New chairman for Chichester Harbour Trust

John Nelson, chairman of the Harbour Trust. Picture by Kate Shemilt C130734-3
John Nelson, chairman of the Harbour Trust. Picture by Kate Shemilt C130734-3

The chairmanship of Chichester Harbour Trust is now in the distinguished hands of the chairman of Lloyd’s of London.

John Nelson, 65, has succeeded retired diplomat Sir Jeremy Thomas in the post.

Sir Jeremy, the trust’s founding chairman, stepped down on his 82nd birthday on June 1.

It now falls to Mr Nelson to maintain Sir Jeremy’s proud record of protecting a much-loved area of outstanding natural beauty.

Chichester Harbour Trust is an independent charity created to conserve this area of unspoilt estuary and its surrounding landscape for the public benefit.

From the start, the trust has taken the view that for the most sensitive parts of the harbour, ownership is the only sure form of stewardship.

The charity’s aim is to acquire land in the most vulnerable areas to safeguard it for future generations.

It now owns more than 230 acres of harbourside land in 11 sites.

Each site is important for the contribution it makes to the beauty of the landscape and the wildlife habitats of Chichester Harbour.

Mr Nelson, who is also chairman of the development committee of the National Gallery, has lived in Bosham for the past 25 years.

“I first came to Bosham when I was in my late teens. I enjoy sailing, but I love the harbour.

“It sounds trite, but it is the environment that makes it so special. You think of Chichester and the South Downs and you think of the harbour, and you think what is to the west and the east of it.

“And until you get to the West Country, there is nowhere as beautiful on the south coast as Chichester Harbour.

“The sheer beauty of Chichester Harbour is just extraordinary. It has escaped (development), but it has escaped in a very healthy condition.

“The fact is the setting creates a very healthy micro-economy. Chichester thrives partly because of the arts, but also as a key town to Chichester Harbour. Business and community and the arts thrive because of this wonderful setting.

“But I would say the threats of development are very high in terms of central government policy in terms of increasing housing.

“Under the previous government, we had the Prescott housing numbers, and I think there is still a threat to the land around the harbour – development that could affect the setting and the environment.

“I think the councils, Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council, are very concerned and are taking those threats into account.

“The Harbour Conservancy is also doing a very good job. We keep examining very closely with the Conservancy where we think there are vulnerable parts to the harbour.

“Over the past ten years, we have acquired land in a variety of ways, and that is great credit to Jeremy.”

Mr Nelson predicts fewer deals in the years ahead, but the deals which do happen will be relatively more strategic: “We have to be careful about the buffer zones around the area of outstanding natural beauty to make sure we are looking after those.”

And in that respect, Mr Nelson is intending just slightly to raise the profile of the trust in the months ahead.