Wetland created by London Gateway project

Contractor Carillion will remove 300m of seawall this month to flood the 30 hectare site. Contractor Carillion will remove 300m of seawall this month to flood the 30 hectare site.

The UK’s coastline is being changed to create a new wildlife reserve as part of the London Gateway port and logistics park being developed in the Thames Estuary.

Developer DP World is creating a new wetland 30 times the size of Trafalgar Square by breaching part of the Essex coast’s flood defence wall. The new wildlife reserve will provide feeding areas for thousands of birds flying south for the winter. New habitats will also be created for adders, newts, lizards and water voles, which are being re-homed as part of the development works for the new deep sea container port.

This month sees the culmination of two years of preparations for this complex engineering project. Carillion, the contractor for DP World, is removing 300m of existing sea wall at low tide. The tide will then flood the 30 hectare site creating new intertidal mudflats, which are ideal feeding areas for avocets, dunlins, black tailed godwits and many other species of birds. A new flood defence wall has been created around the land to be flooded.

DP World has worked closely with many environmental authorities to deliver the new wildlife reserve, including the Environment Agency, the Marine Management Organisation, the Port of London Authority, Natural England and the RSPB. A new pathway has also been created to allow recreation activities to continue around the site.

Before the site construction work could begin, archaeologists were sent to check for any historical remains. In 2009, as part of one the UK’s largest archaeological digs, they uncovered Roman ruins including salt production houses dating back 2,000 years.

Simon Moore, chief executive of London Gateway said, ‘This breach is an important milestone for us, as it allows us to complete the marine infrastructure required for the new port, which continues on schedule.’

Tim Bismire, engineering director added, ‘DP World is creating a net increase in the amount of wetlands around London Gateway. This project is one part of a wider engineering and environmental management strategy. We take our environmental responsibilities seriously and we will remain committed to the protection of wildlife.’

Steve Bewers, the Environment Agency’s project manager for London Gateway said, ‘The creation of this inter-tidal mud flat will compensate that lost through the building of London Gateway Port. This will ensure that important feeding grounds for birds will continue to exist and not be lost through commercial development.

‘Furthermore, this addition to the marine environment of the Thames will provide sheltered areas for fish, increasing the opportunity for fish growth and diversity. The varied terrestrial habitats created on the fringes of this compensation area will allow a diverse population of animals to thrive.’

The new wildlife reserve is part of the Mitigation, Compensation and Monitoring Agreement for London Gateway Port.

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