City of Portsmouth – Flood Defences

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.

Work to Start at East Head

This is a good news story about cooperation between the voluntary sector and government agencies. Steps have been agreed which will be carried out to reduce the risk of a breach of the delicate part of the sand spit known as The Hinge at East Head, at the mouth of Chichester Harbour.

At a time when our coasts are being battered by severe weather, it is pleasing to see a positive story.

 

East Head – The Current Position

Posted on 01 Apr 2008

East Head survived the storms of February and March this year in relatively good condition. The beach recharge, undertaken in 2005, at the main point of erosion at the Neck and Hinge of the feature, did not take the full brunt of the storm or the tidal surge, about 1 metre above the predicted high tide, and it stood up well. The long term management of East Head is still being considered as part of the Pagham to East Head Coastal Defence Strategy. The Strategy is due out for public consultation at the end of May and it is not, therefore, possible to give the detailed proposals contained in it at this stage.

Over the last year a Working Group consisting of the regulators (Environment Agency, Chichester District Council and Natural England) and the key stakeholders (locally elected bodies, landowners, funders and the Harbour Conservancy) has been working to develop an agreed Strategy at East Head for the next 100 years.

The aim of the Strategy at East Head will be to preserve the social, economic, environmental and amenity value of the feature for the life of the strategy. The Working Group has been developing an ‘Adaptive Management’ approach involving monitoring the feature and responding to changes with a suite of measures to preserve that value. These may include further beach recharges, the insertion of a barrier sill to prevent a catastrophic breach and the management of existing sea defences. The emphasis will be on preserving the current value of East Head to the wider harbour community and not necessarily trying to lock it into its present size, shape and orientation.

It is most unlikely that any government funding will be available for the strategy at East Head and its implementation will depend upon private funding. It will be important, therefore, that the public accept it and, to this end, the Chichester Harbour Conservancy has resolved to support the Strategy for East Head.

John Davis Manager & Harbour Master Chichester Conservancy

East Head Latest Studies

Posted on 10 Oct 2007

Records over the last three hundred years show that east head has moved from a west east orientation through ninety degrees to north south. The thorny question now is what happens next?

Then what to do about existing outdated defences and what if any future defence work is sensible.

Latest studies may move this problem forward. A panel of experts has been working with the East Head Working Group (EHWG) studying how to satisfy the diverse interests involved in any future shore management plan. Members of the EHWG come from the Environment Agency, Natural England, The National Trust, Chichester District Council, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, West Wittering Estates and West Wittering Parish Council. The three panel of experts come from Portsmouth University and HR Wallingford. One of the latter is ex ABP Mer.

The expert panel’s initial report acknowledges the complexity of the question about which a great deal had been written over the last 30 years. Their assessment is that it is really unpredictable but more likely to move landwards and perhaps extend north but that the main tidal flow into the harbour would stay roughly along the present route.

The Panel made some initial assessment of what might be done to address several concerns on its effect on the navigation and amenities of the harbour but left the detail to the next report due out this autumn.

The Panel’s fees are being shared amongst interested parties and SPS has contributed £3000 towards Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s share. Public money is certain not to be available for any intervention work.

Martin Rhodes OBE Council member of the SPS Chairman of Friends of Chichister Harbour

East Head Update

Posted on 01 Oct 2007

East Head in Chichester Harbour is seen in this recent aerial photograph lying north south, with the Hinge at the bottom connecting it to West Wittering Beach. Records over the last three hundred years show that it has moved from west east through ninety degrees. The thorny question now is what happens next?

Following the answer to that, is the next question, what to do about existing outdated defences and what if any future defence work is sensible.

Latest studies may move this problem forward. A panel of experts has been working with the East Head Working Group (EHWG) studying how to satisfy the diverse interests involved in any future shore management plan. Members of the EHWG come from the Environment Agency, Natural England, The National Trust, Chichester District Council, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, West Wittering Estates and West Wittering Parish Council. The three panel of experts come from Portsmouth University and HR Wallingford. One of the latter is ex ABP Mer.

