Princess Anne was hosted by John Nelson, chairman of Chichester Harbour Trust, supported by Richard Craven, Chichester Harbour Conservancy director and harbour master, and Paddy Mirams, commodore of Bosham Sailing Club.
Mr Nelson told her: “We are all passionate about the harbour. It is one of the wonders of the south of England but it is challenged at the moment.”
Mr Craven told her about the harbour and how it was formed.
He said: “It remains one of the few places in the south of England where we have a wildness and a chance for people to return to nature.
“It is a really important place for Natural England, one of the most important in the country.
“It is important the younger generation are imbued with a sense of wonder. This place engenders great passion and the stakeholders really do enhance what we are able to do.
“There are lots of challenges, largely from coastal squeeze, nitrates, development and, increasingly, sea level rise but there is a really positive message that we can turn things around.”
Nicky Horter, Chichester Harbour Trust administrator, also talked through some of the challenges facing the harbour, from natural causes and human sources.
She explained a large area of saltmarsh has been lost and the sea level is rising by 6mm a year.
During a boat trip, Princess Anne was shown some of the key nesting sites, such as Ella Nore Spit and Stakes Island.
Afterwards, Mr Nelson said: “She took a great interest in the wildlife, the environment and education. She also spent a lot of time talking to the volunteers about the threats facing the harbour in terms of the environment.
“It was a beautiful day and we were able to see quite a formation of birds. She was very, very engaging.
“What we hope is that this will raise the profile of the harbour.”
Today’s visit was well timed, coming after the rather damning Natural England report in February, which highlighted the state of the harbour by categorising most of the Site of Special Scientific Interest as ‘unfavourable declining’, and ahead of the delayed decision on the Chichester Local Plan Review, which is now not scheduled to be adopted until 2023.
This newspaper launched the Don’t Destroy Chichester Harbour campaign in March 2019, standing with the guardians of the harbour and calling on residents to speak out to ensure this great jewel in the West Sussex crown is preserved and protected forever.
The Chichester Local Plan will play a key part in controlling and shaping development in the district, ensuring much-needed housing is provided in our area over the next 15 years.
This district is an incredibly special place and it is important it stays that way as changes start to take effect.
Following the report, concerns about the environmental welfare of Chichester Harbour, the impact of sewerage infrastructure and future housing development were raised with Natural England, which is responsible for advising Chichester District Council as the planning authority about the impact of any future development.
Chichester Harbour Trust is a registered charity, established in 2002 to protect the natural beauty and wildlife habitats of Chichester Harbour, through the acquisition of land within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The trust now holds more than 275 acres of land in 13 sites around the harbour. With ever-growing support from the community, the trust works in partnership with the Chichester Harbour Conservancy, landowners, local authorities and all those who love Chichester Harbour and wish to protect it for everyone to enjoy.