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.

 

Good news for little terns

Increased breeding success fir Little Terns at Chesil Beach, a short distance along the coast from the Solent, seems to have been achieved by some innovative thinking, as Natural England  report on their website

The decline of seabird populations in the Solent must be causing concern. In particular, the little tern colony on Beaulieu spit has declined significantly, and there were severe problems at the little tern colony in Langstone, despite the best efforts of RSPB, who manage the Langstone colony.

Maybe lessons can be learned from the Chesil Beach success to help restore the populations of these agile birds in the Solent.

Langstone Harbour Threatened

Budget cuts forced on Langstone Harbour by Portsmouth and Havant Council representatives threaten the ability of Langstone Harbour Board to meet its statutory duty to look after and manage one of the best nature reserves in the Solent.

Moving his pitch

Valuable Nature Site

The Harbour is of exceptionally high ecological value and is the subject of local, national, European and international environmental designations. The Board has a general duty to exercise its functions with regard to nature conservation and other environmental considerations and in 1999 sought and achieved additional powers for these purposes through a Harbour Revision Order. The Board is also required to have regard to the requirements of the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives. As a Relevant Authority in the Solent European Marine Site (SEMS) the Board has a duty to monitor and report on activities in Langstone Harbour in order to comply with the requirements of these directives. In exercising its functions, the Board must also have regard to bio-diversity. A large part of the harbour bed, including a number of islands, is owned by the RSPB who employ a warden to manage the islands as a bird sanctuary.

How Langstone Works

Langstone Harbour is a Trust Port managed by a Harbour Board, assisted by a statutory Advisory Committee of local stakeholders.The Board is a Competent Harbour Authority under the Pilotage Act 1957 and a Local Lighthouse Authority. The harbour is recognised in the Langstone Harbour Management Plan as a quiet harbour and a place for relaxation and enjoyment by the public. The core functions of the Board include regulation of harbour activities, the provision of a pilotage service, provision of moorings, maintenance of navigable channels and navigation marks, wreck removal and emergency response. National standards of safety have been promoted by the Department for Transport in the Port Marine Safety Code (PMSC) and the accompanying Guide to Good Practice for Port MarineOperations. The Board achieves compliance with the PMSC through a Safety Management System which is audited annually.

AA1_4177

Budget Cutbacks

The Board of 6 members each from Portsmouth City and Havant Borough Councils, 2 members of the statutory Advisory Committee and a representative from Hampshire County Council. Overall the harbour costs over £933,000 per year, funded by income from harbour dues, rent for moorings, licenses and other generaI services with any deficit in income over expenditure funded by a precept divided equally between Portsmouth and Havant councils The Board has since 2006 managed to reduce its reliance on the precept by 43% and at the budget meeting in December proposed a further reduction of 10% for the year 2013/14 However, an amendment was tabled by a Portsmouth member which, although initially objected to by a large majority of members (10 votes to 4), resulted ultimately in the Board being forced to accept a reduction in precept of 50% with the resulting annuaI shortfall of over £56,000 to be drawn from the Board’s reserves The three Portsmouth members supporting the 53% reduction of the precept have stated that the precept should be reduced to zero in the following year, apparently for the purpose of assisting the City Council to reduce its overall rate charged to the community In addition to the reduction in precept an independent service review is to be carried out [more expense] and the result discussed by a Joint working Party.

Hayling ferry threatened

Now it would seem that in accepting an appointment to the Board a member also accepts a duty to look after the interest of that board regardless of their other outside commitments. The reserves are largely nominated to fund the replacement of equipment as it becomes unserviceable For example the Hayling pontoon may need replacement within 5 years and with no reserves there will be no pontoon and no ferry service, since the existing structure will by then be unsafe for the public to use

Difficult meet statutory duties

With no harbour patrol boats there can be no protection of the habitat or enforcement of the regulations. Most of the Board’s cost are in wages so the only solution is to sack most of the staff. With very few staff the Board will find it almost impossible to meet it obligations stated above. Failure to comply with EU Directives can be a very expensive business as indeed could failure to meet the requirement of the Port Marine Safety Code Who will pay for that?

