The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Human Use

The Solent, like many other coastal areas around the UK, has many human demands placed upon it. For centuries people have lived by the Solent, used its natural resources for trade and recreational pursuits and located their businesses adjacent to its shores.

The dominant forces which have influenced the Solent over the last century are the growth of urban settlement on the coastal plain with its associated land development and reclamation for commerce, defence and recreation. Such pressures on the coastal plain are likely to continue into the future and will be exacerbated by population increases, sea level rise and changing weather patterns. Currently 1.5 million people live around the Solent.

Mainland Shore

The Hampshire coast includes parts of the districts of Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, New Forest, Test Valley and Winchester, Hampshire County Council has coastal landholdings. Its two main urban centres are the Unitary Authority cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. These cities, together with adjacent settlements form an almost continuous spread of loose knit suburban development along the Solent's 370km coastline.

Portsmouth City Council has adopted a Seafront Master Plan that sets out a vision for the city's seafront area, provides planning guidance, identifies further enhancement and development opportunities, and highlights elements of the seafront that should be conserved.

More information on housing, the economy and transport for South Hampshire is available from the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH).

Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight covers an area of 147 square miles, with a coastline that runs for 57 miles. The Island is separated from the mainland but is connected to the ports of Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth by passenger and vehicle ferries. The overriding character of the Island is rural but over 60% of the 143,7001 residents live within the main towns of Newport, Cowes, East Cowes, Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin. Newport is the County Town of the Island and is the main employment centre, with the majority of public sector employers based there.

In line with national trends, the Island has an ageing population. The 2001 Census indicated that 28.4% of the population was aged 60 and over (compared to 21% nationally). Forecasts indicate that the Island's population will continue to grow between 2006 and 2026, principally through in-migration, with the number of people over retirement age increasing to around 36% of the population.

The structure of its local economy is changing with retailing, manufacturing, construction, health and business services being the five largest employment sectors. Traditionally, the largest sectors were tourism, manufacturing and agriculture. Even though the Island has experienced economic growth and falling unemployment over recent years, the local economy is characterised by lower wage levels (compared to the national average) and relatively restricted employment opportunities.

More information on the Island can be found in its planning policy documents.