THE public will be asked about plans to set aside sections of The Solent as nature reserves this year before a final decision is made on their size and location.
The government plans to declare a number of sites in The Solent as marine conservation zones, which would restrict activity in order to protect rare plants and wildlife.
However, fears have been expressed by environmental campaigners the scheme could be scaled back, after a minister hinted some of the proposed 127 sites nationwide would be dropped.
In a letter to Labour’s environment spokesman, Ben Bradshaw, environment minister Richard Benyon said he would be identifying sites that would become marine conservation zones in 2013, as well as those that would be dropped.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said no decisions had been made on the eventual sites around the country, including those proposed for The Solent.
He said: "We will be studying the evidence closely. Once we have worked through the scientific evidence, we will consult on which sites are proposed and which will be discounted."