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

Obituary – Fred Haynes Councillor SPS

Posted on 08 Feb 2007

Fred died very suddenly at the beginning of 2007 and was buried at the Sustainability Centre near East Meon on the 12th January. Fred was a very special man. He was our expert member on the SPS Council in all matters relating to the ecology of the Solent and was particularly well qualified for this work. He joined us on the Council in 1995 after a distinguished career as Head of Botany at Portsmouth University.

He directed post graduate research into aerial and aquatic pollution and organised an extensive study of the ecology of Langstone Harbour. He was chairman of the Langstone Harbour Board Advisory Committee for many years until his untimely death.

He was a Conservation Officer for the British Lichen Society and a member of the Conservation Committee of the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

He was one of the few members of Council, probably in the whole country, who actually read the papers that are produced by the EC and government on ecological matters and  was able to provide us with an informed  and readable assessment of their value – or lack of it.

Fred was also an accomplished musician, both as a conductor and instrumentalist, playing the clarinet, French horn and percussion. He was a practical man, willing to undertake many tasks long before we heard of DIY.

I always found Fred a very easy friend, always available with help and advice and undemanding in return. May we offer his wife Brenda and the family our sincere condolences; we have all lost a lovely man.

West Solent Marine National Park Report

Posted on 07 Jan 2006

Introduction and Summary

A ‘Solent National Waterpark’ was proposed by the Society fifty years ago, at the instigation of leading members Sir Hugh Casson and Maldwin Drummond. Unfortunately the time was not right for this imaginative idea to take shape, but there has recently been a massive renewal of interest, internationally and nationally, in the conservation of sea areas. This, and the likelihood of a Marine Bill being published by the Government next autumn, presents a new opportunity.

Furthermore, the National Park concept, the purpose of which is to integrate open air recreation and conservation in countryside areas of national importance for both, has received a new lease of life. The New Forest has now been designated as a National Park; a similar proposal is under consideration for the South Downs; and two National Parks have recently been established in Scotland.

For sea areas, Marine National Parks already exist in many parts of the world, and are now under consideration in Scotland. In this report which we hope will be read by members of the general public as well as coastal experts we therefore look again at the idea, focussing our attention on the West Solent rather than the Solent as a whole, for reasons that are explained.

The report’s major points, in summary, are:

  • The West Solent’s outstanding qualities are widely recognised and are different from those of the East Solent, Southampton Water and Portsmouth Harbour. It is a coastal waterway with few equals in England and Wales (paras 1.2, 1.3, 1.4). The main pressures impacting on it arise from recreation, but to a lesser extent from shipping, fishing, climate change and pollution (paras 2.1 to 2.6).
  • Although the number of craft moorings in the West Solent is small compared with the Solent as a whole, there is a significant user influx from outside, the implications of which need consideration (para 2.2).
  • The maintenance of a fishing industry would be helped by a study of the ecology, health and exploitation of the stock (para 2.4).
  • Difficult decisions will have to be made on how to deal with the impact of climate change on the West Solent, and there is likely to be some re-thinking of pollution control strategy for the area as a result of the Water Framework Directive (paras 2.5, 2.6).
  • There is no marine planning system in the West Solent (as indeed is the case in other sea areas) comparable to the comprehensive systems on land (para 3.4).
  • Ideally, the multitude of users and their interests in the West Solent might well be best co-ordinated, represented, managed and strategically developed through a Marine National Park, covering an area from the Needles/Hurst Spit (in the west) to Lepe/Gurnard (in the east), bounded by mean low water mark and the harbour limits of Lymington and Yarmouth (para3.5)
  • The ‘pluses’ of an established Marine National Park outweigh the ‘minuses’ (para 3.6).
  • It is important, therefore, that the proposed Marine Bill, to be published in the autumn of 2006, should provide for the establishment of Marine National Parks generally (para 4.2).
  • Pursuit of the above issues through the Bill would more effectively be achieved by the Society in conjunction with other organisations, particularly with the help of a debate in the Solent Forum (para 4.3).
  • The aim, in principle, should be to have the West Solent designated a Marine National Park, planned and managed through an appropriate partnership of statutory and non-statutory bodies concerned with the area (para 5.2).
  • In preparation for this, there is a need to develop in more detail the aims, administration and funding of such a partnership, and to enlist the support of local MPs and other interested parties (paras 5.1, 5.3 to 5.5).
  • An appendix to the report gives brief particulars of 11 Marine National Parks overseas, proposals for at least one in Scotland, and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy

