass recovery, but we are still introducing large amounts of nitrogen and phosphates into the sea which encourage algal blooms and metabolic imbalance in eelgrasses. Eelgrass beds are not physically robust, and the plants are easily killed or damaged by trampling, digging, dredging, bivalve harvesting or other forms of physical disturbance.

Unfortunately, our direct impacts on the beds during our leisure activities have intensified. The damaging mechanical effects on Zostera marina (Common Eelgrass) seagrass beds in UK waters from recreational boating activities, anchoring and traditional swing mooring scour, have been of continuing concern. There is a clear need to implement good practices to limit these impacts while allowing people to enjoy their boating activities. Eco-moorings, a design that reduces the abrasion pressure of anchoring and mooring on the seabed have been developed and are being tested. However, there has been a limited uptake of eco-moorings to date. Eelgrass beds are a natural feature which we all need to protect and cherish if we are to maintain the rich marine life of the Solent.

Dr. Peter Henderson – SPS