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Mill Pond Meeting:Petition

Thanks to the 2 members who kindly gave up their respective evening to provide us with feedback on the above important meeting last week, please find attached a combination of the following:

- the accounts provided by both John Meacham & Chris Haresign

- video link provided by another supportive member Philip Leahy

- elements that I've added in an attempt to provide e.g. some background to the issues arising, a few areas where you might wish to follow up information, bearing in mind that not all of you will take the time to watch the 1hr 49 mins video although I thoroughly recommend it. Also please do consider signing the petition, link on the document.

If there are any inaccuracies they are probably mine for which I apologize but perhaps you can watch/listen & read everything & then let me know what is glaringly wrong - thank you!

Please do think about the implications of 'letting go' the Langstone Mill Pond, whether you're a fan or not. It is one more element in our local heritage that, arguably, need not be abandoned so also note the precedents provided in Peter Oliver's argument - further information in my combined account attached.

Finally do write to Alan Mak as the attached account urges you to do - the more, in this election year, the better!

We’re grateful for this account which was chiefly compiled by 2 HIRA members who attended the meeting, their names given at the conclusion. Some editing to this account by Anne Skennerton from information received with additional information where available & applicable to this matter. Apologies in advance for any resulting inaccuracies. There is also a recording of this meeting (1hr 49 mins) link which I’ve included here & will post on HIRA’s FB & website.

Public Meeting over the Threat to Langstone Conservation Area caused by the threatened collapse of the watermill wall 28/9/23. Chair: Ed Neville

Additional information summary:

Petition organised by Margaret Tait:

Follow this issue on Facebook under Langstone Seawalls.

Also Havant Civic Society has an article with ‘history, risks & prospects’ re the Mill Pond

Note: Chichester Harbour Conservancy has commissioned an independent body – possibly Dutch but this unconfirmed – to provide a report concerning the Langstone Harbour wall. This report is expected to be posted on the Coastal Partners’ website the week beginning October 16th 2023. Matt Briers Chich. Hrbr. Conservancy’s new CEO.

The meeting in St Faith’s church in Havant was attended by over 200 people. It was run with clarity on the back of hard research, thinking and lobbying by the millpond action group. HBC elected councillors and some officers attended. Notably the council leader, Alex Rennie, fielded some questions and relayed some information to the meeting. The meeting heard about the history of the mill pond wall which was constructed in the 18th century and has a grade 2 listing, the action from local residents and others to campaign for its repair and retention. The ecological importance of the millpond was explained, with at least nine different habitats in the two acres of the site. It is a home for rare species (notably 9 bat species) which would be lost if the area became saltmarsh. However, it is not part of Chichester Harbour SSI and has only a lower Local Nature Reserve status: a lower status in the hierarchy of priorities of English Nature.

- Havant Borough Council is supportive of the repair of the wall and has managed to secure funds to do this. Unfortunately Natural England, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, Hampshire County Council and possibly the Solent Coastal Partnership are ranged against repairing the wall. One attendee reports that Hants. County Council is “unsure” re their support.

- The breaching of the sea wall close by at the eleven hectare Southmoor nature reserve is not allowed in mitigation, as it is not quite within Chichester Harbour.

-There has been no survey of the effects of the release of 15 million tons of sediment from the pond if the wall is breached and consequent loss of habitats.

-The pond is protected under the Countryside and Wildlife Act. It contains species which interact with and enhance the SSSI

- Peter Oliver of Langstone Village thought there is ‘Mission Conflict’ with too many ‘fingers in the pie’ and a lack of understanding of the facts. He suggested HBC and HCC need to share responsibility for the repair and he believed they would be ‘exempt from seeking other agencies approval if they stayed within certain guidelines’. Later Cllr. Alex Rennie stated he had taken legal advice on the matter and the said that this was not so.

There was acceptance that:

1. The saltmarshes needed enhancing as they are being lost with rising sea levels (the best saltmarsh is above mean high tide levels).

2. Managed retreat in places as a consequence of increasing sea levels was inevitable - There are apparently 85 km of coast within the harbour. This includes some low grade agricultural land some of which could be sacrificed in preference to the few metres of the mill pond

3. Coastal squeeze by hard defences preventing migration of shore species landwards is a problem – but the mill pond is over spilled by sea water at high tides and so then becomes slightly saline. There are already some saltmarsh plants on the pond side as a result. Therefore the pond should be regarded as a terrace which will be interacting more and more with the harbour.

