Coastal Partners is proud to operate within a naturally diverse, complex and beautiful coastal environment that is internationally recognised for the habitats and species it supports. All 162km of the coastline we manage is protected by law for its ecological importance. In addition, large areas of our coastline include nationally significant heritage and archaeological assets, including Scheduled Ancient Monuments and listed historic buildings and structures. Therefore, we aim to manage our coastline with a great deal of care and respect for our natural and historic environment.
Protecting coastal communities from the risks of flooding and erosion can significantly impact our natural and historic environment, which is why at every stage of the coastal management process, from the development of coastal policy to carrying out construction works, care is taken to prevent harm and identify opportunities for improvement. Our vision is to enhance the natural and historic environment through our work.
Currently, Coastal Partners has a team of nine specialist environmental officers. Our day to day activities include:
· Undertaking specialist habitat and species surveys to understand and monitor our natural coastal environment. This includes bird, bat, reptile and vegetation surveys, to give a few examples. Data from these surveys is used to assess the significance of any coastal area, prior to planning and designing works or setting policies. It is also used to monitor the impact of our activities during and after works. For example, we undertook behavioural bird surveys of a small and locally important colony of Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima) as part of the Southsea Coastal Scheme to ensure our works would have minimal impact on this species.
· The team inputs to the development of coastal management policies and the design of new coastal defences to ensure they have the lowest level of impact on the natural environment. In some instances, it is impossible to build new coastal defences without having a negative impact and in these cases, we look for solutions to enhance other parts of the coastline. For example, we removed an old quay structure from within Langstone harbour to provide new mudflat habitat for feeding birds, to mitigate unavoidable habitat loss elsewhere.
· We undertake environmental impact, habitat regulations and water framework directive assessments and pull together all the information needed to apply for planning permissions, marine licences and all other consents. We have successfully secured permissions for the North Portsea Island, Southsea and Hill Head (Fareham) coastal defence works and a Beach Management Plan on Hayling Island, as a few examples.
· The team work closely with the Environment Agency to deliver the Solent and South Downs Regional Habitat Compensation Programme and we are currently planning the creation of significant areas of saltmarsh habitat, to offset historic and future losses of this valuable habitat across our region.
· We have been working with universities and experts across the UK to design and test new and innovative environmental enhancement initiatives that will change the way coastal defences are delivered, sometimes referred to as ‘greening the grey’ or ‘blue-green infrastructure’. For example, some of our future sea walls will be carefully textured to allow vegetation to grow on the wall, as an alternative to having plain concrete walls, devoid of life.
Balancing the need to protect our communities from coastal flooding with protecting our natural and historic environment from our works is a significant challenge, but Coastal Partners has invested heavily in its environmental team to give every opportunity to getting the balance right.