Planning in the Solent

Planning in the Solent

Posted on 08 Nov 2008

Policy Developments

1. The Society considers that with the development of the EU Marine Strategy, integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and the Marine Bill there is a clear trend, both nationally and internationally towards coordinated policy-making for marine areas. If the Marine Bill is enacted in the next Parliamentary session it is probable that some form of statutory integrated marine planning will soon be introduced.  How such a requirement is implemented in busy areas with internationally important recreational and environmental resources, such as the Solent, will be critical to its acceptance and operation to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

2. As a conservation group with long experience of and interest in the Solent as a whole, we have tried to look constructively at this issue.  We previously proposed that the Western Solent should form a marine national park and we further considered the issue in the light of the responses to our earlier consultation document and research work commissioned by the Society.

3. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will almost certainly be required in the Solent as a whole. As we understand it, MSP, working within national strategic guidelines, would set objectives and policies for the whole and specific parts of the area, covering activities above and below the surface up to Mean High Water Springs, and is likely to be followed where necessary by management schemes.  All public bodies involved in the marine area and the immediate shoreline would need to contribute to the process, for which the leadership of a national Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is proposed in the Bill. We think that the Solent, being a busy stretch of water with environmental, economic and recreational resources of national and international value and a great variety of pressures, may well be selected by Government for a pilot study.

  How might MSP be arranged in the Solent?

4. The Society considers that it would require a strategic and proactive approach, for which the necessary wide range of expertise and data would not be fully available in any single organisation in the area. The process must be inclusive and transparent, giving opportunity for stakeholder views to be involved at all the main stages. One option would be for the proposed MMO to have the role alone, subject to local consultation, but being concerned primarily with national and international perspectives and not having a strong local connection, this “top down” approach would not work well in an area with the detailed local problems of the Solent. Furthermore it is clear from the Policy Paper to the Marine Bill that setting up the MMO might take a considerable time. Another option might be for the Solent Forum to do the job, but the Forum’s size and essentially advisory (rather than executive) role may render it unsuited for the difficult policy decisions that will almost certainly be required for individual parts of the area. These might include, for example, the relative priority to be given to conservation, recreational uses, shipping routes, economic development and the relation with hinterland planning, fisheries,, minerals, and administrative matters such as the  future extent of harbour authority areas.

5. A third option might be for the process to be administered by a specific partnership of Local Authorities and Harbour Authorities, in association with the MMO, other official agencies and major private and voluntary groups. Local and Harbour Authorities have the advantage of being statutory bodies with detailed knowledge of the area, strong local connections, and a role that is well understood.

6. One particular problem affecting how MSP is administered in the area is that the East Solent, with Southampton Water, differs considerably from the West Solent. It is relatively urbanised, has very intense recreational pressures, and is the principal approach for large container ships, tankers and cruise liners and, for Portsmouth Harbour, large naval vessels. Furthermore its open waters are largely within the areas of two major Harbour Authorities (ABP and QHM).

7. By comparison, the West Solent, while sharing with the East Solent a range of wildlife sites of international value, has a more continuous assembly of them. It has a more relaxed atmosphere for recreational sailing and coastal enjoyment, being within a nationally recognised landscape and seascape setting: the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, on the mainland, the New Forest National Park. It also contains sensitive shellfish resources.

8. In administrative terms, however, it does not have the East Solent’s comprehensive harbour authority coverage, despite having as wide a range of problems which are intensified by the fragile nature of its setting and ecological value. Because its Harbour Authorities and other management bodies are very separate and most do not cover the open sea, management of the West Solent is fragmented and uncoordinated. Furthermore, as with the East Solent, numerous public authorities and agencies have responsibilities in the area (some fifteen in the West Solent itself).   These complications would make it difficult to coordinate planning and management there and to give the West Solent a “voice” in ensuring that MSP is finely balanced over the Solent area as a whole.

Is there a need for coordination in the use of the West Solent?

9. We believe that there is a strong case for this, arising primarily from the Marine Bill.  There are various ways in which co-ordination in the West Solent might be achieved, and we have given much thought to possible forms of organisation. After considering the advantages and disadvantages of designation as a marine national park or marine conservation area, and having taken soundings on these and other possibilities, our preference would be for a non-statutory body to be set up in the form of a partnership of public and other interests, i.e. a joint committee. We reckon that this could consist of about twenty organisations including Local Authorities, the New Forest National Park Authority, Harbour Authorities, Statutory Agencies, RYA and major voluntary sector organisations, truly representative of the local, regional and national context of the area, including its economic importance. The additional cost of what would be a minor commitment (perhaps one designated staff member, whole or part time, with inputs from key staff in some of these organisations) would thus be shared amongst several public bodies that could probably provide much of the necessary expertise collectively.