1. The character of the West Solent

1.1 Stretching from the Needles to Lepe, the West Solent is a very special part of the Solent waters. On the mainland side, bounded by the coastal plain, estuaries and woodlands of the New Forest, its outstanding features include the remote shingle ridge of Hurst Spit and its castle, the contrasting beauty of the Keyhaven and Beaulieu Rivers, and the busy Lymington River. On the Island side it is contained by the dramatic cliffs of the Needles promontory, low lying cliffs, pasture and woodland further east, chalk hills and, notably, the historic harbour of Yarmouth and sheltered Newtown Creek. Over 13 miles long and about 3 miles wide, the West Solent is a very popular waterway for recreational sailing and a tourist attraction, and is used to a limited extent by shipping. It is a prime habitat for birds, summer and winter, an important oyster fishery, and contains a wealth of marine archaeological sites. All these attributes, natural and cultural, combine to make it an economic resource of importance to the area.

1.2 The West Solent’s excellent qualities are recognised by various official designations of national and international importance: the New Forest National Park; the Island’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coast; eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest; two National Nature Reserves (North Solent and Newtown Creek); an extensive Ramsar site (which includes a European Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation), and a further Special Area of Conservation, all with European legal obligations; designated shellfish waters; and several protected monuments and wrecks.

1.3 By comparison, the East Solent, Southampton Water and Portsmouth Harbour are more urbanised, and their national economic and defence importance is reflected in the navigational controls exercised by Associated British Ports as a Harbour Authority, and the Queen’s Harbour Master. Like the West Solent, however, they, together with Langstone and Chichester Harbours, are valuable sites for wildlife. These are the busiest parts of the Solent’s renowned sailing waters, but the West Solent’s setting, comparable in quality to Chichester Harbour, though more diverse, make this part of the Solent a uniquely attractive environment, deserving special treatment.

1.4 Indeed, in England and Wales as a whole, we believe that the West Solent has a quality of landscape, marshy, wooded and hilly, and of seascape, partially enclosed but extensive and oceanic, with magnificent bird life, that makes it a waterway with few equals. Like Milford Haven in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and the Menai Strait at Anglesey (which is partly an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), it is a unique bit of coast.

2. Pressures on the West Solent: recreation, shipping, fishing, global warming, pollution

2.1 The Solent region is home for over 1million people and is within 2 hour’s travel time for some 20 million. With the increases in economic activity and housing planned for SE England (for example, possibly 120,000 new houses in Hampshire alone in the next 20 years), recreation pressures on the Solent’s shores, waters, viewpoints and other visitor attractions will burgeon. Over the same period the ownership and use of cars is expected to increase substantially. For sailing, the RYA is quoted as foreseeing a doubling of present levels, nationally. Undoubtedly the amount of water-based recreation will grow well beyond what may be seen by some as acceptable limits, whatever steps are taken to control it, short and long term. During the last 20 years moorings in the Solent increased by about 30%, but there are lengthy waiting lists and it is likely that the planning and capacity constraints which currently make it difficult to meet such levels of demand may be seriously challenged.

