New flood defences create 180 hectares of habitat for wildlife
This week saw the UK’s largest ever coastal flood realignment scheme completed in Medmerry, West Sussex.
The scheme, which cost £28 million, will protect 350 properties, two holiday parks and a water treatment works from coastal flooding. It will also be providing 180 hectares of habitat for wading birds, including the rare black-tailed godwit (pictured) and other protected species such as the water vole.
Later this year we will see the scheme opened to the public and the wildlife habitat will be managed by the RSPB.
Seven kilometres of new walls were built behind the old defences, in an effort that was led by the Environment Agency. The old defences were breached, and the new developments will open up 180 hectares of coastal habitat, which is the equivalent to more than 300 football pitches.
This will double the amount of man-made coastal habitat in the UK once the 400-hectare Steart Peninsula project opens in Somerset next year.
The Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, David Rooke, spoke on the RSPB’s official website, saying: “With one in six people at risk of flooding in England, schemes such as Medmerry have a key role to play in protecting people and property.
“They also have an important role in the local economy by encouraging more visitors to the area. Creating large-scale habitat is vital to ensuring the survival of the country’s endangered species, improving water quality and reducing carbon.”
The RSPB chief executive, Mike Clarke, also said: “This ambitious project is a fantastic example of how we can create habitat for threatened wildlife, benefit local communities and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.
“The UK is internationally important for coastal wildlife, particularly the millions of migrating birds that rely on saltmarsh and mudflats. Saltmarsh is disappearing as a result of sea level rise.
“This project, which the Environment Agency has delivered, will become a thriving wildlife haven and a big draw for nature lovers. We should take confidence from the success here at Medmerry and help to secure our and nature’s future by investing in these sort of landscape scale projects.”
There have been a number of other coastal flood schemes completed by the Environment Agency in the last few years. These include Frieston Shore on the Wash, Alkborough Flats in the Humber estuary and Plusterwine in the tidal Severn.
Picture: Koshy Koshy