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Reserve might go to the dogs!

Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve Wildlife Under Threat?

Pagham Harbour Local Nature Reserve is one of the best areas in West Sussex for wildlife. Sited on the coast south of Chichester the Reserve covers 1450 acres about half of which is the intertidal marsh and mudflats of the Harbour. The remainder consists of farmland, copses, lagoons, reedbeds and shingle beaches. Most of the Reserve is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its nationally important flora and fauna. It is further recognised as a Special Protection Area, a Natura 2000 site (a European Commission designation) and one of 114 Ramsar sites in the Great Britain (sites recognised as wetlands of international importance).

Unfortunately, Pagham Harbour is also surrounded by many populated areas and there is increasing pressure from both the local population and those from further afield to use the Reserve as an open space. The sort of activities desired by the local population and visitors include dog walking (generally off the lead), cycling along the footpaths, sailing within the harbour and, possibly most controversially, wildfowling.The conflict between the needs of the flora and fauna are now in direct conflict with the desires of the local population to use the area. The conflict came to a head this summer with the decision, after many years delay, to enforce the by-law requiring dogs to be kept on a lead within the Reserve. West Sussex County Council (WSCC), who manages the site, now employs part-time a dog warden to enforce the by-law. This resulted in the successful prosecution of a local dog walker. Following the prosecution significant pressure was placed on Councillors to rescind this by-law. (Enforcement is currently suspended.)

A consequence of this pressure is that WSCC have now issued a consultation survey on the future use of the Harbour. The survey will be used to develop the new 5 year plan for the management of the Harbour. Amongst the proposals the survey includes options to:

* Open the Reserve`s natural areas to any activity by anyone. (Item 4) (my italics)
* Relax the by-laws to allow activities such as kite surfing, cycling, motorcycling, dogs out of control and illegal bait digging and fishing (Item 5)
* Allow wildfowling within the Harbour. (Currently it is allowed only along the lower beach.) (Item 8)The consultation survey is available on-line at the WSCC website, http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/content/home. Follow the link under Have your say on Pagham Harbour. It is also available in hardcopy at the Visitor Centre.

If you feel strongly about the preservation of the Harbour in its current state as a Nature Reserve then please visit the website and have your say. Otherwise don`t expect to find breeding birds here in summer ? they will have been chased away by dogs and don`t expect much in the way of winter birds ? the wildfowlers will be shooting those that have not been scared off by the dogs, sailors and wind/kite surfers. The consultation remains open until the end of November 2004.

John Walton - Secretary to The Friends of Pagham Harbour

4th July 2014