Major stakeholders in the Lower Arun Valley have agreed a way forward for the management of the River Arun, following two years of consultation.
The Arun Valley Vision Group launched its report, A Vision for the Arun Valley, at the White Swan in Arundel this morning.
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert, who initiated the group, said he would now personally send a copy to the secretary of state and follow up by arranging talks.
It was made clear that although this was a voluntary advisory group, it was made up of all the major parties between Pulborough and Littlehampton, and therefore carried great weight.
Mr Herbert said: "The more that there can be a coherent view involving lots of different partners, the stronger the case that one can make to government bodies.
"The strength of this group and this report is that it has brought together people that didn't necessarily share the same view about how the valley should be managed in future but it has got everybody sitting down together in the same room.
"I would encourage everybody to continue the work together, even if you have slightly different views. What unites us is that we all live here, work here and really care about this valley. Together, I think we can ensure this beautiful part of this world is maintained."
The group was set up in January 2017 with a brief to work in collaboration and develop a viable, long-term vision for what the wider community wants for the valley and plan for how that vision could be achieved and managed.
Members include representatives from the Environment Agendy, Southern Water, Arun and Rother Rivers Trust, Natural England, the RSPB, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Duke of Norfolk Estate, the Forestry Commission, South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) and local authorities.
Mr Herbert said he was pleased SDNPA had agreed to continue to convene the group going forward.
Factors under consideration included climate change, rising sea levels and flood risk, as well as pressures on public funding.
Gill Farquharson, co-chairman, said there was a definite move towards localism and it was up to local communities to continue this work.
It had not been easy, as different parties had very different ideas, but through this community-led project, they had come to a sustainable, long-term vision for the valley, summarised as 'adaptive management'.
Mrs Farquharson said: "It is absolutely no secret there were a lot of very heated meetings and very entrenched views on both sides.
"Over the last two years, so many people have moved more towards a central situation, where they can speak to people with opposing views and come to an agreement. People can still come together for the greater good of the community.
"This report is not the end, it is on the way to a potential solution. This is a work in progress that will continue."
The report expands on how an adaptive management approach for the Arun Valley should be developed over the next two-year phase of the project.
Dr John Godfrey, co-chairman, said: "We have had a very interesting two years. We started from a base where there were a lot of quite different views being expressed. I think we have come together to agree a way forward.
"We have identified a way in which we think it is possible to balance both the needs to maintain some of the existing flood defence structures in the valley but also to allow some areas to return to a more natural flood management system, all in the context of trying to encourage the economic development of the area to maintain incomes for farmers and to enhance the benefits which the whole beautiful valley can offer to both local people and to visitors from further afield."
Key recommendations include the establishment of a strategic partnership body to co-ordinate the interests of all stakeholders and a robus assessment of the natural, economic, agricultural, social and cultural capital within the valley.
The plan of action specifies lead roles for the various agencies involved. Success will rely on securing funding and continuing the partnership approach with the support of key organisations, the report states.
Visit www.avvg.co.uk for more information.