Proposed English Coastal Path (South) 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 along the area bordering the Solent. It is part of the coastal path project which covers the whole of England.

In our last newsletter we set out the method and format for defining the path and the full text of our consultation comments on the important Highcliffe to Calshot section. This report brings the developments up to date although these are running later than expected. Progress is being made however, with more sections out to consultation.

The identification map above is published again for ease of reference:

Three sections have now been published and the consultation period is now complete, although as far as we are aware, there has been no final decision on these sections from the Secretary of State:

  • Section 1 – Highcliffe to Calshot
  • Section 5 – Portsmouth to South Hayling
  • Section 7 – East Head to Shoreham

Section 4 – Gosport to Portsmouth has now been published with consultation comments due by 15th August 2019 together with Section 2 – Calshot to Gosport with comments due by 11th September 2019.

Solent Protection Society (SPS) has responded to the Gosport to Portsmouth section and our comments are set out below. We will also be responding to the Calshot to Gosport section.

Section 6 – South Hayling to East Head is now expected to be published in October 2019 and finally the Isle of Wight section in February 2020… we shall see!

SPS is supportive of better access to the Solent shoreline. Our main concern is with the safeguarding of the many protected areas and sanctuaries for birds, wildlife and environmental habitat along our shores and the control of access to “spreading room”, that is the area between the path and the water.

Calshot to Gosport

The proposed route from Calshot to Gosport uses the Hythe ferry together with the ferry at the mouth of the Hamble river. This avoids the large Southampton docks industrial area though we feel it is a pity some of the western shore north of Hythe has been omitted. Along the River Hamble the north side of the river is difficult to access, the south side is more accessible, thus using the ferry is a sensible solution. SPS has asked what will happen if, in the future, the ferries cease to run and Natural England have stated that a review will be held by a new team in that event. The path on the eastern shore of Southampton Water diverts inland a little in a few places but the beach is still available where it is above high water. The path cannot officially transit the beach as part of its route.

Gosport to Portsmouth

Portchester Castle from Port Solent

The Gosport to Portsmouth route makes the best of a job made difficult by the large tracts of MOD land for which no access can be granted. There are a few miles of dreary inland road walking, but the stretch from Fareham Creek via Portchester Castle to Port Solent, is well worth exploring. South of the Naval Dockyard, the route follows the established Millennium Promenade, a fine route which explores the rich history of the old harbour waterfront. SPS is aware of a concern regarding access to the Camber Docks raised when the Land Rover/BAR development (now ‘Ineos Team UK’) was built in Old Portsmouth.

There is a long established public right of access to walk the perimeter of the Camber Docks which includes access to the memorial to the lost crew of the ‘Wilhelmina J’. We note that the preferred route clearly shows this, but we raised a concern that the draft wording could be interpreted by the current tenants on the site to prevent public access to the dockside for extended periods, rather than the brief interruptions for which the documented diversion is intended. We believe that most members of the public would wish to simply wait for a few minutes while a boat is craned in or out, resuming their walk once the activity is complete.

More detailed information on each section can be found be clicking this link.

The section maps are detailed and the text gives explanations about the various decisions taken along the proposed route. The full environmental appraisals are also available for each section.

Coastal Squeeze and Rollback

It is generally accepted that sea-levels are rising in Britain, although there are many opinions about the causes and the rates. Most scientists believe that the rate of sea-level rise has already accelerated and will continue to do so until levels of atmospheric carbon-dioxide start to be reduced.

Regardless of the cause or rate of sea-level rise the effects are the same, in a natural system land is “lost” and becomes sea. With a high coastline this manifests itself as erosion of the cliffs, but with a gently rising coastline the result is a slow movement of the shoreline inland – so over time a particular piece of land will change from dry land to shoreline shingle or mud, then foreshore and eventually to sea. The rate of change will depend on sea-level rise, but also on how “dynamic” the environment – how exposed it is to tide and waves.

In the case of a defended coastline if defences are maintained and increased to take into account the sea-level rise (Hold the Line in SMP’s etc) this results in the seaward side of the defence continuing to develop naturally – ie change from foreshore to sea, but the landward side remains the same. The result, known as “Coastal Squeeze” is that the foreshore (Sand, shingle or salt-marsh) is slowly lost together with the natural transition zone from land to sea.

The habitats of these ephemeral transition zones are both rare and important and as a result many are designated under international, European and National designations which require them to be protected.

We are very fortunate locally as the New Forest Coastline contains some of few areas where there is natural gently rising coastline. This is rare, particularly in Southern England, where most of coastline is heavily managed and defended to provide flood and erosion protection. These areas show a natural graduation from farmland, often to a narrow strip of woodland, then to a foreshore, often with the remains of fallen trees, to foreshore and salt-marsh.

The narrow strip of woodland provides a unique habitat, and the tree-roots will slow, and control the rate erosion. The fallen trees also provide a unique habitat and make the shoreline interesting and very different from most other places.

Within the Solent Protection Society we believe that these unique habitats should be maintained, by natural processes, and that they cannot be maintained by traditional engineering works. The most effective way to maintain the habitat is to allow natural roll-back. This should be done by allowing natural regeneration of indigenous vegetation, particularly woodland, along a margin between farmland and the coastal strip.

We would welcome members opinion of how these habitats should be managed and whether this should be funded by public authorities, or whether the landowner should be expected to manage appropriately.

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.