THE THREAT of climate change to Chichester Harbour has been highlighted as a group makes plans to protect the area.
The Chichester Harbour Trust has launched an ambitious new project that will see footpaths moved back from the shoreline to avert the risk of rising sea levels and protect the harbour for future generations.
The trust’s chairman John Nelson described the harbour as ‘stunningly beautiful’, adding the 50th anniversary of the area of outstanding natural beauty was seen as a good milestone from which to look ahead to the next 50 years.
“I’m personally passionate about the harbour,” he said. “I think it’s one of the great natural landscape sites in the south east.”
He said signs of the impact of climate change could be seen as sea levels rose in the harbour.
“I think more so in the past two or three years, it’s becoming more and more evident,” he said.
The scheme has been backed by the Chichester Harbour Conservancy, which Mr Nelson said was ‘very positive’ about the plans.
The important issues for the trust are access to the area, which in turns drives tourism, and the protection of wildlife and the ecology of the AONB.
Mr Nelson described the harbour as ‘quite a significant driver for the local economy’.
The harbour trust owns ten sites, amounting to 250 acres, in the AONB.
The trust has said that managed realignment of the coastline and habitat creation can now be looked at as long-term solutions to rising sea levels.
The project is not expected to be an instant fix – it is specially designed to look at long-term issues in the next five decades.
The trust is seeking to acquire more coastal areas in the AONB, with the specific intention of managing footpaths to ensure their long-term viability.
Where it is not possible to purchase the land, the trust hopes to work with the conservancy to develop relationships with landowners, pursuading them to take necessary steps to safeguard the footpaths.
The project was launched at a reception on Friday by the trust, with Mr Nelson saying it was well received by supporters and stakeholders around the harbour.
He described the project as ‘long-term thinking’.
“The reason the trust is in this position to help is that we’re an individual charity funded privately so that we don’t rely on any capital coming from government sources,” he said.
In his position as chairman of Lloyds of London, Mr Nelson said he was aware of climate change’s global impact.
“I see this right around the world. Globally, 13 or 14 of the warmest years have been in this – the 21st – century.
“Sea temperatures are rising, slowly, but they are rising,” he said.
He praised the preservation of the harbour over the past 50 years, comparing it favourably to other harbours in the area.
The project hopes by continuing the preservation work in the harbour, its ecology and wildlife can be protected, in turn encouraging people to visit.
This in turn can continue to give a welcome boost to the local economy through tourism.