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 Nature Environment Group. A Project Briefing Note 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.
A Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Group meeting last met on 17th May, to discuss the Phase 3 final draft report and how to implement the Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy. The final Phase 3 report is expected by the next Project Group meeting on 30th May. Natural England have now provided a Position Statement on the SDMP project evidence. In summary, Natural England's Position is that they believe the evidence is robust and do not recommend any further work and as the evidence is seen as the best available . On assessing the evidence, and the implications under the Habitats Directive, they will not be able to conclude that certain new development in the Solent will not cause adverse affects to birds. For this reason, Phase III of the study, The Avoidance and Mitigation Plan, is now required so that any new development has the tools in place to provide the necessary mitigation.
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, Primary Research, included:
- 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).
- Visitor Surveys - 2010 by Footprint Ecology.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Workshop to Disseminate Phase 2
Following the completion of Phase 2, the Solent Forum hosted a workshop on 24th April to disseminate the results. The notes of this workshop are available to download and the presentations are listed below:
- Solent Bird Modelling (April 2012)
- Solent Forum Feedback Report
- Graylingwell Recreational Disturbance Mitigation Project
- Project Level HRA at Tipner
- Isle of Wight Council Island Plan Projects
- The Developer Point of View
- Gosport Borough Council Point of View
- Natural England Perspective
The third and final phase of the work will result in an avoidance and mitigation plan and subsequent strategy. The contract has been let to Footprint Ecology. Natural England is part of the Project Group and wholly supports the project. The avoidance and mitigation plan will have two parts. Firstly it will identify a short-list of potential suitable mitigation measures, including “quick wins,” which could be delivered quickly and easily. The second phase of work will develop a strategy which responds to the evidence base and Natural England’s Position Statement. We anticipate that the avoidance and mitigation plan would be available in the Spring of 2013, for endorsement and adoption by the Local Planning Authorities.
- Solent Disturbance Mitigation Project: Non - technical Summary(pdf file). Published Feb 2012 by Footprint Ecology.
- Household Surveys and Visitor Model work by Footprint Ecology - Data Tables and Map Annexes (Sep 2011)
- Household Surveys and Visitor Model work by Footprint Ecology. Main report. (Sep 2011)
- Next steps: the implications for Habitats Regulations Assessment, presentation by Natural England (Nov 10)
- Workshop mitigation ideas (Nov 10)
- On-site visitor survey results from the Solent region (Oct 10)
- Solent Bird Disturbance and Mitigation Project: Update 1 (Jan 10)
- Phase 1 report (103 pages).
- Solent recreation and disturbance project: Winter bird survey, first year report (Sept 09) - 15mb pdf file.