2.2 In the West Solent, only about 2900 of the 24000 craft on moorings or in marinas in the whole Solent area are found there (350 at Yarmouth, 550 Keyhaven, 1600 Lymington, and 400 Beaulieu)*, but a look at any radar scan will show a notable influx from outside, especially during Cowes Week and at times of other major events. Undoubtedly the pressures mentioned above can impact upon the West Solent’s qualities. There are severe constraints on development through the Local Authority Development Plans and Coastal Management Plans, and the harbour management measures in the Lymingon, Keyhaven and Beaulieu Rivers and greater use of trailer boats will increase noticeably despite a severe shortage of .These totals do not include sailing dinghies. There are, for example, at least 250 in dinghy parks at Keyhaven parking space and ever-growing weekend queues at launch points, as will the huge increase in power-boating, water-skiing, jet-skiing, kite-surfing and other ‘extreme’ sports. The situation could become chaotic in the course of time, the impacts being greatest in terms of congestion, but increasingly in terms of noise and safety on land and water. They will be felt in harbour areas, but more and more on the open water beyond the limits of Harbour Authority and Local Authority jurisdiction, where they can and do now cause disturbance and safety risk. They will also affect wildlife, especially the ‘key risk areas’ listed for monitoring in the Solent European Marine Sites study: vegetation and physical features such as saltmarsh, inter-tidal mudflats and sandflats. There will be cost implications, and the question arises as to whether further recreation management should also be considered outside the Harbour Authority areas.

2.3 In terms of commercial shipping, although there are some 75000 shipping movements in Southampton Water annually, the West Solent with only 3000 of these (plus a small number of naval vessels) is not a busy route, its main use being by the frequent car ferry services from Lymington to Yarmouth. There being no pilotage service available, only a few smaller tankers, container ships and ro-ro vessels pass through the area. The bid by Associated British Ports for Harbour Authority powers in the West Solent might have resulted in an increase, but this was turned down for a number of reasons by the Secretary of State for Transport in 1996. Nevertheless, although incident rates in the Solent as a whole are very low, safety concerns over possible groundings, collisions and oil-spills in the West Solent are still being expressed as a result of a recent report by the Marine Accidents Investigation Board into what was in effect an isolated case.

2.4 The West Solent is a mixed sea fishery, its most significant resource being the inshore shellfishery for native oyster which is carefully regulated and is of international conservation importance. The West Solent’s fishing waters are probably more ‘natural’ than other parts of the Solent, due to less disturbance. The harbours of Keyhaven, Yarmouth and Lymington support about 50 fishing vessels out of a total of some 170 in the Solent as a whole, a total that has declined seriously, although there has probably been an increase in recreational fishing. Information is notably lacking about fisheries in the whole area, ie the ecology, health and exploitation of fish stocks, though it is known that oyster catch rates have declined recently to very low levels. Fisheries legislation is a very complex and contentious matter, but it is clear that the economic future of this local industry is a cause for concern, and that every effort to maintain fish stocks should be supported. This would be considerably helped by a study of the ecological context within which the industry operates, the need for which is becoming essential

2.5 Pressures on the West Solent include those thought likely to result from climate change: rising sea levels, greater frequency of storms, the effect of greater rainfall on river flows, and by changes in temperature affecting marine species but also producing warmer summers for recreation and tourism. Critical lengths of the shoreline are physically protected by various means, but substantial stretches are not. The most immediate effect of these pressures is their impact on features such as Hurst Spit, the salt marshes and, behind them, the sea walls, and the Island’s cliffs. This will result in ‘coastal squeeze’ (eg off Lymington and Keyhaven) , flooding risk, habitat loss, and disturbance to mooring areas, including marinas. The Local Authorities, Environment Agency and English Nature have done much work to monitor change and prepare wide-ranging coastal defence strategies, but Shoreline Management Plans will increasingly require tough decisions with serious financial implications, such as whether to ‘hold the line’ or encourage ‘managed retreat’. It is essential that these plans and others needed in future under the far-reaching Water Framework Directive are closely integrated with land use controls and harbour management measures.

2.6 Pollution levels in air, water and on coastal land in the West Solent are on the whole low, and tidal flushing helps keep this so. Though standards are complicated, controls exercised by the Environment Agency, Local Authorities, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, are exacting. There have been huge investments by Southern Water in water treatment schemes on the mainland and the Island and great efforts have been made to ensure that the area’s three beaches (Lepe, Colwell and Totland) comply with European bathing water standards. Concern continues, however, about the increasing level of beach litter, about agricultural run-off of into rivers, and about the possible residual effects of tri-butyl-tin anti-fouling paints, now banned for use on small boats. Furthermore, since little is known about the ecology of the open waters, as noted above, the effects of pollution there, if any, is uncertain. The Water Framework Directive is likely to result in some re-thinking of pollution control strategies, and its effect on management of the Solent area can only be beneficial.