10. Prime amongst the terms of reference of this body would be a mandate to oversee, in consultation with those responsible for the East Solent, the development of marine spatial planning aims, policies and zoning for the area, and to formulate, within this, a programme. Research, eg into the impacts of pressures of all kinds, would also be an important role. It would be a consensus-building organisation, and would have informal advice as necessary from consultation with stakeholders who are not directly represented on the joint committee.  A possible scheme is set out in the Annex to this paper.

11. Cost and staff-sharing partnerships of this kind have worked well in the management of the 41 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales, and a few of these have now become statutory Conservation Boards. Indeed, we can foresee the possibility that a statutory body like the Chichester Harbour Conservancy might ultimately be developed by the partnership, having planning, harbour management and conservation roles and based, essentially, in local democracy. The need for this might become particularly important if the West Solent were ultimately to be designated as a Marine Conservation Area in accordance with powers in the Marine Bill, as its implementation may involve specific statutory processes.

12. We imagine that the implications of MSP for the Solent are already being studied by Local Authorities, Harbour Authorities and Government Departments and Agencies, possibly also by recreational, wildlife, shipping and business interests, individually and through the Solent Forum. So we commend this approach to them for further consideration

13. In doing so, we emphasise that we do not see any need for additional legal constraints or regulation, nor extensive monitoring. Apart from the possibility of a significant oil spill, there is no serious conflict between recreation and shipping in the West Solent. So far as wildlife conservation is concerned, the Solent European Marine Sites Management Scheme (SEMS, published in 2004) has identified areas of risk and has set guidelines for specific areas that do not cover the West Solent as a whole. Voluntary codes of practice, of which there is much successful experience in the Solent generally, could be developed further as the need arises. Furthermore we do not see a risk of undue financial burden on individual local organisations if the partnership approach that we advocate is adopted.

Possible composition of and terms of reference for a West Solent Joint Committee

1. Membership

1.1 Local Authorities:  HCC, IOWC, NFDC, NFNPA 1.2 Harbour Authorities and estate harbour managers: Lymington HC, Yarmouth HC,       Cowes HC, National Trust, Beaulieu Estate, and ABP (as a corresponding       member) 1.3 Quangos: EA, NE, Crown Estate, MCA, S Sea Fisheries (or successor), MMO 1.4 Voluntary sector: RYA, SCRA, SPS, Solent Forum, Marine Archaeology Association, Wildlife Trust

2. Terms of reference

2.1 To ensure that the interests of the West Solent, its coast and waters, are adequately        represented in strategic marine planning for the Solent as a whole 2.2 To assemble information for such strategic planning 2.3 To advise its members on policies for the West Solent’s waters and shorelines in fulfilment of the strategic plan 2.4 To raise and discuss cross-sectional planning issues affecting the West Solent’s shoreline and waters 2.5 To advise its members on necessary research programmes 2.6  To consult regularly with organisations directly interested in the West Solent

Submitted by Professor Gerald Smart

Summary of the Concerns in West Wight Presentation

Posted on 26 Apr 2008

The following points have emerged from meetings with interested parties and residents in West Wight. At the Yarmouth end of the route there is a different emphasis on the issues from that in Lymington. Focus is on traffic issues.

  • All residents support the need for a modern, reliable ferry service.
  • Operational risk and environmental damage are not major issues. However there are points in the Lymington risk assessment that should be followed up as relevant to Yarmouth.
  • Marshalling of vehicles waiting to load is already tight at peak times and traffic backs on to the main road. Increased loads will be difficult to manage without finding new solutions. A proposed new layout which impacted on the coach stops and roundabout was recently rejected. The land affected is partially owned by the YHC and partly by the Council. All these issues are serious and outstanding. Long term, flood defence requirements are likely to further limit capacity. There is concern that this issue remains unresolved.
  • There is considerable conjecture that whilst current Wightlink management have publicly stated that commercial policy with regard to heavy commercial traffic will not change, this is voluntary and could not be enforced if management or ownership were to change. A policy change would have a considerable adverse impact on residents, enjoyment of the harbour and the West Wight roads.

