For thousands of years the Solent has fufilled a vital role as a waterway for shipping, maritime trading, fishing and more recently recreation. The Solent has also been a strategically important site for military activity and defence of the realm and all these factors have helped to develop the maritime economy and industries that we can see today. With a population of over 1.3 million and some 50,000 businesses, the Solent area is a well recognised functional economic area anchored around the Isle of Wight, the two cities of Portsmouth and Southampton and the M27 corridor and Solent waterway.
The Solent's marine industry sector contains a wide diversity of businesses ranging in scale from the large scale commercial operations at Southampton and Portsmouth down to small boatyards. In additional to the commercial ports, there are industrial processing sites requiring waterside locations for bulk shipping transport and/or the ready supply of seawater for use within processes, for example Esso Oil Refinery. Of increasing importance is cruising, with Southampton widely recognised as the capital of the country’s cruise industry. You can view details of new or ongoing major developments in our changing coast section.
The marine industry is critical to the economy of the Solent area, with estimates that the sector employs around 38,000 people. The number of jobs is expected to rise to 58,600 by 2026.
Military use of the Solent is of substantial economic importance to the region and centres primarily on Portsmouth Harbour and Marchwood Military Port. Additionally, there are businesses requiring waterside location and/or use of waterspace, to provide services for recreational and commercial craft, such as marinas, boatyards, shipwards and sailing clubs. Activity is centred around Lymington, River Hamble and Cowes. There is also the maritime research and development sector and national manufacturers or service providers located in the Solent region by choice, including defence industries.
The natural resources of the Solent have been exploited since humans first came to live on its shores. Fish have been an important resource for centuries and more recently marine aggregates are landed here for the construction industry.
The Solent coast and waters are an important recreational zone both for local people and tourists from further afield. Tourism, therefore, is an essential part of the area's economy, especially to the Isle of Wight.
The Solent Waterfront Strategy focuses on the marine sector, a key industry for the Solent and South East. The development of the Strategy has inspired business engagement from different sectors and stakeholders, working together to tackle some of the difficult issues affecting our ability to retain and grow the marine sector. It is the first such strategy to unite all planning authorities in the Solent area in a common and sector-led approach.