2.7 Minerals, oil extraction and dredging might be thought to threaten the West Solent, but these are not current issues. Despite the underlying gravel base, no mineral licences are in force from the Crown Estate (gravel extraction even outside the area might affect the stability of Hurst Spit), and oil prospecting has apparently not revealed reserves that are commercially viable. Dredging is only occasional, and for harbour maintenance rather than for capital purposes. Energy policy, on the other hand, may result in significant developments such as wind turbines visible from the water, and, in due course, possibly the use of tidal flows.

3. Benefits of a comprehensive approach

3.1 This brief review of the West Solent’s character, and the recreational, shipping, fishing, climatic, pollution and other problems that may affect it, suggests that although the amount of water-based activity in the East Solent is undoubtedly greater, the natural resources of the West Solent, particularly its landscape and seascape, being of a higher quality, are more sensitive to adverse change. We believe that by their very nature they need special protection. The question arises as to whether their protection is currently adequate, and, if not, how it could be improved.

3.2 On land, the protective measures amount to local planning policies and controls in line with the National Park and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designations. These are comprehensive and, despite the occasional failure, are well attuned to protecting the landscape from inappropriate development. They apply down to low water mark, ie the local government boundaries. When supported by positive action through environmental and recreational management, they can to an extent safeguard against unacceptable daily pressures onshore.

3.3 On the water, controls in sea areas around Britain generally have rightly been described as a ‘minefield’. Within the harbour authority areas of Lymington and Yarmouth there are navigational and other measures, exercised through Harbour Authority powers and local byelaws. Such controls apply in a less statutory sense at Beaulieu, and Keyhaven through ownership of the river beds, and at Newtown through the National Trust. Beyond this, where the right of navigation exists but is governed, especially for safety, by statute and codes of practice, other controls tend to be specific, none being clearly focussed on the ever-growing pressures of recreational use. These controls include ones over dredging and disposal of spoil, land claim from the sea, laying of moorings, effluent discharge, and even commercial fishing. Subject to some procedures for consultation, they are exercised under various provisions, including European Directives, by a range of separate organisations. These include government departments (eg Defra and Department of Transport), and organisations such as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Environment Agency, the Crown Estate (owners of the sea-bed) and the Southern Sea Fisheries Committee.

3.4 Thus there is no marine planning system in the West Solent as comprehensive as that for the mainland and Island, and no formally co-ordinated approach to matters such as the relationship between the environmental ‘carrying capacity’ of sea areas and of the local shore bases from which recreational and other pressures are derived. This is, of course, far from unique to the area, and may not be everyone’s immediate concern. Nevertheless, the sensitivity of the West Solent’s natural resources, the likely future growth of water recreation and other pressures, and the lack of thorough knowledge of its marine ecology, could, despite the ‘precautionary principle’, well reveal long term weaknesses in protection. It remains to be seen to what extent the Government’s commitment to set up a coherent network of marine protected areas and to restore fishing stocks, and the proposed Marine Bill (see section 4 below) will tackle some of these general issues. Meanwhile we think that the case for a close look at the implications for the management of the West Solent is a convincing one.

3.5 Arising from this, and having regard to the main pressures outlined above, we suggest that the following should be considered as general aims for the area:

  • There should be two essential purposes in future policy for the West Solent – conservation of its natural and cultural resources, and improvement of the enjoyment of recreation, controlled to sustainable levels;
  • Priority should be given to the former of these two purposes where there is any serious conflict between them.

Within these general aims:

  • The area’s seascape, coastal landscape, wildlife and archaeological heritage should be conserved and enhanced in a coherent way;
  • Opportunities for recreation should be maintained and where possible increased, with the purpose of providing an enjoyable experience for all at a level that is compatible with the landward access arrangements;
  • Shipping should remain a minor activity, with enhanced safety, and, if possible, some limit on the size of ships;
  • Commercial fishing should be encouraged, to an extent that does not damage biodiversity;
  • The extraction of minerals or oil should not be allowed;
  • Steps should be taken urgently to gain a better understanding of the marine ecology of the area.