These concerns are increased by information available about the vessels and other related issues:-

  • They are ‘designed for … change in traffic mix on the route’, have ‘flexibility to carry a greater and more varied traffic load’. (Ref Wightlink website)
  • They have a much greater carrying capacity for heavy, large vehicles than the current vessels with the increased height being particularly notable.
  • The substantial investment will require a new level of financial return. Increased capacity utilisation is a particularly well known method to achieve this. Handling more, larger commercial traffic outside of peak car and coach movements is now possible.
  • There is already great pressure on the access roads to Fishbourne so switching could be forced on Wightlink.

Reported by SPS Council Member Antony Matusch

West Solent

Posted on 01 Apr 2008

It had been hoped to publish a final condensed version of this paper in the spring newsletter. However, in view of the publication by the government of The Marine Bill in the first week of April, it has been decided to defer this action until the working party has had a chance to study the 600-700 pages of the Bill, which will be relevant to the management proposals from SPS. Initially The Society was proposing a Marine National Park but in view of general adverse reaction to this idea it has changed its concept to that of a modified version of a marine conservation area.

Undoubtedly The Marine Bill is a very important and overdue milestone for the British marine environment, particularly the Solent waters. It deserves careful study prior to the drafting of The Society’s official response, which has to be submitted by June 26th. Anyone wishing to read The Marine Bill can find it online at:

Chris Willard

West Solent

Posted on 01 Oct 2007

Following the first round of consultation and the academic research commissioned by the Society we have concluded that the proposal for a Marine National Park is not viable. However the Society considers that there is an on-going need for overall management of the Western Solent given the wide range of users and potential threats to the environment. In view of this a second consultation paper is being prepared setting out possible alternative approaches.

Society axes proposal for Marine National Park and calls for a more flexible and sensitive approach to managing marine areas

Posted on 16 May 2007

Solent Protection Society (SPS) is to urge the Government to adopt a more sophisticated and flexible approach to managing marine areas which are subject to a number of different uses.

In its response to the White Paper on the Marine Bill, Solent Protection calls for a more thoughtful and sensitive approach. SPS Chairman, Professor Malcolm Forster, said:

“The Marine Conservation Zone concept in the White Paper is essentially a hierarchy of traditional protected areas. This is a twentieth-century concept and out of touch with the expectations of users of the near offshore. SPS discovered this when it consulted on its now-abandoned proposal for a Marine National Park in the West Solent. The idea attracted a lot of flak and forced us back to the drawing-board. It seems to us that what is needed is a much more imaginative approach, where competing uses and interests in the sea-space are integrated, rather than relegated in favour of a “super-interest”, even if that is conservation-related.

“SPS is calling for a new approach, where the near-offshore is managed so that each use of the area interferes with the others to the minimum extent possible. We see this as the way ahead in complex areas like the West Solent, where we think conservation can successfully cohabit with other uses, including sailing and other water-based recreation. In these areas (which SPS calls Marine Multiple Use Areas), regulators should employ a lighter touch, if they are not to forfeit public support. On the other hand, all interests in the near offshore, not just government and the conservation bodies, will have to muck in to ensure that a balanced strategy can be hammered out. Government, even in the form of a Maritime Management Organisation, does not have the expertise or experience to achieve the delicate balance needed to deliver, which is why SPS feels that direct involvement of other interests in devising and implementing marine plans is essential.”

The West Solent – Looking For Balance

Posted on 04 Apr 2007

Since the last Newsletter appeared, the Society has been engaged on an preliminary round of consultations in relation to its proposals for the management of the West Solent. Consultees have included a wide range of mainly public organisations, including harbour authorities, yachting associations and conservation bodies. Undertaken with the valuable assistance of Kate Pike, a researcher from the Southampton Solent University, the consultations were enormously useful in enable the Society to refine its views.

As a result, the Society has concluded that its original suggestion for a Marine National Park in the West Solent is not at present achievable, even though the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 provides for such Parks in Scotland and there are many overseas. Our consultations revealed strong opposition to the concept in this region, possibly as a result of continuing ill-feeling locally about the background to the designation of the New Forest National Park. In addition, the Society felt that, in view of the vital importance of navigational, recreational and other economic uses of the West Solent, the over-riding precedence given to conservation interests inherent in the Sandford Principle applicable in National Parks may be inappropriate, to say nothing of the difficulties of applying it in the near offshore. What is really required in an area like the West Solent is a management regime in which each of the various interests in the area impinges on the other to the minimum extent possible. Otherwise, some interests are bound to be prejudiced, but such a regime is unlikely to be achieved without some organisation to deliver it – and there’s the rub!

