New reserve comes on stream to help wildlife
ANEW scheme that will improve flood protection, boost wildlife habitats and create new saltmarsh has been officially opened.
The new reserve not only creates 395 acres (160 hectares) of new saltmarsh habitat but strengthens sea defences.
The £6m scheme at Hesketh Bank is a partnership between the RSPB, Natural England and the Environment Agency.
The RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve (NNR) are part of the newly-launched joint strategy for NNRs.
The Environment Agency has breached the banks at Hesketh Out Marsh East.
The work has been made possible by:
Almost £2m funding from Landfill Communities Fund from FCC Environment through the non profit-making environmental body, WREN.
£3.7m government funding to reduce flood risk.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, who opened the scheme on Thursday, said: “Hesketh is an inspiring project, creating fantastic new habitats for wildlife and providing increased flood protection for hundreds of people living around the Ribble Estuary.
“This £6m scheme shows how embracing new ideas and working with partners can create tremendous benefits for the environment.”
Natural England’s chairman, Andrew Sells, said: “England’s National Nature Reserves are the most special places for nature, which also help improve the wellbeing of people making more than 17 million visits every year.
“Uniting these two reserves on the Ribble will create wonderful new habitat, reduce the risk of flooding and enhance the area’s appeal to wildlife.
“It is also an extremely symbolic moment, demonstrating how conservation will work in the future.
“Bringing together a number of important organisations and the local community, with the aim of providing a far greater home for nature, is at the heart of the new Joint NNR strategy.
“It will enable us all to deliver more public benefits, such as improved health and wellbeing, and allow wildlife to spill over and enrich the surrounding countryside.”
On completion, the full RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve will include 840 acres (340ha) of saltmarsh, making it the largest of its kind in the North.
The reserve will be designated as part of the existing Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve later this year. The RSPB and Natural England will then jointly manage both sites as effectively one large reserve. Ribble Estuary NNR is already England’s third-largest.
RSPB area manager Robin Horner said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating this partnership work and all that has been achieved through this project.
“These improved coastal defences, fronted by saltmarsh, deliver much-needed local climate change adaptation and provide invaluable new wildlife habitat close to Britain’s most important single river estuary for birds.”
Work at Hesketh Outmarsh East has involved strengthening and raising the height of 1½ miles (2km) of flood banks.
This has reduced the flood risk to more than 140 properties and 740 acres (300ha) of prime farmland nearby.
This is known as “managed realignment”, and is one of the largest schemes of its kind in the UK.
Chair of the Environment Agency Emma Howard Boyd said: “Hesketh is a win, win scenario - a fantastic scheme which not only works with nature to reduce flood risk but also brings benefits to the wider environment and local communities.
“Through partnership working, we can achieve more and Hesketh proves that.”