Ideally, implementation of these aims would require an overseeing body that can take a strategic view of the area and its needs, exercising control on such matters where appropriate, can give guidance to organisations responsible for day-to-day control, can monitor progress, and can promote research and education in the qualities of the area. Its role would be broadly similar to that of the National Park Authorities that exist in countryside areas of national importance for both landscape and recreation, though with the addition of powers resembling in some respects those of a Harbour Authority. Initially it might take the form of a partnership of Local Authorities, Harbour Authorities and other main stakeholding interests, constituted in such a way as to be able to make authoritative decisions. If, in due course, the area were to be designated as a Marine National Park, the partnership approach should become more formalised and finite boundaries would need to be set. These might include: in the west a line from the Needles to Hurst Spit, in the east between Lepe and Gurnard adjoining the Port of Southampton Harbour Authority area, and in the north and south mean low water mark, the Harbour limits of Lymington and Yarmouth and the mouth of Newtown Creek. Effective cross-boundary co-ordination with adjoining planning and harbour authorities would be essential.

3.6 If one were to work out a ‘balance sheet’ of the advantages and disadvantages of this, one would find on the ‘plus’ side:

  • Social, economic and environmental benefits, due to more attractive recreation, more input to the local economy, and better protection for natural resources

and on the ‘minus’ side:

  • Administrative and financial costs, due to a new level of local control and cross-boundary liaison, and the cost thereof, although in the case of existing National Parks the additional cost is in practice met from central funds.

In our view, provided the new arrangements add value and do not duplicate, the advantages will outweigh the disadvantages. We believe that in the long term more comprehensive management of the West Solent will be required in any case and it would be preferable to set this up in a way that meets conservation and recreational needs, rather than aim it specifically at navigation.

3.7 We note from the summaries of Marine National Parks overseas and in Scotland attached to this report that these aims and their implementation, on the sea and under it, would not be out of line with world-wide practice. Much can be learnt from these areas, for example on the involvement of stakeholders. They do however differ considerably in character from the West Solent in location, size, character, administration (which is sometimes draconian and not without conflict), and finance (though this is usually subsidised by central government). The summaries include a brief description of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy which, though not a National Park Authority, is of particular relevance in its harbour management and conservation role to the type of partnership authority that may be required in the West Solent.

4. The implications of the Marine Bill

4.1 The question arises as to how such aims might be affected by the Government’s proposed Marine Bill, due to be published probably in November 2006 after a consultation period. A London conference on the Bill on October 25th, a fascinating event at which two of members of our Council were present, included addresses by Defra officials who described the Bill’s purpose as: to manage the conflicting demands of recreation, aggregates, shipping, energy and fishing, whilst maintaining conservation objectives. The emphasis in the latter was on biodiversity, especially under the water. We were told that the Bill has all-party support and could include:

  • Introducing a statutory system for Marine Spatial Planning (MSP);
  • Streamlining some of the regulations for development consent (see paragraph 3.3 above);
  • Establishing a possible new marine management organisation (MMO) for planning, consenting and advising. (This might be an executive agency, or a non-departmental public body, and would need special funding);
  • Establishing a framework for protecting important marine areas, species and habitats (referred to in discussion as a Marine Protection Area, MPA);
  • Introducing revised inshore fisheries management measures.

The conference saw this as a fundamental change in such control as there is of sea areas, equivalent to the setting up in 1947 of the post-war town and country planning system on land.

4.2 Little more is known about the detailed contents of the Bill at this stage, but the consultations mentioned above are expected to begin early next year, and will include ‘stakeholder events’. We have already written to Defra putting the case for the Bill to provide for Marine National Parks generally, there was no specific mention of the concept from the conference speakers, although we made the point in the discussion period. We now think that the protection of the West Solent as a Marine National Park in accordance with the aims in paragraph 3.5 above, rather than as a MPA (which seems to be primarily an ecological safeguard), or controlled solely by MSP, should be pursued as soon as possible. By this means the idea could be used to influence the general contents of the Bill as it is being prepared. To await its eventual publication would be to miss a golden opportunity.

