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.

Fawley Waterside and Calshot development plans

A major development is being planned on the site of the Fawley Power Station by a new company, Fawley Waterside Ltd. The company has ambitious plans to create a new small model town, with echoes of Poundbury, the prettiest New Forest Villages, and Old Lymington, with about 1500 homes. There will be a marina accessible from the Solent 24/7. They also plan to build an Hotel, a Yacht Club, shops and restaurants and marine industries, with the objective of creating more than 2000 jobs in the new community.

Proposed site plan for Fawley Waterside and Calshot Village

Work has already started on demolition of the old power station structures and the iconic chimney, which can be seen from most of the Solent, is to be removed. In its place, Fawley Waterside propose to construct a glass tower 100m high, subject to grant of approval for an outline planning application yet to be submitted. We will bring you details of this application when available.

Artist impression of the ‘canal side’ development and glass tower

The same development company are also planning to build 30 new homes in nearby Calshot village. Both projects are described in brochures published by Fawley Waterside Ltd., all of which can be accessed and downloaded by selecting this link. The link will take you to an index page for all documents published by the developer. Their recently published Calshot Village Exhibition brochure provides a high level summary of both projects.

Solent Protection Society is keeping a very close eye on these projects: we aim to influence the plans to help to achieve a development of which the Solent community can be proud and which enhances our environment.

Fort Gilkicker

Posted on 01 Oct 2007

Hampshire County Council, owners of the Fort, are very keen to appoint a developer to restore the Fort and relieve them of the £100,000 a year charge that they are presently incurring on security and repairs in order to maintain a safe environment to protect the public.

So far three organisations have considered the project, all of which would involve converting the Fort for residential occupation. The latest is Askett Hawke, who have a good track record for rescuing historic buildings and who are currently converting some textile mills in the north of England.

The SPS supported the original proposals, which foundered because the developer was unable to raise sufficient funds. We consider that there should not be a “do nothing” option. If left to the ravages of time and vandalism the Fort will become a serious safety hazard and then the only course would be demolition at considerable public expense. This would be a tragedy since the Fort is a Grade 2* listed monument and one of the defences of the area. We can see no solution that does not involve some form of residential occupation and feel that a specialist organisation is best fitted to produce an acceptable result, which could preserve the structure, allow some public access and relieve the taxpayer of the considerable ongoing cost of preservation.

Askett Hawke propose to remove some of the earth banking to restore the sea aspect to the form in which the fort was originally built. This will allow conversion of the casemates to apartments. In doing this they will have to take measures to protect a unique insect that lives only in this mound. The barrack block, which used to house Service families, could also be upgraded for use as apartments.

The Estate manager is Marie Percival and further information is available on the Hampshire County Council website.

Roy Rolf

Important historic buildings of the Solent

Posted on 22 Aug 2005

In this second article of an occasional series about different faces of the Solent (the first was Solent Birds) the focus will be on important and historic buildings of The Solent and its shores.

For ease of orientation the area will be divided into four sections: The West Solent between Hurst Castle and Southampton Water; The East Solent between Southampton Water and Selsey Bill; The Isle of Wight shoreline; Structures in the sea.

The aim will be to highlight these buildings with a short description of each, to illustrate the rich architectural heritage of the area.

West Solent

The Solent Way begins with Hurst Castle.

Hurst Castle: This is a Tudor Castle built by Henry VIII in the 16th century, as protection against the threat from the French. It consists of a 12-sided central tower with 3 rounded bastions. It is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Pylewell Park: This is a late Georgian stucco mansion, just East of the Lymington River, with grounds running down to The Solent. It was initially held by the notable Catholic Weld family, as a second home to Lulworth Castle. It is now the private home of the Lord Teynham and his family.

Palace House Beaulieu: Though strictly not on the Solent shore, it is close the banks of the Beaulieu River and is accessible to shallow drafted boats at high water. Palace House was built in 1870, but the Abbey Church dates from the 13th century. The entire Beaulieu Estate, the home of Lord Montagu, includes the villages of Buckler”s Hard and Beaulieu, 20 farms/smallholdings, the river bed, and covers 8,000 acres, of which 2,000 are woodland.

Luttrell’s Tower: This is an interesting 18th century folly, which stands on top of the cliff, 1/2 mile West of Hillhead. It was here that Marconi carried out some of his first transmissions to the Isle of Wight.

Calshot Castle: This is a circular blockhouse with a 3 storey central keep, erected by Henry VIII in 1540 and is situated on land at the end of Calshot Spit.

East Solent

The Solent Way continues across Southampton Water.

Wool House: This is an imposing medieval building on the North West of the Town Quay in Southampton. It now houses the Maritime Museum, which tells the story of Southampton’s dockside and the ships that used it.

