Proposals for new sea defences for the island city of Portsmouth are gaining increasing visibility among local residents, with two seemingly opposing views both now being publicly debated. This work is in response to the Environment Agency Flood Risk Assessment, which predicts the sea level rising by up to 1.2 metres within the next one hundred years. The “Old Portsmouth and GunWharf” Neighbourhood Forum meeting last night was treated to presentations by the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership and Portsmouth University School of Architecture lead Walter Mendeth on their respective proposals for improved flood defences for Portsea Island. It was clear from the reaction of more than one hundred residents present that this essential program of work on the North Solent shore will attract high profile and high quality debate in coming years. The SECP spokesman gave a comprehensive presentation on the process being followed by the organisations concerned, essential for the securing of appropriate central government funding of a ‘Hold the Line’ approach, while Walter Mendeth offered a more visionary, but as yet un-costed solution to this significant requirement for Portsmouth.
Solent Protection Society are watching these proposals with keen interest and would support a collaborative approach to the evolving design. While the ‘Hold the Line’ approach provides the essential backbone to a program of work which will attract the essential government funding, the lateral thinking introduced by the broad academic team which made up the ‘Elephant Cage’ project will inject an element of flair into the upcoming design stages which could give the final outcome the global appeal which it surely deserves.
Recognising the importance of Portsmouth as the United Kingdom’s only island city puts it on the same level as a small but historically significant island cities built worldwide from which significant maritime history has evolved. Placing Portsmouth on the same level as Venice may appear to be stretching the point, but we believe that it is critical that the plans for the city’s sea defences pay due regard to its heritage.