Joint press release RSPB and HIWWT

Plans for Portsmouth ‘super peninsula’ should be binned not backed, say wildlife charities

– 4000 new homes and new marine hub
would rip up internationally important wildlife site and tear a hole through legal safeguards

– Development could destroy vital line of natural defence against rising sea levels, meaning the public will pay over decades to keep new homes above water.

– Portsmouth people set to lose vital part of their natural heritage “the nature equivalent of a developer proposing to demolish the city’s historic dockyard and sink the HMS Victory” 

Wildlife charities are today calling for a major development to be stopped. The proposal is to locate 4000 new houses and a 1 million sq ft marine hub on the western edge of Portsea Island at Tipner West.  

The RSPB and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) say that the development will destroy parts of the harbour that are vital for nature and valuable for the city’s long-term sustainability. 

However, despite very clear environmental impacts, the city council has recently given the green light to spend approximately £8m to move forward to the planning application stage.

Nick Bruce-White, RSPB Operations Director for Southern England said, “This is one of the most significant threats to wildlife from a development we have seen in recent times, not just locally, but nationally. Portsmouth Harbour is of international importance, especially for its wintering waterbirds, such as brent geese, black tailed godwits and other wading birds. The development will utterly destroy vital feeding and roosting grounds as well as causing long-term disturbance to any wildlife that remains. 

The site is of huge value not just for the birds, but for the people of Portsmouth who appreciate the richness and value of the wildlife on their doorstep. It’s the nature equivalent of a developer proposing to demolish the city’s historic dockyard and sink the HMS Victory. We are not arguing here about the need for housing and development. We know how difficult it is for Portsmouth to satisfy the housing targets it has been set and this is perhaps forcing it to consider this outlandish idea.  But this is totally the wrong place for this proposal. 

We find it difficult to believe, in the current climate and ecological emergency, that a proposal to drain and concrete over an area with the highest level of protection for wildlife is even being considered at all by the planners. We also question whether the £8m proposed to merely prepare the planning application is best use of money right now”.

The development will claim approximately 67 acres of mudflat from Portsmouth Harbour’s Special Protection Area and Ramsar site.  This will almost double the existing land footprint.  

The area is given protection because of its importance to populations of dark-bellied brent goose, black-tailed godwit, dunlin and red-breasted merganser. The brent-goose, in particular, is something of a local celebrity – with Portsmouth proudly hosting 30% of the UK’s population.  The mudflats are also home to a thriving ecosystem of micro-organisms and invertebrates and provide an important nursery ground for fish such as bass. 

The wildlife charities point out in addition to the effects on wildlife, disturbance of the mudflats will release carbon currently locked away and reduce the ability to store more.  They add that the loss of natural habitat will also increase the danger of erosion, while additional housing here will inevitably increase the strain on water treatment infrastructure, limited water supplies and increase recreational pressure on Portsmouth’s few green patches and the unique nature of the Solent coastline.

Even more fundamentally, the charities say, the plan to build a defended new urban area in this location is highly unsustainable, given the predicted rises in sea-level.

Commenting on the planned development, Debbie Tann, Chief Executive of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “This proposal beggars belief.  In a time of crisis for the environment, health and the economy, spending millions of pounds of public money pursuing plans to destroy internationally important natural assets and undermine the city’s long-term sustainability is crazy. 

These vital natural resources, once lost, can’t be replaced or compensated for.  We urgently need to re-think development at a local and national level. In the drive to ‘build, build, build’, we can’t just ride rough shot over legal safeguards and turn our back on commitments to avert an ecological catastrophe.    

If we don’t start prioritising nature’s recovery, our cities will quickly become inhabitable for both wildlife and people”.

The RSPB’s recent Greenspace Report detailed the public support for nature, with eight out of ten people agreeing that the number of nature-rich areas should be increased.   Similarly, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust conducted a survey during the first lockdown which showed almost unanimous support (99%) for governments’ role in making sure there is more accessible green space in urban environments.

The public are being asked to support a petition opposing this development – click here.


6 Replies to “Joint press release RSPB and HIWWT”

  1. Pressure for more houses and more places to make money? Could that be related to the excessive numbers of people in our country by any chance? To lots of people having too many children by any chance?
    What would we say if it was some other species of animal?

  2. It’s a war on our wildlife.
    Everywhere you turn you see concrete being poured on important sites.
    It seems as if they look for important habitat and then decide what they can build on it

  3. Oh god another bloody one! It would be a rather radical step to take, but the recurring problem of land lost to more housing could be eased somewhat by going against the grain and pushing for the return of the high rise flat. They’ve a very small land footprint compared to typical housing and there are plenty of other environmental benefits including greater efficiency re heating. They can also have a launderette rather than every flat having a washing machine and tumble drier, a situation I’d love.

    It might be a bit un PC for conservation organisations to promote high rise flats after they became a convenient scapegoat for social problems. I remember at school being told that it was the loss of community spirit when people could no longer lean over the garden fence to talk to neighbours that led to rampant vandalism and drug abuse. I thought that was a load of crap then and the number of initiatives where people enjoyed living in high rises when anti social elements were chucked bears this out.

    The high rises in Falkirk are set amongst lovely parkland (much of which would have been concreted over by standard housing estates) and are extremely well maintained. It helps when the people who live there don’t wreck it and the council has been selective who it lets live in them, mainly older people who have no problem being there. People who somehow think high rises are bad for the environment because they intrude into the skyline should have the alternative pointed out to them – a considerably larger area of land including wildlife habitat built over.

  4. This land was once the navel firing ranges, MOD bits, a scrapyard and a dump.
    It’s now a place you empty the dog every day.
    I have little sympathy with the Trust and RSPB; as usual they do their stand-up comedy act, crying foul long after the match has ended, HS2 being a pretty good example. Their hope for a shiny white knight to arrive to the rescue, isn’t going to happen.
    This proposal has been on the table for at least 10 years, interested parties, corporations and other have all a vested interest in seeing its fruition. The marina being the key, they tried Langstone Harbour first as it was a better fit.
    But before we judge this development we look at what’s happening nearer home, that new estate, the for sale signs by a wood or field.
    The Tipner development is a small part of what is happening along the south coast as extensive building is rapidly proceeding towards Brighton and they’re building down through the Berkshire/Hampshire corridor, much of it on heathland.
    But we have witnessed something unique over the past 8 months, land prices have trebled, and these fees are being paid. For a modest land investment in February you are now an asset rich millionaire. They may not start building straight away, but the future doesn’t look good. I can’t blame the farmer or land owner for flogging the fields, you’ll get enough money to purchase a pretty good gaff in Somerset or Devon with land – happy days!
    What we need is our conservation charities to show some balls, the CEO’s to come down from their luxurious ivory towers and actually do something for which they get paid a lot of money – start conserving the UKs wildlife.
    I’m very much against the Trust purchasing new chalk-hill farms, land ownership looks good in the asset column of the balance sheet, but this is a conservation charity, not a land asset company. Having eyes too big for your stomach, results in your other reserves degrading.

  5. 67 acres claimed from an SPA (RSPB/HIWWT); or a place to empty the dog (Mr Bickerton)… It can’t be both. Who knows? Mr B has a real bee in the bonnet about NGOs, so I’m inclined to discount his view. Is it cut and dried that “build, build, build” will always win? A navel (sic) range would seem a good place to fire a shot over their bows…

Comments are closed.