Birdwatch News Archive
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson (centre) presses the button to start works on the project; he is joined by Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme (left) and Mike Clarke, RSPB Chief Executive (right). Photo courtesy of RSPB and Crossrail.
Building Britain’s biggest coastal nature reserveBirdwatch news team
Posted on: 18 Sep 2012
Yesterday (17 September 2012) marked the launch of works for the creation of 670 hectares of new coastal marshland at Wallasea Island RSPB, Essex. In an event attended by Birdwatch, new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson officially started Europe’s most ambitious man-made coastal nature project, and pledged his personal support for the scheme.
Mr Paterson said: “The excellent work that Crossrail and the RSPB are doing to create the Jubilee Marshes at Wallasea shows how major infrastructure schemes can help to generate economic growth as well as helping to improve local wildlife. This could be the gold standard against which all future projects are measured.”
The project will transform Wallasea Island in the Thames Estuary from levee-protected farmland into a thriving wetland, twice the size of the City of London, guaranteeing a place for tens of thousands of migratory birds, while combating threats from climate change and coastal flooding. This landmark project, never before attempted on this scale in Europe, has been made possible through a unique partnership between the RSPB and Crossrail.
Crossrail is a huge transport construction project that will link Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, with 13 miles of new tunnels passing below central London. Clay excavated from beneath the capital is being transported via freight train and then ship to Wallasea.
The site is currently two metres below sea level and some nine million tonnes of clean earth is needed to build up the levels before the area can be flooded with sea water. Half of this will be provided by the partnership with Crossrail. A wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London, Crossrail Limited has created a jetty with capacity to unload two ships at a time, both of which will carry 4,100 tonnes of clay; at its peak, 10,000 tonnes of material will be unloaded from the ships per day.
The earth will be used to create higher and lower ground to restore the wetland landscape of mudflats, saltmarsh and lagoons last seen 400 years ago.
The loss of coastal habitat over the past four centuries has been dramatic. Without projects like Wallasea Island, rising sea levels are threatening to see another 1,000 hectares lost in the next decade. Wallasea Island will provide 670 hectares of secure habitat for wildlife to thrive well into the future and the RSPB predicts a significant increase in the number of birds once the project is completed. About eight miles of coastal walks and cycle routes will also be created as part of the project.
Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of the RSPB said: “This is the largest coastal habitat creation of its kind in Europe and it will transform an area more than double the size of the City of London back to the coastal marshland it once was. Wallasea Island will show for the first time on a large scale, how it’s possible to ‘future proof’ low lying coasts against sea level rise caused by climate change. This will deliver benefits to wildlife and provide a wonderful place for people to enjoy. Wallasea Island could now see the return of birds that once bred in England, such as Kentish Plovers that were last seen here more than 50 years ago.”
It is hoped that the new coastal habitat will attract such species as Kentish Plover, which
hasn't bred in England for more than half a century. Photo by Gordon Langsbury
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