The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership
An innovative initiative, The Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP) formed an alliance in 2012 to deliver a combined, efficient and comprehensive coastal management service across the coastlines of four local authorities.
These include Fareham Borough Council, Gosport Borough Council, Havant Borough Council and Portsmouth City Council.
The initiative was driven forward by a need for coastal management that recognises coastal flooding and erosion risk impacts are not exclusive to local authority boundaries.
The overarching vision of the ESCP is to reduce the risk of coastal flooding and erosion both to people and the developed and natural environment by encouraging the provision of technically, environmentally and economically sustainable coastal defence and protection measures.
The ESCP approach to coastal management challenges red tape and bureaucratic procedure. This allows a service to operate which fulfils its own vision and expectations whilst also opening up a new approach to delivering coastal flood and erosion protection without the usual obstacles.
The local authorities across the ESCP frontage invest resources each year into maintaining their existing coastal defence structures.
This extends the life of the assets and ensures the appropriate level of protection is sustained. No coastal defence is maintenance free, although in some cases cost can be quite minimal.
Examples of some of the maintenance works undertaken are: shingle recycling; beach nourishment; replacement of timber planking on groynes and revetments; concrete repairs to seawalls; construction/basket repairs to gabion seawalls; re-pointing to masonry seawalls, and construction of permeable concrete revetments.
When making local coastal management decisions along the coastline, it can be difficult to understand whether or not the partnership’s proposals could harm the wider Solent environment.
This can lead to missed opportunities and may delay works on the ground which are required to protect the community from flooding and erosion. The ESCP are therefore working to improve their understanding.
To give an example, it might no longer be possible to justify maintaining a seawall, resulting in coastal flooding to land that is used by birds to roost. Birds require dry land to roost whilst the tide is in, covering the salt marshes and mudflats from which they feed.
This may not be considered a problem if there are other roosting sites available along the Solent coastline, however, if these are a significant distance away, the birds may not have the energy to fly from where they are feeding to where they are roosting.
If this were the case, certain species of bird may no longer visit the Solent because the roost sites are too far away from the feeding areas. This has the potential to harm migratory birds who rely on the Solent’s habitats to feed and rest during their long migrations.
According to the ESCP: “We need to better understand these site links to prevent such a situation and help advise our coastal management decisions. For this, we are proactively working in partnership with stakeholders to understand site links and seek to protect or improve them. An action plan has therefore been agreed with project partners.
“We have significant stretches of coastline which rely on this knowledge to confirm how they will be managed in the future, and therefore we are currently bidding for funds to deliver the action plan.
“The end result should be that we can continue to protect our community from flooding and erosion, whilst maintaining the important network of sites as rich and diverse habitats that plants, wildlife and people can continue to enjoy.”
The coastline the ESCP manage is of local, national and international importance due to the wildlife and habitats that are found there. For this reason, much of this coastline is designated and protected by law.
Locally there are important salt marsh and mudflat habitats along the River Hamble and within Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester harbours.
These are important feeding areas for birds and nursery grounds for fish. Along the open coastline are vegetated shingle beaches, which support plants and insects that are extremely rare in the UK and are therefore of national importance.
Rare species of bird also visit this coastline as they migrate across Europe and internationally. They rely on the coastal environment to feed and rest during their lengthy seasonal migrations.
The natural coastal environment provides a wide range of important benefits, often referred to as ecosystem services.
These include recreation, education, being able to watch and enjoy the environment and provide a great source of inspiration. Having green open spaces available in a highly developed area benefits the local community and visitors alike, which in turn supports local businesses.
The ESCP consider the environment at every stage of coastal management, from developing coastal policy within strategies and plans, to carrying out works on the ground.
The partnership is legally bound to prevent damage to their coastal environment; however this is sometimes unavoidable where communities are at risk of coastal flooding and erosion. In such cases, the partnership would explore compensation and mitigation options to make good any harm.