A new scheme which will improve flood protection, boost wildlife habitats and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh, was opened today (Thursday 21st September).
The new reserve not only creates new saltmarsh habitat but ensures stronger sea defences by a process known as 'managed realignment', and is one of the largest of its kind in the UK. The £6 million scheme at Hesketh, in Lancashire, is a partnership project 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), near Southport, are a real world demonstration of the joint strategy for NNRs. The Environment Agency has breached the banks at Hesketh Outmarsh East (HOME) and Natural England are now launching the joint strategy. This important work has been made possible by almost £2million funding from Landfill Communities Fund monies from FCC Environment through WREN, and by £3.7million Government funding to reduce flood risk.
On completion, the full RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve will include 340 hectares of saltmarsh and will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. The Reserve will be designated as part of the existing Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve later in 2017, and the RSPB and Natural England will jointly manage both sites as effectively one large reserve, alongside the Lytham and District Wildfowlers Association who support the management of the north side of the NNR. The Ribble Estuary NNR is already England’s third largest National Nature Reserve, and the most important single estuary site in the country for birds.
Work at Hesketh Out Marsh East (HOME) has involved strengthening and raising the height of 2km of flood banks. This has reduced the flood risk to more than 140 properties and 300 hectares of prime farmland nearby.
Natural England Chair, Andrew Sells said “England’s National Nature Reserves are the most special places for nature and geodiversity, and improve the wellbeing of over 17m annual visitors. The launch of the new joint NNR Strategy will demonstrate latest approaches for creating landscapes that deliver more public benefits such as people’s health and wellbeing, and enabling wildlife to spill over and enrich the surrounding countryside.”
“By working in partnership across the environmental sector we are able to deliver more wildlife and more places for people to engage with it, along with other benefits such as natural flood alleviation, such as here on the Ribble”
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said: "Hesketh is a win, win scenario - a fantastic scheme which not only works with nature to reduce flood risk but also brings benefits the wider environment and local communities. Through partnership working we can achieve more and Hesketh proves that."
Robin Horner, RSPB Area Manager 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.”