Pagham Harbour



Pagham harbour Local Nature Reserve, West Sussex holds most top national and international designations and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, being protected by various wildlife legislation. It is especially famous for birdlife.

In recent years it has become attractive to Kitesurfers who use the sea at the harbour entrance, but often access the Reserve via a private unadopted road (Harbour Rd) and then park in the free car park owned by West Sussex County Council (WSCC) who manage the reserve.

Windsurfers also use this, but there seems to now be an increasing problem with Kitesurfers. Whilst not objecting to their use of the car park, recently some problems have become apparent, which I will explain:-

1. The Kitesurfers often set up their equipment in the car park (instead of on the shoreline) and then drag their equipment across an expanse of vegetated shingle (specially protected habitat) causing some damage/disruption – this is worse when the users also test out the equipment on the shingle before heading for the beach.
2. When using the beach to test the Kite, or when using it on the sea in the harbourmouth, the large Kites could cause panic to some roosting or breeding birds. This is particularly critical at this time of year – see point 3.
3. In the last few years, a few pairs of a rare and declining seabird, the Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) have started to nest on the shingle around the harbourmouth entrance. By law these birds are specially protected and wilful disturbance can attract a very large fine. There are also bylaws which prevent disturbance to wildlife, and also prohibit the flying of Kites within the reserve.



My role includes the enforcement of legislation in these circumstances; however as I indicated I am hoping that we can reach a reasonable understanding without the need for legal action, now that the situation has been made clear. I would there ask you to contact your membership as soon as possible to advise. Whilst I understand the reasons for the use of the site, I would request the following:-

i) Kitesurfers stay well out to sea in this area and do not approach the harbour mouth during the breeding season (the young birds should fledge by about late July). Under no circumstances should surfers land on Church Norton spit (except emergency) or enter the protected zone.
ii) Kitesurfers do not drag their assembled equipment across the shingle, but set up at the shoreline.
iii) Surfers must bear in mind that their Kites are a disturbance factor, often visually threatening to birdlife, and so should do all possible to minimise this by staying further out to sea.

I wish to be realistic and so seek co-operation on all sides at this important time in the Reserve year. I would be grateful for your assistance,and in case of query I can be contacted at the reserve Visitor centre – tel 01243 641508 (or leave a message). In my absence the Reserve managers Rob Carver or Ivan Lang, can assist.
I thank you in anticipation,

Owen Mitchell (WSCC enforcement/liaison).