Mayflower Monument: This is a needle shaped monument to the West of the Wool House, which records the fact that religious dissenters set sail for the New World in 1620.

Tudor House Museum: This is a 15th century grand building situated on Bugle Street near the Town Quay. It houses an impressive display of local treasures.

St Michael’s Church: This is situated opposite the Tudor House Museum. It was built in the 12th century while the spire dates from 1732.

Netley Castle: This is a stone Tudor style mansion that was built in the 1880s. It stands on the site of an original fort, built at the time of Hurst Castle. It has been a convalescent home since the war.

Royal Thames Yacht Club: This, the oldest yacht club in England, is situated at Warsash. The Buckingham Palace Household YC also uses it.

Fort Gillkicker: This perches on the shoreline at Gillkicker Point. It was built in 1859 as one of Lord Palmerston’s 20 land forts and 4 sea forts, to render Portsmouth impregnable; ‘Palmerston’s Follies’. It now houses a Royal Naval observation post.

Portsmouth Cathedral: This is situated in Old Portsmouth, close to the harbour wall. It dates back to a Norman Chuch built in the 1180s and has strong links with the Royal Navy.

The Square and Round Towers of Portsmouth Harbour Wall: These fine old stone marks date from 1418, built to defend the old naval harbour.

Clarence Pier Southsea: This was built in 1861 to enhance the pleasures of the upper middle classes with their bathing machines in Victorian times.

Southsea Castle: This castle dates from 1544, although the arms over the main entrance are those of Charles II, who had the fort strengthened. It now houses the D-Day Museum, opened 40 years after the Normandy Landings.

Fort Cumberland: This is the finest example of an 18th century defence work, with its bastions arranged in the shape of a five-pointed star. It is situated between Portsea Island and Langstone Harbour.

The Isle of Wight

The Solent heritage tour now crosses to the North Island shore, starting in the West.

The Needles Battery Emplacement: This was built in 1861 and equipped with 7 inch Armstrong rifled breechloaders, as defence against the French and Germans. It was regularly upgraded, until finally after a 15-year spell testing the British space rocket, Black Knight, it was closed in 1971. It was purchased by the National Trust in 1975 and full restoration completed in 1981. It is now open to the public.

Forts Albert and Victoria: These battlements were built between 1852 and 1855. Albert has been converted to flats and Victoria is part of the Fort Victoria Entertainment Park.

Yarmouth Castle: This was built in 1545 by Henry VIII and had a square keep and three sides facing the sea. It was still in use up to 1870 and is now used as a Coastguard’s Lookout.

Cowes Castle: This is yet another of Henry VIII defences against the French, built in 1539. It is now the home of the Royal Yacht Squadron and its cannon is only fired at five-minute intervals to start yacht races.

Norris Castle: This grand house was built in 1790 with the appearance of a castle but not the strength. It is on the site of the original East Cowes Castle.

Osborne House: Osborne House is situated 1 mile south east of Cowes and 1/2 mile from the Solent shore. The house was purchased by Queen Victoria in 1845. Prince Albert supervised the re-building of the house as an Italianate Villa and it became the favourite home of the Royal Couple. They both died there, Albert in 1861 and Victoria in 1901, since when it has changed little. It stands in a thousand acres of grounds and is now a national treasure open to the general public and probably the Isle of Wight’s most popular tourist attraction.

The Solent Waters

The heritage tour concludes by entering the sea.

The Spithead Forts: These forts were built in the 1860s to protect Portsmouth from sea bombardment. Horse Sands, No Man’s Land and St Helens Forts were built between 1865 and 1880, and Spitbank was started 2 years later. Horse Sands and No Man’s Land are identical at 200 feet in diameter and fully armour plated. The other two are slightly smaller at 150 feet with iron plating on the front only. The foundations are 20-30 feet under the water on sandbanks. Spitbank is open from April to October. The other three are privately owned.

The Nab Tower: This unusual looking structure, a few miles to the South East of Bembridge, started life during the first world war as an antisubmarine defence system. However when the armistice was signed in 1918, it was not fully completed. So it was decided to use the 92 feet tall metal cylinder (costing 1m) sitting on a concrete raft, to replace a lightship marking the Nab Rock. The concrete raft (189ft × 150ft) was flooded and sunk on a shingle bank near the Nab Rock. It used to be manned by a crew of 4 but is now fully automated.

Thus it can be seen what an interesting and varied range of historic buildings are to be found in the Solent area. Not surprisingly most of these are related to the defence of our Royal Naval Base at Portsmouth. This heritage is just one of the aspects of the Solent which The Solent Protection Society seeks to protect and preserve.