4.3 We could not go further than this as effectively by ourselves as would be possible with the help of other organisations, and we think the Solent Forum, of which we are one of the main funding members, might be asked initially to provide a platform for a balanced and authoritative debate to take place. We understand that the Forum may shortly be sponsoring a workshop on the implications of MSP for the whole Solent, and this may be the occasion to introduce the issue, it being important to do so while Defra is still engaged on consultations before publication of the Bill. To expect the Forum to go further and undertake a detailed study, however, would go beyond their current work programme. It might nevertheless be possible, with their help, to initiate an academic research project for this purpose, but to do so would require special funding, for which we would need to find sponsorship. Even if the Bill, as published, did not specifically provide for Marine National Parks, the study would highlight the problems and opportunities of the West Solent and thus provide a base for further consideration of its future.

5. Conclusions: the essential points for action arising from this report

5.1 The need for provision in the Bill for Marine National Parks should continue to be impressed on Defra

5.2 In our opinion the West Solent should, in principle, be designated as a Marine National Park, planned and managed by a partnership of statutory and non-statutory bodies concerned with the area

5.3 In preparation for this we ask the Solent Forum to consider hosting the debate referred to in paragraph 4.3 above and to approach academic institutions in the region, on our behalf, to see whether the related research project can be undertaken. The terms of reference for the project should include defining aims for conservation and management of the area, the boundaries to be adopted, and ways in which it might be administered and funded as a partnership, both in the short and longer term. We should urgently investigate possible sources of funding for the project.

5.4 We should make a suitable press release and inform local MPs, asking for their support

5.5 At an appropriate time we should send copies of this report, for comments, to organisations who might be interested in the idea but are not represented on the Forum’s working party.

6. Acknowledgements

In preparing this paper we have made grateful use of information in the following documents: Strategic Guidance for the Solent (Solent Forum, 1997) Marine Consents Guide (Solent Forum, 2002) State of the Solent, Edition 2, 2004 (Solent Forum) Report of Solent Coastal Management Conference, 2004 (Solent Forum) Planning Guide for Boating facilities (RYA and BMF) Conference Papers for Towards a Marine Bill (CMS, 2005) Websites on overseas and Scottish Marine National Parks The legal structure of marine parks (paper by Christian du Saussay, University of Nice).

Report by Professor A.D.G. Smart, CBE

Preview of West Solent Marine National Park Report

Posted on 04 Jan 2006

Our last two newsletters have had short articles about the idea of having the West Solent designated as a Marine National Park. In preparation for a campaign on this, we have now drawn up a report that describes the idea in detail and looks at the case for it, primarily as a conservation measure. This will shortly be published on our website, and we hope that members will have a look at it and give us their views.

In essence, the report says:

  • The West Solent’s outstanding qualities are widely recognised and are different from those of the East Solent, Southampton Water and Portsmouth Harbour. It is a coastal waterway with few equals in England and Wales, needing special protection. The main pressures on it arise from recreation, but to an extent also from shipping, fishing, climate change, and pollution.
  • Looking at these, it is apparent, firstly, that although the number of craft moorings in the West Solent is small compared with the Solent as a whole, there is a significant influx of coastal and marine recreation from outside, the implications of which need consideration. Secondly, the maintenance of the local fishing industry would be helped by a study of the ecology, health and exploitation of the stock. Thirdly, difficult decisions will have to be made on how to deal with the impact of climate change on the West Solent, and there is likely to be some re-thinking of pollution control strategy for the area as a result of the Water Framework Directive. Fourthly, as there is no marine planning system in the West Solent (and in other sea areas) comparable to those for adjoining land, e.g. the New Forest National Park and the Island’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, its protective status will needs special provision.
  • Ideally, the multitude of users and their interests in the West Solent might well be best co-ordinated, represented, administered and strategically developed through a Marine National Park, covering an area from the Needles/Hurst Spit (in the west) to Lepe/Gurnard (in the east), bounded by mean low water mark and the harbour limits of Lymington and Yarmouth. In our view, the ‘pluses’ of such a Marine National Park outweigh the ‘minuses’.
  • It is important, therefore, that the proposed Marine Bill, to be published in the autumn of 2006, should provide for the establishment of Marine National Parks generally, somewhat on the lines of the landward National Parks that exist in England, Scotland and Wales. We think that it would be better for the Society to pursue this in conjunction with other organisations, rather than alone, particularly if the idea can be debated in the Solent Forum.
  • Thus the aim, in principle, should be to have the West Solent designated a Marine National Park, planned and managed through an appropriate partnership of statutory and non-statutory bodies concerned with the area.
  • And in preparation for this, there is a need to develop in more detail the aims, administration and funding of such a partnership. To do this effectively would require a research study, possibly through one of our local Universities, aided by a financial grant, for which we are seeking a sponsor.

