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Council to bid for Government money to improve habitats and help protect Chichester Harbour from flooding

Leading councillors have given the go ahead to bid for government money so that Chichester District Council's coastal engineering service can develop a plan for the Chichester Harbour area that will help communities prepare for flooding and coastal change. The plan would also help to protect and restore the harbour's habitats and ecosystems.

Chichester Harbour

At their meeting on Tuesday 5 March, Chichester District Council's Cabinet agreed that a business case should be submitted to the Environment Agency. If successful, the money would help the council to develop an Investment and Adaptation Plan for the harbour up to the year 2100 and beyond.

"Everyone in the district understands what a special place Chichester Harbour is, and what an internationally important site it is for migrating birds, and other wildlife," says Councillor Jonathan Brown, Deputy Leader of Chichester District Council and Cabinet Member for Environmental Strategy. "Unfortunately, with rising sea levels and coastal change, the risk to communities and property from tidal flooding and erosion will only increase over time.

"One of the major issues that we need to address is 'coastal squeeze'. This is where important habitats are literally squeezed up against coastal defences as a result of rising sea levels and means that these habitats are at risk of being lost.

"People were really shocked three years ago when Natural England classed the harbour environment as being in an 'unfavourable, declining' condition as a direct result of the pressures within the harbour. They estimate that the harbour has lost over 58% of its saltmarsh habitat since 1946 and continues to lose an average of 2.54 hectares of saltmarsh annually.

"In order to reverse this decline, and protect these vital habitats for the future, we really need to include them as an integral part of how we manage coastal flood and erosion risk in the future. This is where this plan is key, as it will take account of all these issues and how the different habitats interact with each other and the important features of each different habitat."

If the funding bid is successful, then Coastal Partners - the council's specialist coastal team - would lead on preparing the plan in partnership with both Chichester District Council and Havant Borough Council; regulators, other partner organisations; landowners and the affected communities.

"Although it's not one of the council's statutory duties, managing future coastal flooding and erosion is a key priority for us and we have permissive powers to undertake such works. Key to the success of this, will be working in partnership with all of those who have an interest and involvement in the harbour," adds Jonathan.

"I have to stress that there is no guarantee that we will be successful with the bid for funding, but it is important that we are looking ahead and identifying solutions and possible funding opportunities. If we are successful, our communities and partners will be at the heart of decision making at all stages of the plan." 

Date of Release: 5 March 2024

Reference: 4309