Search

Plans to sacrifice part of reserve

PUBLISHED: 13:39 20 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:50 05 July 2010

Dozens of acres of nature reserve on the Suffolk coast may be lost to the sea in order to protect breeding habitat for rare birds from flooding, new coastal management plans have revealed.

Dozens of acres of nature reserve on the Suffolk coast may be lost to the sea in order to protect breeding habitat for rare birds from flooding, new coastal management plans have revealed.

The Environment Agency (EA) will reveal proposals on Friday to stop maintaining an earth bank which protects part of the Minsmere nature reserve, south of Southwold.

Dunes protecting the bank have been severely eroded in recent years and officials believe that spending further money in trying to shore-up the defence cannot be justified because the sea will soon break through.

It will mean that more than 60 acres of freshwater marsh at the RSPB reserve, home to rare birds including bitterns and marsh harriers, will become more vulnerable to saltwater flooding in order to protect the rest of the reserve.

While the EA does not believe that continued maintenance of the wall is economically or environmentally sustainable, it is planning to spend £1m raising the height of the Coney Wall, which runs east to west from the beach towards the Minsmere nature reserve so that the majority of the habitat will be protected.

This wall protects the most important section of the reserve - an area of more than 750 acres which is home to breeding bitterns and other important and protected species of bird - and EA officials believe that maintenance of this wall will protect the area for at least 50 years.

Stuart Barbrook, the agency's project manager, said: “During the last two winters there has been considerable damage at the end of the Minsmere site. The dunes have taken a battering and have been breached. It is a real pressure point. Our preferred option means we are working more in line with nature.”

Both the agency and the RSPB acknowledge that much of Minsmere will be lost to the sea in the long term and the search has already started for compensatory habitat inland, which the EA is obliged to find under European Union law.

Options including spending millions of pounds building off-shore reefs and beach groynes have also been considered, but the EA recognises that it cannot do nothing because it would lead to the whole reserve being lost.

Studies have shown that the most economically and environmentally sustainable option for the area was to withdraw maintenance from the primary, beach-side wall and raise the height of the secondary defence, known as Coney Wall.

Ian Barthorpe, RSPB spokesman, said: “We support the scheme. Our view is that while we'd like to protect valuable habitats were feasible, we accept that within 20 years this wall is likely to go.”

The RSPB has been working with the EA to identify replacement compensatory sites. Removal of maintenance in front of the north marsh would mean the habitat would change as a result of saltwater flooding, but it would still be of value to wildlife because marshland habitat is becoming increasingly scarce.

The agency's preferred option for sea defence work in the area will go on public display at the Sizewell sports and social club, Leiston, on Friday between 2.30pm and 7pm.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists