Published: March 8, 2012
Plans to create UK's largest wetlands wildlife habitat are approved

Planning permission has this week been granted to create one of the UK's largest areas of new wildlife habitat, to be located on the Steart Peninsula near Burnham-On-Sea.

Over the next two years 400 hectares of the Steart Peninsula will be turned into wildlife-rich habitats including saltmarsh and freshwater wetlands.

The multi-million pound project will see the construction of wetland habitats comprising intertidal and freshwater areas, set-back banks as flood defences, improvements to existing defences, new walkways, observation points and hides, plus car parking and landscaping.

District councillor Anne Fraser, portfolio holder for Economic Strategy, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "This is really exciting news. The scheme will be a great asset to the area - not only for birds, but for people to get out and about and admire the natural beauty of this landscape. Through careful design and planning, there will be considerable flood defences built in to the scheme in a natural and complementary way."

The project will create a major new wetland, including some 194 hectares of intertidal salt marsh, 67 hectares of transitional brackish habitat, 106 hectares of coastal grazing marsh, 17 hectares of brackish and saline lagoons, 8 hectares of freshwater lagoon, 12 hectares of reed beds and various ponds and ditches.

This will benefit plant diversity, animals such as water birds, and amphibians with the aim of offsetting the losses of habitat that are predicted to occur elsewhere in the Severn estuary as a result of rising sea levels, as we recently reported here.

"Through the project the Environment Agency will be able both to manage current flood risks to people and property and provide more opportunity for those living and working in the area to adapt to sea level rise and plan for the future. The site will be managed on behalf of the Environment Agency by the Wetlands & Wildlife Trust," Sedgemoor District Council spokeswoman Claire Faun told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

Dick Best, from the Steart Residents Group, said local people have welcomed the scheme: "Although this is a habitat creation scheme, some issues are an absolute priority to us - the safety of our homes now and into the future, the access to the village and the preservation of the tranquillity of the peninsula. The creation of this threatened habitat is to be welcomed and I look forward eagerly to seeing the results."

Sedgemoor District Council has this week given delegated permission for the project. There had been extensive consultation, both with landowners and residents in the area, and there were no objections from the statutory consultees.

 


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