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Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project

The Solent coastline provides feeding grounds for internationally protected populations of overwintering waders and wildfowl, and is also extensively used for recreation. In response to concerns over the impact of recreational pressure on birds within protected areas in the Solent, the Solent Forum initiated the Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project to determine visitor access patterns around the coast and how their activities may influence the birds. The project has been divided into two phases. Phase I collated and reviewed information on housing, human activities and birds around the Solent, and reviewed the potential impact of disturbance on birds. Phase II has involved a programme of major new data collection to (i) estimate visitor rates to the coast from current and future housing, (ii) measure the activities and distances moved by people on the shore and intertidal habitats, and (iii) measure the distances and time for which different bird species respond to different activities.  Phase III, which is currently on-going, will result in an Avoidance and Mitigation Plan.

The work has been overseen by the Solent Forum Natural Environment Group.  A Project leaflet was prepared at the beginning of the project and the group have also produced a protocol for the release of information.  The Solent Forum do not have a role in interpreting the evidence that the project offers.  The Relevant Authorities have this role and it is likely that Local Authorities will interpret the results as part of the local plan process, guided by a Position Statement from Natural England.

For a general overview of the project please view the Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project: Summary (pdf file).  Published Feb 2012 by Footprint Ecology.


Briefing Note

In August 2013, the SDMP project published a Briefing Note. The purpose of this note is to provide an overview of the implications of the Habitat Regulations for residential development close to the Solent coastline, and how the Project has been taken forward to provide an evidence base and inform a way forward.  The Note has been sent to all Local planning Authorities with a covering letter.  Download the Briefing Note (Aug 2013).

Natural England’s position

Natural England endorse the project evidence, and support the Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy.

Given the large volume of previous studies and the relative complexity of the modelling work used to explore the impact of future housing, Natural England commissioned a scientific peer review of the Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project. This review (ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd. 2012), was finalised in December 2012. Download the Review.

Natural England has written to the relevant local authorities and in the letter concludes “Our advice is that the likelihood of significant effect, in combination arising from new housing development around the Solent cannot be ruled out.” The Solent Forum understands that Natural England wish to work in partnership with local authorities to develop effective solutions.


Phase 1

Phase 1 of the SD&M Project, comprised a Desk Research Study on Recreational Disturbance to Birds (pdf file) and a Methodology for phases 2 and 3.


Phase 2

Phase 2, Primary Research, included:

  1. Results of Bird Disturbance fieldwork: 2009/10.  Bird Surveys assessing disturbance to overwintering birds – 1st Year Report 2009 (Jonathan Cox) and 2nd year report Dec 2010 (Footprint Ecology).
  2. Visitor Surveys - 2010 by Footprint Ecology.
  3. Household Surveys and Visitor Model work by Footprint Ecology main report and Data Tables and Map Annexes. Survey complete and draft results presented April 2011. Final report submitted September 2011.
  4. Modelling the impact of disturbance to birds, awarded to Richard Stillman. Work started July 2010 and was completed in 2011. A workshop held in November 2010 disseminated preliminary results and developed mitigation scenarios that can be used for modelling. Download workshop mitigation ideas tables. Natural England gave a presentation on the implications for Habitats Regulation Assessments at the workshop. Full details of the final outputs are described below.

Excel Data Sets

There are two Excel data sets to support phase II. These should be interpreted using the published reports from the SDMP, which contain copies of the surveys and the methods of the survey data were handled. The two sets are a Solent Visitor data set and a Solent household data set.

Phase II Final Report

The report below represents the culmination of Phase II, in which the primary data are used to predict whether disturbance may be reducing the survival of birds. Predictions are derived for wader species by developing detailed computer models of birds and disturbance within Southampton Water and Chichester Harbour. These models create a virtual environment within the computer incorporating the intertidal invertebrate food supply of the birds, the exposure and covering of this food through the tidal cycle, disturbance from human activities, and the energy requirements and behaviour of the birds as they avoid humans and search for food. The invertebrate food supply of birds in the models was derived from previous intertidal surveys, and the exposure of intertidal habitat predicted from a tidal model of the Solent. The models incorporate the costs that birds incur when avoiding human activities (e.g. increased density in non-disturbed areas, reduced time for feeding and increased energy demands when flying away), but also their abilities to compensate for these costs (e.g. by feeding for longer or avoiding more disturbed areas). The predictions indicate how disturbance may be effecting the survival of waders throughout the Solent.

Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Phase II: Predicting the impact of human disturbance on overwintering birds in the Solent, February 2012 (pdf file).

Workshop to Disseminate Phase 2

Following the completion of Phase 2, the Solent Forum hosted a workshop on 24th April 2012 to disseminate the results.  The notes of this workshop are available to download and the presentations are listed below:

  1. Solent Bird Modelling (April 2012)
  2. Solent Forum Feedback Report
  3. Graylingwell Recreational Disturbance Mitigation Project
  4. Project Level HRA at Tipner
  5. Isle of Wight Council Island Plan Projects
  6. The Developer Point of View
  7. Gosport Borough Council Point of View
  8. Natural England Perspective

Phase 3

The third and final phase of the work provides a suggested avoidance and mitigation strategy.  The work was conducted by Footprint Ecology. Natural England, as part of the Project Group, wholly supports the project. The phase 3 report has two two parts. Firstly identifies a short-list of potential suitable mitigation measures, including “quick wins,”  which could be delivered quickly and easily. The second part develops a strategy which responds to the evidence base and Natural England’s Position Statement. The Phase 3 report has now been released, for endorsement and adoption by the Local Planning Authorities.


Interim Mitigation Strategy and Partnership

An interim mitigation strategy has now been prepared by the local authorities within 5.6 kilometres of the Solent coastline in collaboration with Natural England and key stakeholders. These organisations have established the Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership to coordinate implementation and monitoring of the strategy. The strategy document and information about the Partnership can be viewed shortly on the Partnership's new website.


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