|In 2006 the UK Government identified Wallasea island,on the Crouch/Roach Estuaries, East Anglia, as a suitable site for the creation of an area of intertidal marine wetlands, mudflats and saltmarsh via the so called “Managed Realignment” approach. These new habitats would serve as compensation for a similar area which had been left out of a site designated under the EU Birds Directive to allow for port development in the Medway estuary near London, an area of international importance for birds, and the subject of a European Court of Justice case in 1996.
RSPB (BirdLife Partner in the UK) were appointed as managers of the site in 2006, but faced a serious problem. Managed Realignment uses breaches (holes) in the sea wall to allow the sea in to recreate intertidal habitats. However, with most of the land on Wallasea island well below high tide level, just letting the sea in would cause problems with navigation and erosion elsewhere in the Crouch/Roach estuaries.
In early 2008, RSPB was approached by Crossrail – a British project to build major new railway connections under central London – who were seeking a beneficiary to reuse the clean spoil from their tunnelling.
An agreement was reached that the clay, chalk and gravel generated by Crossrail would be used to raise land on Wallasea, creating over 600ha of new habitat including hillocks and dips into which seawater will ebb and flow.
The donation of this material, and its transportation to Wallasea Island by Crossrail at no cost to the RSPB, was a massive boost to the project, enabling habitat creation far in excess of that from the compensation scheme alone. The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project will create more space for nature as intertidal habitats elsewhere within the estuary continue to be lost from rising sea levels and coastal erosion.
RSPB, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife partner in the UK)
Daniel Pullan, Daniel.Pullan(at)rspb.org.uk