WITH tranquil waters, tidal habitats, harbourside villages and no shortage of arable farmland, Chichester Harbour is highly valued by residents and visitors alike.
But with greater pressure on resources and funding, Chichester Harbour Conservancy is working to identify the future challenges facing the area of outstanding natural beauty.
The special qualities of the area have been assessed in a report by the conservancy, with a focus on the landscape character, biodiversity, cultural heritage and enjoyment of the area, with the results affecting how the dynamic 74 square kilometres of land is managed, protected and regulated into the future.
Siún Cranny, director of Chichester Harbour Conservancy said: “This work shows just how important Chichester Harbour is for local people and visitors to enjoy; and we are working very hard to conserve its special character for future generations.”
However, the report states sea level rise and hard sea defences put in place to protect the land are having an ‘unfavourable’ impact on the protected area, reducing habitats which rely on salt marsh and intertidal mud.
Findings from the report show 79 per cent of the harbour’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest is in an ‘unfavourable recovering’ condition, with only 21 per cent considered to be flourishing.
Pollution from sewage treatment and agriculture is impacting the water quality, leading to an excessive growth of green algae.
Siún Cranny spoke out against Southern Water’s decision to pump sewage into the River Lavant in February.
“The issues with the Lavant impact on the quality of water in the harbour. High levels of groundwater in the Chichester area create exceptional challenges in the management of wastewater. We remain hugely concerned that pressure for increased development will put more strain on to a system that is already overloaded, without long-term solutions having been planned.”
The number of birds, including three internationally-important species – the brent goose, black-tailed godwit and dunlin – are declining, although reasons for the drop are still ‘unclear’.
However, used by sailors, birdwatchers and walkers, Chichester Harbour remains an increasingly-popular destination with visitors. Walking is the most common activity undertaken by visitors to the AONB, and 94 per cent of the survey respondents used the footpaths.
Dog-walking, birdwatching, swimming, fishing, sailing and visiting pubs and tearooms were also popular activities, showing the ‘importance of the visitor economy to local businesses’ within the AONB.