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UK's largest coastal habitat flood scheme set to open in Sussex

Last modified: 04 November 2013

Flock of winter-plumaged black-tailed godwits

Birds like the black-tailed godwit are set to benefit from the Medmerry managed realignment project

Image: Graham Catley

The UK's largest ever coastal flood realignment scheme is completed today (Monday 4 November, 2013) in Medmerry, West Sussex.

The £28 million Medmerry scheme will protect 350 properties, two holiday parks and a water treatment works from coastal flooding, in addition to providing 180 hectares of habitat for wading birds, such as the rare black-tailed godwit, and other protected species, such as the water vole. 

The scheme is due to open to the public later this year; the RSPB will manage the wildlife habitat and the Environment Agency will manage the flood defences.

Led by the Environment Agency, seven kilometres of new walls were built behind the old defences, which were breached, creating 180 hectares of coastal habitat - equivalent to more than 300 football pitches. The completion of the scheme will double the amount of man-made coastal habitat in the UK once the 400-hectare Steart Peninsula project opens in Somerset next year.

David Rooke, Director of Flood and Coastal Risk Management at the Environment Agency, said: '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.'

Delivering value for money

Mike Clarke, RSPB chief executive, 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.'

Other examples of natural coastal flood schemes completed by the Environment Agency in the last few years include Frieston Shore on the Wash, Alkborough Flats in the Humber estuary and Plusterwine in the tidal Severn.

One in six people are at risk of flooding in England. To find out your risk and sign up to free flood warnings go to: www.environment-agency.gov/flood

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