Nowhere on earth is free from the influence of humans. Chichester Harbour has been used and influenced by humans since the Stone Age and if you look at around you will see the impact of people everywhere. There are houses, churches, roads, hedges, fields, cars, boats, fences, jetties, farm animals and so on. Then there is litter, noise and dirty water; pollution caused by people. How can we enjoy the Harbour without spoiling it?

People are busy in the Harbour all the time. All sorts of people use the Harbour and thousands of tourists enjoy visiting. It is really important to look after the Harbour, not only for all those people, but also for the wildlife that lives and grows there too. It is difficult to balance the needs of all.

As citizens, we can all help to make the decisions about the future of the Harbour, but we need to understand the issues. The Conservancy's Education Service enables and encourages people to learn about the Harbour.

Impact of people

People have used Chichester Harbour for thousands of years. During that time, the landscape has changed and many of those changes are due to humans cutting down trees, planting fields, building houses and roads.

As our country becomes more crowded, there are fewer places for wildlife and fewer places where people can enjoy the countryside.

Chichester Harbour AONB is a special place for both wildlife and people, and to keep it that way we need to understand the impacts of people on the environment and how they can be managed.

What do people do in the Harbour?

Here are a few ideas – see how many more you can think of.

  • Farming
  • Walking
  • Sailing

Good or bad impacts on the Harbour area

  Good Bad
Farming Farmers look after the land and leave the edges of fields for wildlife. Fertilisers and sprays (to kill insects or weeds) might cause pollution of the water or air.
Walking Walkers enjoy the Harbour and don’t cause pollution with their cars Walkers might erode the paths, disturb the wildlife and damage farmers’ crops or animals
Sailing Sailing creates many jobs in the Harbour. Boats that sail are not using engines and causing pollution. Paint on the bottom of some boats (antifouling) may pollute the water. Powerboats going too fast are noisy, disturb the water and can erode the shoreline

Conflicts between users

Farmers may not like people walking through their fields, walkers might not like the noise of boats on the water and sailors do not like polluted water.

 What do we do

  • Stop anyone using the Harbour? (Would that be possible or sensible?)
  • Choose which users are allowed in the Harbour? (Who would choose?)
  • Let everyone do what they want? (Would the wildlife survive?)
  • Try and manage the impacts? (How?)


1.5 million people visit Chichester Harbour AONB each year. Such an enormous number of people are bound to have an impact on the environment, yet it shows what an important place it is for people.

The problem is that those very people could spoil the place they have come to see. One person can disturb birds over an area of 10 to 50 hectares. Birds are disturbed to varying degrees by walkers, bait diggers, dogs, windsurfers, low flying aircraft and, more recently, drones and microlites.

Some human impacts

  • Buildings
  • Roads
  • Traffic
  • Farming
  • Tourism
  • Fishing
  • Pollution
  • Global warming
  • Coastal defences
  • Sailing

Impacts can be good or bad. Can you think of good and bad results of the impacts above?


Chichester Harbour Conservancy works with the Environment Agency and Southern Water to monitor pollution that might impact on Chichester Harbour. Samples are taken and reported on the Chichester District Council website. 

We encourage sustainable transport (Solar boat, cycle paths) to reduce air pollution.

There is a Chichester Harbour Oil Spill Contingency Plan for responding to oil spills on the water. The Conservancy has an Oil Pollution Management Plan for responding to oil spills on the water and we are improving facilities for waste oil. Regular exercises are undertaken so everyone is trained in the case of an emergency.


With 1.5 million visitors, litter, such as sweet wrappers, cans, crisp wrappers and food, is an issue. Visitors are encouraged to take their litter home with them.

Harbour Watch Volunteers look after a section of the Harbour, collecting litter and reporting on the state of sea defences and footpaths.

Each year, the Harbour Watch Volunteers collect about 200 bags of rubbish from the coastal footpaths and foreshore around the Harbour. Although the litter collection keeps the shoreline as clean as possible, the tide deposits debris twice a day making litter collection a never-ending job.

Looking after the environment

If humans went away, the environment would look after itself! The problem is that everything we do has an impact on the environment. How many objects can you see in the picture that have been made by people?

For the environment as a whole, we need to find ways to use less energy, especially that from coal, oil and gas and less water; to have enough houses, food and clothes yet still leave space for wildlife. Global warming is happening and we need to cope with the changes that will bring; rising sea levels and climate change.

All these global issues apply to Chichester Harbour, as well as local issues, such as how the land and water are used and protection of wildlife.

  • Be safe – plan ahead and follow any signs
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Protect plants and animals and take your litter home
  • Keep dogs under close control
  • Consider other people

We need to take care not to do too much damage to the things we value and to think carefully about any changes we make. However, there are many different users of the Harbour (see impact of people) and they do not always agree on what is a good or bad change.

Chichester Harbour is managed by the Conservancy in partnership with other organisations, for example DEFRA and Natural England. As well as being a special place for wildlife it is special for people too.

Chichester Harbour Conservancy has to manage the water and maintain it as a Harbour, manage the land around the water for recreation and business, and protect the areas that are special for wildlife.

The Harbour is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and should be managed to conserve and enhance natural beauty, while considering the needs of agriculture, forestry, other rural industries and local communities. Use of the area for recreation is encouraged as long as it does not affect the natural beauty of the area. Sustainable development should be promoted.

The Chichester Harbour AONB Management Plan is agreed every five years.

  • Start by finding out what the Harbour is like now, what is in it, who uses it and why.
  • Then think how you would like the Harbour to look in the future. Would you like to see houses built all around the edge and more marinas and holiday villages – or should there be fewer buildings and boats and more birds and saltmarsh?
  • Ask all the people who use it or live nearby what they think.
  • Balance up the different viewpoints and try to choose the best options for the future of the Harbour and the people.
  • Now think what needs to be done to make this happen.
  • Then make your plan!

Not easy is it? However, that is what the Conservancy and its partners did to create their management plan.