Zones are a menace

I REFER to your item on new marine zones (Observer, August 25), and add my support to Cllr O'Brien's warning of the potential consequences for sea defences in the area, and his plea that if more protection is needed for the snails then it is offered through extending the site of special scientific interest designation.

He mentioned a meeting at which Natural England had ‘reluctantly’ agreed that using a SSSI could work.

If I remember correctly the Natural England representative stated that the SSSI route would take longer to put into place than to designate the area where the snail was found at Church Norton Spit as a marine conservation zone or ‘super zone’ (reference area).

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As the Defolin’s lagoon snail is a species scheduled for protection in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 then I would suggest that Natural England failed in its duties to have the snail protected by the SSSI earlier when it was discovered in 2007.

The system of marine protected areas is good news in principle, and to be welcomed.

However, the bureaucracy which drives the selection of the areas is rigid and target-driven.

Had the marine conservation zone projects, including Balanced Seas, been required to identify areas needing protection rather than following the inflexible formula set by the last government and Europe, then they might have come forward with some very different recommendations attracting greater support!

As an example of the folly of this approach, it was also put to the same meeting that there are two possible ways of protecting the snail: an MCZ or an MCZ reference area.

The two levels of protection offered by these are: ‘maintain’ for the former; and ‘recover’ (ie remove all human disturbance) for the latter.

Natural England agreed that the snail only needed the approach of ‘maintain’ at Pagham Harbour, indicating that it is not being adversely affected under the current arrangements.

But under the rigid rules Balanced Seas has to follow, it is likely that it will have no choice but to recommend a reference area.

We will find out when the recommendations are published in September.

There is one possible reprieve for Pagham Harbour, and the sea defences for the area: the snail has also been found at Lydd in Kent, which offers a possible alternative site for the reference area needed so that the relevant box can be ticked.

Kirsten Lanchester,