At the coast, in areas where land meets the sea, intertidal habitats form. In the Solent, these include mudflats and sandflats, saltmarsh, rocky shores and seagrass beds. These habitats are both home to a range of flora and fauna, but also a source of food for others. The Solent coastline is facing significant pressure from rising sea levels, more frequent and bigger storms, and increased flood and erosion risk. Important intertidal habitats are slowly being lost as they are squeezed against sea defences. Creating new places for coastal habitats and wildlife to thrive is essential to ensure that they are resilient to the challenges of climate change. It will also ensure that local communities can continue to enjoy our treasured coastlines for many years to come.
The Hook with Warsash Nature Reserve, located at the entrance to the River Hamble within the Solent, hosts a variety of coastal habitats which provide shelter for overwintering and breeding birds each year. The coastal footpaths that intertwine the reserve are very popular with the local community and visitors alike. Hook Lake has been chosen as a potential area to create new intertidal habitat to compensate for the loss of this important habitat in the Hamble Estuary and the wider Solent. Enabling the tide to return here will allow other areas to continue to be protected.
Why do we need to create new intertidal habitat?
As well as being important for the many unique plants and animals that live there, intertidal habitats provide natural flood protection, improve water quality, store carbon and are nursery areas for fish.
As sea level rises, important intertidal habitats along the coast will be lost as they are constrained by hard sea defences that mean they are unable to migrate landwards as they would naturally do. This process is called coastal squeeze as the habitat is ‘squeezed’ against the defences (Figure 1) resulting in the loss of our internationally important intertidal features such as mudflats and saltmarsh.
Intertidal habitat is rapidly declining in the Hamble Estuary and the wider Solent as a result of coastal squeeze against existing sea defences, which are relied upon for protection by coastal communities. The creation of new intertidal habitat is a legal requirement and will help to offset these losses today and in the future from new defence schemes. This new habitat must be reinstated in order to enable future coastal defence schemes in our area to progress.
Figure 1: Diagram showing how the presence of coastal defences can lead to coastal squeeze and the loss of intertidal habitats
The Regional Habitat Compensation Programme (RHCP) is a strategic programme run by the Environment Agency which seeks to replace habitats that are lost due to the management of coastal defences. Further information about the RHCP can be found via the Southern Coastal Group and SCOPAC webpages, or by following this link.
Why Hook Lake?
Hook Lake has been chosen as a potential site to create new intertidal habitat as it has the required characteristics for intertidal habitat to thrive and it is already managed as a nature reserve. Historical maps indicate that the site was previously a tidal inlet with Hook River forming a tributary of the Hamble Estuary.
The size and topography of the site means there is space for a variety of habitats to be created ranging from mudflat and saltmarsh, brackish and land-based habitats, and for these habitats to naturally adapt to sea level rise over time.
The potential for intertidal habitat creation at Hook Lake was identified in the both the North Solent Shoreline Management Plan (2010) and the River Hamble to Portchester Coastal Strategy (2016). The Hook Lake Coastal Management Study will build on the work of these earlier plans to understand the potential of the site in more detail, and how it can be managed sustainably in the future.
What is happening?
We are undertaking a two-year study to better understand the site, explore the potential for creating new intertidal habitats, look at wider recreation opportunities and develop preliminary designs for a scheme.
The study will look to at how we can maximise the potential benefits for both local people and wildlife to keep Hook Lake a special place.
The study will not recommend any option or scheme that increases the flood risk to houses or other properties.
The study is likely to run for two years from March 2021 until March 2023.
Who is involved?
Coastal Partners as part of Fareham Borough Council are working in partnership with Hampshire County Council, who own and manage Hook Lake, the Environment Agency and the River Hamble Harbour Authority to deliver this coastal management study.
We have enlisted the professional services of engineering consultancy Binnies (previously known as Black and Veatch) to help us deliver the more technical elements of the study. Binnies have an impressive track record developing designs for similar habitat creation projects around the country including schemes in the Humber and Ribble Estuaries.
How is the project funded?
As this project looks to fulfil a legal requirement to create new habitat, the Hook Lake Coastal Management Study is entirely funded by Government through Defra Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) Grant in Aid.
The study will look to identify the most cost efficient and effective way of creating new intertidal habitat and will develop a business case to seek further Government funding to deliver the scheme. During the study we will also explore other funding opportunities to help deliver additional wider placemaking benefits alongside habitat creation, relating to recreation, amenity and environmental enhancements.
How do I get involved?
Over the next two years, the project team will be talking to the local community, key stakeholders and interested parties, providing an opportunity to contribute to the Study.
You can also sign up to our Fareham coastal projects E-Newsletter, and this will ensure that the latest news is delivered to your inbox.
We will be keeping this website updated with news, as well as adding to our Frequently Asked Questions page.