The Isle of Wight is one of the most important areas for the natural environment in the United Kingdom . The Island's spectacular geology, geomorphology and diversity of habitats which support many rare species, are often unrivalled elsewhere.
In recognition of the rich wildlife and the Island 's geological and geomorphological importance, much of the coastline has been protected under International and National legislation, and by many local initiatives. In particular, the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight contains, at least in part, three Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), one Special Protection Area (SPA), one listed Ramsar site, seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) and twenty two locally designated coastal Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs).
Much of the coastal study area has been classified under the EC Birds Directive as SPA for its internationally important populations of overwintering wildfowl and waders. As well as the Island 's important bird life, part of the study area has been designated for its internationally important marine habitats, intertidal reefs and brackish lagoons, all of which are considered to be some of the finest examples of their kind.
In order to preserve this rich and important environment for future generations to enjoy, we all have a responsibility, and are indeed instructed by law to take account of the needs of these environmental features when using or managing the river catchments, harbours and the coastline. A primary aim of this strategy is, therefore, to not only ensure that the flood and coastal defences will be managed in a way that is technically and economically feasible, but in a way that is also acceptable for the natural environment, and the scientific importance that it possesses.
The selection of appropriate policies is, therefore, through a process of stringent environmental evaluation. This means that some options, which are potentially technically feasible and economically viable, may have been rejected as possible solutions due to their impact on the environment. This environmental evaluation is an in depth process involving the Environment Agency, the Isle of Wight Council and Natural England, along with numerous other consultees and interested parties.