Why Brent Geese could be a surprise addition to Portsmouth's tourism strategy

Brent Geese pair flying over Farlington Marshes. Picture: Ian Cameron-Reid (10/12/2009)
Brent Geese pair flying over Farlington Marshes. Picture: Ian Cameron-Reid (10/12/2009)
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EXPERTS analysing every aspect of the city have made the eyebrow-raising suggestion visitors could flock to see migratory birds' habitats.

Brent Geese have long been the nemesis of developers in Portsmouth – having infamously seen off Pompey’s planned move to Farlington two decades ago.

A government inspector blocked Portsmouth Football Club’s move from Fratton to Farlington after deeming a new site too close to marshland in the 1990s.

And in 2016 the Solent Wheel at Clarence Pier suffered a setback over the birds’ flight path.

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Most recently Natural England raised concerns about reclaiming land at Tipner over fears about migratory birds.

But analysts at Oxford Economics said the birds could become part of Portsmouth City Council’s plans to boost prosperity.

The report said: ‘Our third recommendation is an unusual one for an economic strategy.

‘Half of Portsmouth’s overall footprint comprises wetlands that are unavailable for development. But rather than regarding this as a problem, it should be treated as an opportunity, helping to position Portsmouth as an unusual city, and one with a close and positive relationship to the natural (maritime) world.

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‘At the moment the fact that Portsmouth provides a hugely important resting place for migrating birds is little known about. It does not add to the reputation of the city—if anything the abundance of seemingly neglected space has a negative impact. ‘

But it added: ‘There may be scope for organised visits by boat, and that could itself be part of the larger project for encouraging boat use that we mention above. We therefore suggest working with Natural England and others to understand how similar sensitive habitats are managed in other places, and then draw up a strategy to make the bird habitats an important part of Portsmouth’s identity.’

A spokeswoman from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: ‘We support opportunities for people in Portsmouth to learn about wildlife, and welcome the attention that Portsmouth City Council is giving to this subject.

‘Such opportunities would need to be managed with care and consideration, in order to minimise disturbance to migratory birds and other animals. We look forward to hearing more about how the proposed plans are to be implemented.’