Balanced? No way...

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The latest level of nature designation being forced upon the residents of the Manhood peninsula is called Balanced Seas and seeks to set up the government-desired Marine Conservation Zones, by the end of 2012.

However, from what I have seen and heard, the process and proposed designation zones are anything but balanced; there is certainly very little thought for the human cost.

For the unaware and uninitiated here are some key facts:

- Pagham Harbour (already a heavily-protected nature reserve) is destined to become a Reference Area, the highest level of designation under a Marine Conservation Zone. This reference area is proposed because of the potential existence of a snail colony near the harbour entrance. Twenty of these microscopic snails were found in the past five years, not all of which were alive! No further investigation took place to substantiate the find. A reference area at Pagham Harbour could jeopardise any plans for the RSPB to enhance this as a visitor attraction, close off large intertidal areas from public access and also prohibit the building of the bunds required to avoid climate change induced flooding to Sidlesham, Selsey, Pagham and Mundham.

- An MCZ, as they are known, must be 5km in diameter, regardless of the size of the specific sites they are intended to protect. Therefore a site such as the Mixon Hole off Selsey could actually end up encompassing most of Selsey’s shoreline. This would make the process of maintaining and enhancing coast defences even harder; as if it is not difficult enough already. In the draft report the MCZ project refers to Selsey’s recent coast defence works as the ‘dumping’ of shingle; like CDC were somehow careless in their actions to protect millions of pounds of houses and thousands of people!

- No touch zones created by the MCZ would restrict many of our traditional pastimes and industries including recreational and commercial fishing, sub aqua diving and boating.

- The ‘consultation’ on this has thus far been held in private with very little local input being sought. By the time this comes to public consultation, the specific detail of the MCZ and Reference Area will be virtually set in stone and this will once again be a sham consultation designed to put a tick in the box before going to government to become law.

- The project manager behind this farcical process is based in Kent but was born and bred around Tangmere. Yet the responses the community have so far received from her project show very little thought for the people she left behind and the potentially catastrophic affect her recommendations could have on this area.

I do agree with the need to protect our most important sites for the future, but this particular process is based on out-of-date, poorly-researched data and is restricted by national broad-brush templates which do not apply here. Very soon you will not be able to sneeze in Selsey for risk of upsetting a nature designation.

Between Pagham harbour, the new harbour at Medmerry, Chichester Harbour and the various SSSI’s on the Peninsula, we have plenty of protection. Do we really need another layer?

By the way, when you wonder where your council tax goes, this is it...

Ben Cooper,