Fears over new Pagham sealife area

Fears have been raised that a new sealife protection area will leave Pagham’s residents at risk.

A marine conservation zone is being considered for Pagham Harbour to protect wildlife in the waves. But the zone’s protection could stretch up on to the beach.

Ray Radmall, Pagham Parish Council’s chairman, said he feared this could stop proposals to prevent the low-lying beach estate from flooding.

“It was originally proposed to create the zone a mile or two out to sea beyond the Mulberry Harbour.

“But, as a result of intervention from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, the zone has been moved right inshore up to the high water mark. That makes it difficult to do any further sea defence work,” he said.

“We want that foreshore to be left alone so that if groynes or any other structures are needed to retain the shingle, that can be done without any further consultation.”

Cllr Radmall said the area was already heavily protected because of the nearby Pagham Harbour nature reserve and its series of measures.

The zone will be among several formed as a result of a Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 at the end of next year.

Sites will be selected to protect not just the rare and threatened but also the range of marine wildlife.

That for the West Sussex coastline will be achieved through the Balanced Seas joint project between Natural England and the University of Kent.

Sue Wells, the project manager for Balanced Seas, said: “Pagham Harbour has been identified as of interest because of rare species that are not already protected by the existing nature reserve designation.

“Because of this interest, a meeting was held recently that was attended by organisations with an interest in the area, including Pagham Parish Council and Arun District Council.

“The meeting’s participants all recognised there might be potential for a marine conservation zone at Pagham.

“But this was with the important caveat appropriate consideration is given to the coastal defence issue and the boundaries are therefore very carefully considered.

“Further discussion on the boundaries will be held once more detailed information is obtained about the distribution of the species to be protected and also about plans and options for addressing the coastal erosion problem.”

Pagham Beach benefited from a £550,000 programme of extra shingle starting in November 2009 to provide extra protection in its most vulnerable area close to the yacht club.

The 30,000 cubic metres of stones were seen as a short-term solution while a more permanent answer was found to the lack of shingle on the foreshore caused by a change of tide patterns.