The Society’s Parliamentary Panel argued very forcibly that the Society’s objectives for the West Solent should (if at all possible) be targeted on the forthcoming Marine Bill and the MPs offered to lend what legislative assistance they can to ensure that the Bill provides an avenue to achieve our goal for the West Solent. The Bill does not provide at present for the kind of regime we have in mind, but (for the moment) the Society is proposing the following structure:-

  • That the West Solent should become a Marine Conservation Area (MCA) (The Consultation Document issued by DEFRA on the Bill sees MCAs as the areas which require the most sophisticated degree of management).
  • That Marine Spatial Planning should recognise the Solent’s importance for recreation and that such planning should be introduced for the whole of the Solent as a matter of priority. (SPS understands that Hampshire County Council is inclined to favour this approach).

The legal framework for each of these elements is likely to be provided for in the Bill. Our third proposal, however, is not. It is that:-

  • That the West Solent management agency must balance conservation, recreation and other economic issues and that should therefore represent a mixture of public and private interests, including Public bodies (such as the County, Unitary and District Councils, New Forest National Park Authority, the harbour authorities, Natural England, Environment Agency, English Heritage, the Crown Estate, Southern Sea Fisheries Committee and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency) and Private sector stakeholders in the local economy (including representatives of local landowners, sailing, tourism, conservation and other interests).

Ideally, the public and private elements in composition of the authority ought to be approximately equal in weight.

The Society sees such a model as striking a balance between conservation and other interests in the West Solent and its vision of a management body which is truly representative of all those interests and not simply another ‘off-the-peg’ quango is central to securing the support of local interests.

The Society will continue to promote this vision during the consideration of the Government’s White Paper on the Bill.

Report by Professor M. Forster

Solent Protection Society Celebrates 50 Years

Posted on 23 May 2006

Solent Protection Society celebrated its 50th anniversary with a lunch for over 140 people at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes on 19th May.

Members and guests including Chris Huhne, MP for Eastleigh and Peter Viggers, MP for Gosport, heard the Society’s former President, Maldwin Drummond, a founder member of Solent Protection, talk about the Society’s work since its inception in 1956, including the successful opposition to an oil refinery in the Hamble River, a nuclear power station at Newtown River and an oil fired power station at Fawley.

More recently Solent Protection Society worked with other organisations and associations to oppose successfully the Container Ship Port at Dibden Bay and larger ferries on the route between Lymington and Yarmouth.

The Society continually monitors planning, development and pollution matters in the Solent area and, as a result of a successful campaign in 2004/05, reached an understanding with oil companies operating in Solent waters that they will use only double hull tankers, significantly diminishing the possibility of an oil spill in the Solent.

Mr Peter Nicholson, who became Solent Protection Society’s President last November, said that there were even more challenges for the Society in the future including the pressure for more development, the demand for more marina space, the importance of developing sustainable energy programmes and, in particular the Society is keeping a close eye on developments with the Government’s Marine Bill which is now pending.

Solent Protection has put forward a proposal for a Marine National Park in the Western Solent and has recently commissioned a research project on the subject, the results of which will be available later this year.

Referring to the proposed Marine National Park, Mr Nicholson said: “If properly set up this must make sense  although many people will be afraid that it will simply bring with it increasing levels of bureaucracy and management by civil servants with no relevant local experience. It will need careful planning to be successful and existing harbour authorities will probably be reluctant to support any proposal like this, but the Department of the Environment has reacted quite favourably so far to our paper on the matter and we expect to hear more in the autumn.”

Call for West Solent Marine National Park

Posted on 09 Mar 2006

The West Solent, a beautiful and busy waterway which stretches from Lepe Beach to The Needles, is under ever growing and conflicting pressures.

Popular with tourists, walkers, boating and watersport enthusiasts and fishermen, the Western Solent is also used by some commercial shipping, as well as the ferry service from Lymington to Yarmouth.

The Solent Protection Society is mounting a campaign to make the West Solent a Marine National Park, balancing its use for recreation with the conservation of its setting, its wildlife, fisheries and archaeological remains.

Professor Gerald Smart, representing the Society, says “We have drawn up a report that looks at the problems, and how the multitude of interests might best be co-ordinated by a partnership of mainly local organisations, in line with Marine National Parks in other parts of the world. We hope that our ideas will get a lot of support”.

There is a huge growth of interest in conservation of sea areas, and the Society hope that the Government’s proposed Marine Bill may allow Marine National Parks to be officially designated and funded.

Solent Protection Society is consulting widely on the report.

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