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News - 21/02/17

Update on Marine Conservation Zones

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) has now embarked on Tranche 3 (the final tranche) of the Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) designation programme with three MCZs under consideration in the Solent; Yarmouth to Cowes, Norris to Ryde, and Bembridge. 

The aim of this Tranche is to complete the Blue Belt, an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around England. Through this process, Natural England’s role will be to provide evidence-based scientific advice.

Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) shares some of the concerns raised by stakeholders that recreational boating, and local ports and harbours in the Solent could be adversely affected by these MCZs sites and will be engaging with Natural England to ensure that MCZ designation does not have a detrimental impact on local stakeholders’ interests.

MCZ sites under consideration in the Solent area
MCZ sites under consideration (recommended – Tranche 3) in the Solent area

Of particular interest to CHC is the Yarmouth to Cowes candidate MCZ, which runs along the Island’s northwest coast, from Sconce Point on the west of Yarmouth to the West Cowes headlands and includes Newtown Harbour and the important Salt Mead commercial anchorage in Thorness Bay. The Salt Mead anchorage not only provides safe anchorage for ships heading to and from Cowes, but is also used by coastal vessels for shelter from storm weather mid-Channel.

CHC will continue to work with stakeholders to protect these important commercial interests and also seeks to ensure that the interests of other stakeholders, from both a social and economic viewpoint, are taken into account.

The final list of MCZ sites and features to be formally considered will not be announced until the formal consultation period begins in late summer/autumn 2017. However, DEFRA, Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) are working together to ensure that these sites meet certain criteria and evidence standards. Natural England and JNCC will deliver their pre-consultation advice to DEFRA in February and post-consultation advice on any additional evidence and submissions received through the formal consultation. The Minister will use this advice, along with socio-economic information, to make their final decisions; sites will be designated in 2018.

If you would like more information on the Solent sites being considered in this tranche of the MCZ designation programme or the broader process, Natural England is holding a number of locally focused ‘drop-in’ sessions in March 2017.

A session focussing on recreational sailors and fishermen will be held on Wednesday, 8th March from 1600-1900 at the Riverside Centre in Newport, Isle of Wight. In addition, a community session will be held on Wednesday, 22nd March from 1400-1900 at the same venue.

Natural England will also be attending the next Solent Forum members’ meeting on 15th March in Southampton.

These events will provide an opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and receive more information. In the meantime, if you have questions about any of these events, please contact the local Natural England MCZ team by email: 

More information on DEFRA’s approach in Tranche 3 can be found online

Full list of Natural England ‘drop-in’ sessions in the Solent area:

Sessions focussing on recreational sailors and fishermen
1. Tuesday, 7th March 1600 – 1900 Thistle hotel, Poole
2. Wednesday, 8th March 1600 – 1900 Riverside Centre, Newport, IW
3. Thursday, 9th March 1600 – 1900 Holiday Inn, Herbert Walker Avenue, Southampton

General community focussed session
Wednesday, 22nd March 2017 1400 – 1900 Riverside Centre, Newport, IW