Beauty spots in Portsmouth and Hampshire 'incredibly vulnerable' fear campaigners

AREAS of natural beauty that are also of scientific interest are in disrepair across the region.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 7:06 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 7:15 pm

Data compiled by the JPIMedia Data Unit shows that more than half of the sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) are in an unfavourable condition, with a total of 1,045 sites in an unsatisfactory state.

An SSSI is an area considered to best represent the local ecosystem, taking into consideration the plants, animals and geology of the site.

While some of these sites are recovering, such as Browndown in Gosport, others are seeing no improvement at all – including Portsmouth Harbour and parts of the water near Lee-on-the-Solent.

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More than half the sites in Langstone Harbour are in an unfavourable condition. Picture: Jacki Beech.

Hampshire also has a higher percentage of unfavourable sites (57 per cent) than the national average of 49.5 per cent.

But environmental campaigners fear that the situation could get even worse in the next few years.

Ray Cobbett, chairman of Friends of the Earth in Havant, believes some of these sites could even be destroyed intentionally.

He said: ‘Most of these sites are incredibly vulnerable nowadays.

Portsmouth Harbour is one of the locations under threat. Picture: Tony Weaver

‘Each site has so many different owners, but nobody wants to step up and take responsibility for maintaining them.

‘The environment in this part of the world is particularly poor, and so more care needs to be taken.

'But I suppose if a site loses its status by being ‘destroyed’ it makes it easier to sell it for redevelopment.’

Kate Jennings, the RSPB’s head of site conservation policy, added: ‘The current state of SSSIs across the four countries of the UK is shocking.

‘Many have not been assessed for years so the actual picture may in fact be worse.

‘If our governments are serious about tackling the climate and nature emergencies we need a huge step change in action, and it needs to happen now.’

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said while most of England’s SSSIs were either in a favourable condition or were recovering, there is a lot more still to do.

‘More needs to be done to improve these vital sites,’ they said.

‘That’s why we are focusing on restoring those sites that are still in a recovering condition so we can enhance these important areas.’