An appendix to the report gives brief particulars of 11 Marine National Parks overseas, proposals for at least one in Scotland, and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

Copies of the report have been sent to Defra who are responsible for drafting the Bill in the first instance. In addition to it being on our website, we now intend to circulate it more widely for comment from interested parties, hoping especially for the support of our MPs.

Report by Professor A.D.G. Smart, CBE

The Marine Archaeology of The Solent

Posted on 03 Dec 2005

 

In this, the third article in a series about the different faces of the Solent, we look at the sub aqua world beneath the familiar surface. The fact is that there are many historical treasures and artefacts, some dating back to the time when the Solent was a river and before the sea level had risen 10,000 years ago, at the time of the last ice age. These are being actively explored by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology which is a charity founded in 1991. Current areas of activity are the Hamble River and Chichester Harbour, where low water, shore line hulk recording is being undertaken, to assess their exploration potential. Survey work is being conducted on the Weston shore of Southampton Water and Langstone Harbour, while at Lepe in the Eastern Solent, underwater investigations have lead to the discovery of a wooden ship. In the Western Solent the submerged landscape off Bouldner Cliff, IOW, and Pitts Deep, New Forest, continue to reveal information about our pre-history. The HWTMA has also created a Marine Heritage Exhibition at Fort Victoria on the Isle-of Wight, dedicated to education about the subject and enhancement of tourism in the area. The work is undertaken by professional archaeologists as well as volunteers.

Discoveries on the seabed are sometimes made by fishermen whose nets become snagged. One example in 2004 was an extensive warship site with characteristic fixtures of cannon, copper pins and sherds of pottery which can assist with identification and dating. Previous examples are HMS ‘Impregnable’, a second rate warship of 1799 and the French ‘Hazardous’ of 1698. The most famous example is the raising and restoration of Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose.

Much of the diving field work involves humbler craft like the old hulks of abandoned barges in the Hamble River. Currently Southampton University students are gleaning valuable information about sea level change. Excavation in Langstone Harbour in 2003, resulted in the raising of an early Saxon Long Boat. It is hoped that radio carbon dating of a piece of heartwood will confirm a fitting date of AD 400-620.

In the Western Solent the underwater cliff face at Bouldner arises from a drowned forest of oaks, probably experienced by Mesolithic people using flint tools. This is the deepest site of its kind to be identified in British Territorial Waters, radio carbon dated to 8,565-8,345 years BC, probably the oldest sequence of oak in Britain. English Heritage funded fieldwork has revealed evidence of Mesolithic flint tools and charcoal remains. Rodent nibbled hazel nuts indicate the changing forestation from pine to deciduous trees. On the opposite side of the Western shore at Pitt’s Deep, divers have been investigating a sloping peat platform which suggests a river bank.

The ‘Oasis’ project is investigating offshore aggregates and species inhabiting historic ship wrecks, to demonstrate the inter dependence of marine life, sea deposits and sunken vessels. The marine areas around the IOW contain some of the most important sand and gravel deposits for extraction in UK waters. The wreck sites form reefs which teem with marine life. The project involves wreck sites on the West Wight.

This summary aims to give some indication of the rich maritime archaeology harboured by the Solent Waters. It also demonstrates how much fascinating and important work is being undertaken by archaeologists, divers, students, fishermen and volunteers. I would like to thank The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology for sourcing the information for this article.

Dr. Chris Willard