War of words over Pagham conservation zone

C110551-1 JPOS Bog Apr7 Beach  phot kate''David Huntley, chairman of the residents association, front,  and worried inhabitants who live in and around the West Front Road area in Pagham.C110551-1
C110551-1 JPOS Bog Apr7 Beach phot kate''David Huntley, chairman of the residents association, front, and worried inhabitants who live in and around the West Front Road area in Pagham.C110551-1

Officials behind a controversial scheme to protect wildlife in Pagham have said flood defence plans will be unaffected.

Balanced Seas is responsible for creating the planned marine conservation zone for Pagham Harbour.

The zone will include a reference area around the believed habitat of the rare Defolin’s Lagoon Snail in which all activities will be severely restricted.

The proposal was heavily criticised among councillors and residents at a public meeting earlier this month for its potential impact on essential coast protection works along the coastline of the low-lying area.

But Phil Darrell-Smith, a communications co-ordinator for Balanced Seas, said: “Coastal defence shoreline management plans are taken into consideration in developing the marine conservation zone recommendations as are many other activities.

“The Balanced Seas project has been informed that its regional stakeholder group’s current draft recommendations for a marine conservation zone and reference area in Pagham Harbour will not affect existing flood/erosion management plans.”

This advice came from bodies such as the Environment Agency, Arun and West Sussex councils and Natural England.

Balanced Seas is a project working with Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the University of Kent and Kent County Council.

Its regional stakeholder group will recommend the locations of the marine conservation zones for the inshore and offshore waters of south-east England. They will be forwarded to government ministers to decide which sites to choose in 2012.

The zones are intended to protect habitats and threatened, rate or declining species and habitats to ensure the full range of biodiversity in the sea is conserved.

Tempers flared at the Pagham public meeting on July 15 as some 200 people filled the village hall to express their anger about the potential impact of a marine conservation zone on their homes.

Among the organisations on the panel facing the occasionally hostile audience was the Environment Agency. Its flood and coastal risk manager, Andy Gilham, said afterwards: “We were at the public meeting to explain our approach to tackling flood and coastal erosion at Pagham beach. We have commissioned a study which is still incomplete, but will be published on our website in mid-August.

Pagham Parish Council chairman Ray Radmall, who called the meeting, told the Observer he had no faith in the zone project management team.

“Their assurances are worthless,” he said.