Caring for the coast
Hampshire County Council, through its policies of land acquisition and its management of sites, is in a unique position to protect and conserve. Many of its sites are designated for conservation, and the County Council is leading the production of a coastal biodiversity plan with the aim of identifying and protecting priority habitats and species.
The County Council plays an important role in caring for our coastline through the provision of Nature Reserves and coastal defence, through environmental improvement, and through protection against pollution.
The County Council manages some important sites on the coast as nature reserves, including:
Lymington-Keyhaven Coastal Nature Reserve: an extensive area of unspoilt grazing marshes and saline lagoons in the shelter of Hampshire’s largest shingle beach (Hurst Spit)
Calshot Marshes Local Nature Reserve: a superb example of coastal saltmarsh, rich in bird life
Mercury Marshes, Hacketts Marsh and Hook-with-Warsash Nature Reserves on the lower estuary of the River Hamble: between them these reserves encompass extensive mudland, saltmarsh, shingle beach, reedbeds, brackish lagoons, wet pasture, scrub and woodland.
Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve: one of Hampshire’s finest reserves, with reedbeds, fen vegetation and wet pasture flanking the River Meon, and man-made ‘scrapes’ (shallow freshwater lagoons with islands) that provide an ideal habitat for birds.
The Kench Local Nature Reserve: a small area of inter-tidal mud and saltmarsh within Langstone Harbour, close to the harbour entrance, near the south-western tip of Hayling Island
Gutner Point Nature Reserve: an extensive area of species rich and relatively undisturbed saltmarsh on the east side of Hayling Island.
Sandy Point Nature Reserve: on the south-eastern corner of Hayling Island, this site is a unique mixture of coastal habitats found nowhere else in Hampshire (a complex mixture of sand dune, shingle, heath, grassland and mixed scrub)
The County Council has sought opportunities to improve the environment of the coast, either on its own land or on other sites in partnership with other organisations.
In the past 10 years environmental improvement schemes have been funded by the County Council in a number of locations which are listed under the projects page.
The natural processes of tides, winds, waves and currents are constantly influencing a dynamic coastline such as Hampshire’s. The prospect of sea level rise and increased storminess presents growing threats to many coastal sites.
'Coastal defences' is the general term used to encompass both coastal protection against erosion and sea defence against flooding. They consist of soft defences (beach replenishment) and hard defences (sea walls, revetments and groynes), and are generally the responsibility of District Councils and the Environment Agency.
However, as a major coastal landowner, the County Council has had to spend considerable sums of money to defend its land from the sea, especially where important features and assets are at stake. Where this has been necessary, the Authority has been anxious to use materials that have the least impact on the environment. For example, the groynes built to maintain the beach at Lepe Country Park were made of timber from sustainable sources.
The County Council is carrying out a review of the effects of climate change on its coastal landholdings, with the aim of agreeing with other relevant agencies (e.g. the district councils, the Environment Agency and Natural England) a sustainable long-term strategy that works with- rather than against- natural processes.
Pollution and safety
Hampshire County Council provides an emergency planning unit to deal with major incidents such as pollution. The Unit is responsible for overseeing that Hampshire County Council is prepared to act in an emergency such as pollution and helps to assist in the preparedness of the Districts and Boroughs. Comprehensive instructions for dealing with oil and chemical pollution are contained in the Hampshire County Council coastal oil and chemical pollution plan maintained by the Emergency Planning Unit.
In the event of a major oil pollution incident affecting the Hampshire coastline, the County Council has a responsibility to assist with oil on beaches in terms of providing districts with additional resources for clearance activities. District councils remain responsible for physical clearance in respective areas of jurisdiction, although the County Council will co-ordinate operations in the event of widespread pollution affecting more than one district. In the event of a major incident of chemical pollution the County Council through the County Oil and Chemical Pollution Officer (COCPO) is responsible for co-ordinating reports, the notification of the incident to government departments and to other authorities. Co-ordination of action within the County is undertaken.as appropriate, and general assistance to district councils including the co-ordination of assistance from sources outside the county.
The Solent Water Quality Association which is managed by the Solent Forum plays an important role in the promotion of good water quality in the Solent. It supports and complements the work of Local Authorities, the Environment Agency and other agencies in protecting and improving the quality of recreational water and the coastal environment.