The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Human Use

The Solent, like many other coastal areas around the UK, has many human demands placed upon it. For centuries people have lived by the Solent, used its natural resources for trade and recreational pursuits and located their businesses adjacent to its shores.

The dominant forces which have influenced the Solent over the last century are the growth of urban settlement on the coastal plain with its associated land development and reclamation for commerce, defence and recreation. Such pressures on the coastal plain are likely to continue into the future and will be exacerbated by population increases, sea level rise and changing weather patterns.

Mainland Shore

Including Portsmouth and Southampton the population of Hampshire is estimated to be 1,759,700 from the ONS Census, 2011. Hampshire covers the whole districts of Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth and Southampton, and parts of East Hampshire, New Forest,Test Valley and Winchester districts. Its two main centres are the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton which offer employment, leisure, shopping, culture and higher education. The cities, together with a series of adjacent complementary settlements, now form an almost continuous spread of loose knit suburban development adjacent to the Solent coastline.

Portsmouth City Council has adopted a Seafront Master Plan that sets out a vision for the city's seafront area, provides planning guidance, identifies further enhancement and development opportunities, and highlights elements of the seafront that should be conserved.

South Hampshire has considerable advantages: a high quality environment, a vibrant economy, world class higher education institutions, and excellent transport links, by air, road, rail and sea. Most of all, it is a place where businesses want to invest and where people want to live. A decline in traditional manufacturing industries has been matched by an increase in service sector jobs, and there is strong business investment within the two cities in the retail and leisure sectors.

More information on housing, the economy and transport for South Hampshire from Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH).

Isle of Wight

Based on the mid-2011 census the usually resident population on the Isle of Wight is an estimate of 138,392 people.  The Isle of Wight covers an area of 146.8 sq miles (38.016 hectares, or 380.16 km2).  In 2000 the value of the Isle of Wight economy was £1.42 billion and in 2010 the overall value had increased to £1.78 billion. The local economy makes up approximately 1% of the wider South Eastern regional economy.

Located in the centre of the Island, Newport is the county town and is the main area for retail and commerce. Located next to the River Medina, it was once a busy port until the mid-19th century. Ryde, is the Island's biggest town with a population of around 30,000 and is located in the northeast of the Island: it is a Victorian town with a half-mile long pier and four miles of beaches, attracting many tourists each year. Cowes is the location of Cowes week and internationally renowned for its sailing as well as being a busy port. Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor are important seaside resorts.

The Isle of Wight has unique characteristics and faces specific economic and social issues. Its environment is an important element in its economy and acts as a major asset and selling point. A substantial area of the island is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, while much of its coastline is designated Heritage Coast. Areas of land and stretches of coastline are also designated for their international and national importance for wildlife.

The economic base of the island has been undergoing change over recent years, resulting in a decline in agriculture and related industries. There is a heavy reliance on seasonal and part-time work, with a high dependency on tourism.

More information on the Island can be found in its planning policy documents.