The expert panel’s initial report acknowledges the complexity of the question about which a great deal had been written over the last 30 years. Their assessment is that it is really unpredictable but more likely to move landwards and perhaps extend north but that the main tidal flow into the harbour would stay roughly along the present route.

The Panel made some initial assessment of what might be done to address several concerns on its effect on the navigation and amenities of the harbour but left the detail to the next report due out this autumn.

The Panel’s fees are being shared amongst interested parties and SPS has contributed £3000 towards Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s share. Public money is certain not to be available for any intervention work.

Martin Rhodes

Shingle beaches of the Solent

Posted on 22 Aug 2005

Wind and waves have built the beaches and shingle spits of the Solent. They vary from the great spits at Hurst Point and Calshot protecting the Western Solent and the entrance to Southampton Water, to the small spits of Newtown Creek, a wonderful secluded harbour. Most of the spits of the Solent build from the west to the east and nearly all have a hook, or series of hooks at the end which turn at right angles to the main line of the spit.

Behind the spits are muddy creeks and salt marshes, havens of peace for wildlife – wonderful places. As the flooding tide advances over the black mud, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Knot rise in the air and fall back, feeding in front of the advancing water. The salt marshes at the very top of the creek form the most colourful of habitats. Flowering starts in May with drifts of pink Sea Thrift, followed in July by powder blue Sea Lavender with a final burst of colour from the Sea Asters in August. The salt marshes at Keyhaven, Newtown, Beaulieu River and Calshot are nesting sites of Gulls, Common Terns and Little Terns. All these havens exist because of their protective shingle spits.

The shingle spit itself is not just a heap of dead stones. Any part of the beach above Mean High Water Springs can be covered in plants. Nearest the sea are the Moses plants which have their fruit and seeds carried along by the high spring tides. Sea Kale, Sea Beetroot and Spear Leaved Orache are the most common. All of them used as vegetable plants in the past, gathered for their early spring green. Further up the shore above spring tides are found spectacular plants such as Yellow-Horned Poppy and Rock Samphire. At places like Yarmouth on the Island with sand amongst the shingle, the prickly Sea Holly grows. The most spectacular of all the shingle plants is Golden Samphire. A pure golden aster like plant it picks out the old shingle spits running out into the salt marshes. This can be seen most clearly in late July and early August along the spit to Hurst Castle. Bands of gold run from the main spit towards the moored boats in the Keyhaven Harbour.

The strangest shingle beach of all is Browndown. This is an apposition beach built out from the original shoreline in a series of storm crests of shingle. Each crest adds to the width of the beach and it has been built out half a mile into the sea. Browndown Beach stretches from Lee-on-the Solent to Bay House in Stokes Bay. It is the second largest beach of this kind on the south coast and is only exceeded by the spectacular Dungeness Point. The plants are a strange mixture, peculiar to this stretch of beach. There is a large area of Heather, Gorse and Bracken with Burnet Roses growing amongst it. There are hollows full of salt marsh plants such as Glasswort never covered by the sea. Here can be found some of the largest populations of rare plants in Britain, Nottingham Catchfly and Little Robin.rnrnIs all this worthy of protection? View it by boat or by walking along the sea walls facing out over the spits and salt marshes. View it in October to March, when birds arrive to spend the winter and the Solent has regained its solitary wildness. For myself, I love the Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes, the unspoiled wildness of Newtown Creek, or the edge of the River Yar on a calm, short, November afternoon with the sun setting.

Some of the wild spits and salt marshes are protected for conservation by Hampshire Wildlife Trust, Hampshire County Council, the National Trust, English Nature and MOD, Defence Estates. Although these shingle features are all temporary, subject to storms and rising sea levels, I wish that these wild places may yet last for a long time to come.

Richard Hedley, Hampshire Wildlife Trust

Taken from the Autumn 2001 issue of the SPS newsletter.