Don’t go there! Save wildlife at Tipner West
Location: Tipner West, Portsmouth
Key issue: Proposals to build 4,000 houses will ‘reclaim’ and concrete over 67 acres of protected intertidal habitat as well as 7 acres of protected land. If plans go ahead, they will set a dangerous precedent for building over protected habitats nationwide.
Site designations: SSSI, SPA, Ramsar Site
Key species impacted:
Portsmouth City Council plans to develop one of the last wild corners of Portsmouth Harbour in to a ‘super-peninsula’ by draining and concreting over protected intertidal habitat, then build 4,000 new houses and a new 1million sq ft marine hub on a reclaimed coastal floodplain. This special area is already protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Ramsar Site in recognition of the value for wildlife.
We’ve joined forces with the RSPB to highlight the damage to nature and the loss of green spaces for local people of these damaging proposals. We need your backing to stop this scheme from going any further.
Why is it important to protect Tipner West?
This development poses one of the most significant threats to wildlife in recent times. Tipner West is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar Site in recognition of the value for wildlife. This development would destroy 67 acres (around the size of 50 football pitches) of protected intertidal habitat which fights the climate crisis by capturing and storing carbon dioxide, and is home to diverse populations of fish, invertebrates, and micro-organisms. This area supports 30% of the UK’s population of dark‐bellied brent geese, as well as dunlin and black‐tailed godwits and many other wintering waders.
We are also very concerned that if approved, this development will set a dangerous precedent for building over protected habitats across the UK. If an area with the highest level of protection for wildlife can be destroyed and built upon, nowhere will be safe for nature anymore.
What are we doing?
We’ve joined forces with the RSPB to highlight the damage to nature and the loss of green spaces for local people of these damaging proposals. We are demanding that Portsmouth City Council recognises the inherent value of wild spaces to support nature’s recovery and enhance the wellbeing of the local people through access to the limited green spaces that we have left.
Instead of the proposal, we are calling for Tipner West to remain protected for wildlife and safeguarded as much needed greenspace for the city’s residents to enjoy.
We responded to Portsmouth City Council’s Tipner Strategic Development Area Consultation expressing our strongest objection to the reclamation of part of Portsmouth Harbour SSSI, SPA and Ramsar site.
We launched our public campaign and petition to tell Portsmouth City Council #dontgothere
Portsmouth City Council are proposing to undertake a further public consultation.
What wildlife is at threat from the development at Tipner?
The mudflats at Tipner are incredibly important habitats for many marine species and wading birds. From the bacteria, fungi and microscopic algae that teem within the mud to the millions of small invertebrates and shellfish which burrow into the mud or forage on its surface, mudflats are full of life!
The species that live in the mudflats feed many wading bird species which rely on them, including black-tailed godwits, grey plover, dunlin, and dark-bellied brent geese, who are feeding to build enough energy to complete their annual 2,500-mile migrations in spring to Siberia!
When the tide is in, the mudflats provide food for many other fish and invertebrate species that move in to forage across them. One species in particular, the sea bass, relies on the food and shelter provided by the Solent’s estuaries and mudflats as it spends up to seven years of its early life in our local, protected Bass Nursery Areas, before joining the adult population.
Why are the mudflats important?
Mudflats play vital role in storing carbon, helping us in our battle against climate change. Every year, the mudflats at Tipner absorb the same amount of carbon every year as 262 tree seedlings grown for ten years! The mudflats also help to denitrify our water and help to improve the water quality in the estuary and wider Solent.
What protections does the site have and what does that mean?
The mudflats are protected as part of Portsmouth Harbour’s Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI), which recognises the importance of the mudflats for supporting ’biological richness’. This is reflected in the numbers of wetland birds which the mudflats support1. The Harbour is also designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) to specifically protect the habitats that support the dark-bellied brent geese, red breasted merganser, dunlin and black-tailed godwit. In addition, Portsmouth Harbour is protected as a Ramsar site, meaning it is a wetland site considered to be of international importance, as it supports over 30% of the UK’s population of dark-bellied brent geese.
These designation (SSSI, SPA and Ramsar) gives legal protection to the site due to its importance for wildlife.
If the site is protected for nature, how can they build on it?
In order to receive permission from the government to lift the restrictions on sites protected for nature, Portsmouth City Council must prove that there are no feasible alternative solutions that would be less damaging and that there are “imperative reasons of overriding public interest” (IROPI) for the proposal to go ahead, which would be exceptional circumstances. To our knowledge, IROPI has never been used in England for housing, therefore, this development could set an extremely dangerous precedent for building over protected sites nationally! If an area with the highest level of protection for wildlife can be destroyed and built upon, nowhere will be safe for nature anymore.
What would be the environmental impacts if this development went ahead?
The development will destroy an area that supports 30% of the UK’s population of dark‐bellied brent geese, an important mudflat that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and is home to diverse populations of fish, invertebrates and micro-organisms.
The loss of natural habitat will also increase the danger of erosion, while additional housing here will inevitably increase the strain on water treatment infrastructure, limited water supplies and increase recreational pressure on Portsmouth’s few green patches and the unique nature of the Solent coastline.
Even more fundamentally, the plan to build a defended new urban area in this location is highly unsustainable, given the predicted rises in sea-level (the proposed car park is below sea-level).
Isn't this a car-free, ‘sustainable’ development?
The scheme has been put forward as a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity for the city, said to create a revolutionary, car free environment (although the cars will just be hidden in underground parking located below sea level). But the reality is that the development would destroy 67 acres (around the size of 50 football pitches) of protected intertidal habitats which support many species and help in our fight against the climate crisis.
The climate emergency and threat of ecological collapse must surely demand a different approach to development. It’s just not good enough to keep squeezing nature until there’s nowhere for it to go. Our cities will quickly become inhabitable for both wildlife and people. We need to re-think sustainable development at a local and national level. Instead of trashing our precious natural assets, we should be protecting and strengthening a Nature Recovery Network across our counties and our country.
The local council need to reach their housing targets, is there any alternatives?
Meeting required housing targets has been the focus of the Council’s concerns so far. As one of the most densely populated cities in the UK, Portsmouth struggles to accommodate the significant additional housing demanded by Government. There is limited space and the existing infrastructure is already under pressure. But pressure to respond to Central Government's demands for housing cannot excuse the destruction of Portsmouth’s vital natural assets, or important existing legal safeguards to be dismissed! This proposal would fail the wildlife and people of Portsmouth and set a dangerous precedent for nature’s destruction.
There have already been suggestions for alternative sites for development from Portsmouth residents, including proposals from architects as part of Portsmouth Island City. We believe that the Council has not yet explored all the options for alternative sites to meet housing demands.
Hasn't the Harbour in Portsmouth been previously reclaimed?
Yes, historically many parts of Portsmouth have been built upon land reclaimed from the Harbour. But by doing the same thing once again, we are repeating the same failed logic which got us into the current climate and ecological crisis. We must act differently now and protect our irreplaceable natural assets and ensure nature’s recovery.
If not for development, what should Tipner West be?
These wild spaces are invaluable and irreplaceable. Tipner needs to be safeguarded for nature’s recovery – we cannot keep trying to squeeze nature into smaller and smaller spaces. However, as Portsmouth is the most densely populated city in Britain, outside of London, we recognise the value of greenspaces for improving the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents. We see a future for Tipner which preserves this important area for nature’s recovery and provides much needed green spaces for the wellbeing of the local people.