On 28 July 2017, members of Essex County Council’s Development and Regulation Committee resolved to approve proposals for the final phase of the RSPB’s landscape-scale habitat creation scheme on Wallasea Island.
This last phase, subject to the completion of a legal agreement and the imposition of conditions, will involve the creation of an enormous complex of bird-rich coastal lagoons that will be unique in Northern Europe.
Work is expected to begin in spring 2018 and consist of a novel system of bunds and culverts creating six major lagoons extending over almost 300 hectares. When complete, they will provide a unique and attractive landscape for visitors and for a wide range of species including many of the waterbirds that breed in, and migrate through, the UK.
For this final phase, the RSPB has again worked with ABPmer to design the restored wetland area. In this case the design will result in a coastal landscape that has never been created in this country before. The proposed habitats will be reminiscent of those found in Mediterranean salinas (biodiverse coastal lakes used historically for salt production). They will also be similar to parts of the Camargue in the south of France or Doñana in southern Spain.
These new habitats will also provide a suitable environment for more southerly bird species which are currently not that common in the UK such as Spoonbill, Black-Winged Stilt, or Kentish Plover. It is expected that as these species move north in response to climate change they will increasingly need to rely on shallow water saline lagoons such as those that are now proposed at Wallasea.
Rachel Fancy, RSPB Wallasea Island Warden said; “Wallasea Island is an incredibly special place and over the last few years, it really has flourished for people and wildlife. Last Winter, was the most successful ever with a record count of over 12,000 birds. The reserve is now reaching its final phase and we are thrilled that such a groundbreaking project has been so successful and proved to be such an inspiration. We are very excited to embark on this final phase of the project!”
Colin Scott, Wallasea Island Project Director at ABPmer said; “We have been really pleased to work with the RSPB and their partners on the amazing Wallasea Island Wild Coast project since its inception.
“The first stage of the project, a 165 hectare managed realignment, was landscaped using Crossrail tunnel excavations and is performing as designed. Soon we will see the creation of the largest complex of shallow bird-rich saline lagoons in Northwest Europe.”
The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project in Essex (near Rochford and Burnham-on-Crouch), is being implemented by the RSPB. It involves reshaping the island’s landform and allowing tidal waters from the adjacent Roach Estuary to flood back across the island. This will return the island back to being a complex mosaic of biodiverse coastal habitats as it was prior to being claimed from the estuary several centuries ago.
This landmark project is being carried out for a wide variety of reasons including: to restore lost coastal habitat, respond to sea level rise and provide an attractive recreational space that can be used by locals and visitors. Crucially, it will also avoid the risks of a future unmanaged seawall breach occurring on this site that would cause substantial damage to the adjacent Roach Estuary and the surrounding coastal defences.
For more than a decade ABPmer has been providing technical support and consenting advice to the RSPB on the Wallasea Project. It has designed the functionality of each phase of the scheme, led the Environmental Impact Assessment, prepared the required planning submissions and undertaken site monitoring.
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