The key issues seem to be:

That Natural England and Chichester Harbour Conservancy, after surveying the harbour, have found that its SSSI designation of the harbour as a hotspot for nature has declined in value by 50%. As a consequence, Natural England and the Chich Harbour Conservancy Board are reluctant to set a precedent and allow the repair of the wall. (Councillor Rennie, while agreeing that some land would necessarily be lost to rising sea levels, vigorously disagreed with the principle that this process should be randomly decided.)

Reasons came up for resisting the dogmatic view of Natural England that no repairs to breaches in sea defences, not affecting property, should be permitted.

The Mill Pond and its wall:

1. Provide a very rich tapestry of habitats for endangered species

2. Tourism – local businesses (notably two pubs) would be affected by the loss of pond and coastal footpath

3. Amenity and heritage site- it is part of the fabric of the area: many residents have a strong attachment to it. Its loss would severely damage the coastal path network.

4. Argument was made that the Mill Pond represents only 300 metres of Langstone in Chichester Harbour as against 85 kilometres of the entire Chichester Harbour. ‘We’re not asking for a precedent, we’re asking for an exception.’ as one attendee has put it.

There was some disappointment expressed that Mr Alan Mak MP was not present at the meeting.

John Meacham suggested at the meeting that it appeared the only way out of this impasse was to have a sizable number of the electorate communicate to Mr Alan Mak our unhappiness at the prospect of the loss of the mill pond due to the blinkered approach of Natural England. Urge him to ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to intervene and overrule Natural England and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy Board on this matter, due to the reasons above, so that the mill wall can be repaired in a timely way before it fails.

Also under final QAs:

1. It was put to Coastal Partners & HBC: Since Coastal Partners has a Havant Borough Council address & is partly funded by HBC, should it not work with HBC & the residents/stakeholders who fund it to support the reinstatement/repair of the mill pond seawall and footpath. Furthermore, Lyall Cairns engineer, Chair of Southern Coastal Group and Head of Service for Coastal Partners, expressed his support for the pond & its habitat. However he did not remain behind to take questions.

2. Peter Oliver’s ppt presentation argued that there is precedence for sea defence in this part of Chichester Harbour, citing Nore Barn Woods, Emsworth as evidence. [Editor: Web search for this name provides the following: Coastal Management of Chich Hrbr Conserv “Concrete revetment at Nore Barn woods”; HBC ‘Better Future for All’ referencing Natural England, LEP Solent, Bird Aware cires as example “There is currently a footpath which runs through the site from Warblington Cemetery to Nore Barn Woods. This would be retained and upgraded as part of Natural England’s coastal path initiative. Over time, further improvements will be added to the site to increase its use by the same protected geese and waterfowl which use the harbours, whilst also enabling visitors to understand and appreciate the local environment. This is a long-term project for the council, “. Note: the video gives more detail/information wherein Nore Barn Woods rep. offered help to Save Our Millpond.]

Oliver suggested that HBC and Chich Hrbr’s policy re Nore Barn Woods conflicts with their stance re Langstone Mill Pond. More argument in the video.

3. Another point was made re Southmoor, the area being lost to saltmarsh and increasing sea levels, plus the Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s claim that that is a different harbour raises the issue that the two harbours flow into and affect one another.

4. Strongly supported suggestions a) that everyone write to Alan Mak ‘insisting’ that he ‘over-rides’ decision not to repair the wall b) residents must not consider diverting the footpath to the north of the mill pond, it is one habitat.

5. Islander reported that, decades ago, home owners deposited chalk to protect their land on eastward side of Island against Environmental Agency’s rules and decades later, the EA apparently now agrees it was the ‘right thing to do’. (anecdotal evidence)

6. Pointed out that Coastal Partners’ ecological advice was generically based rather than the site specific (over talking at this point in the video).

7. Cllr. Fairhurst said that she & Cllr. Bowerman would be meeting engineer on Oct. 6th to see if the footpath by the mill can be repaired & protected, so they ‘haven’t given up’. But that’s only the little bit of the path not the dam.

This account is largely the work of our 2 HIRA ‘ordinary’ members, John Meacham and Chris Haresign, who very kindly gave up their respective evenings to attend the meeting, take what notes they could & provide feedback to me so that I could pass on their ‘take’ on the meeting. I’ve tried to combine their accounts as best I could but I added in elements a) that I hope clarify some matters b) came from the snippets I picked up from the really important video. So if there are any glaring errors they’re probably mine – apologies!

No brickbats please but any constructive views welcomed. The video link was supplied by our ever-vigilant Philip Leahy – yet another extra ‘ordinary’ member!

Anne Skennerton


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