Rapid approval for new habitat and flood defence scheme

Posted: Friday 20th April 2012

The UK's largest new wetland, located in Somerset, has gained planning approval in record time.

The habitat will be created as part of a managed realignment scheme on the Steart Peninsula, near Bridgwater. The site will be owned by the Environment Agency and managed by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

The Severn Estuary is internationally important for waterbirds and the scheme will create over 400 hectares of valuable natural habitats including saltmarsh and freshwater wetland.

Halcrow, working on behalf of the Environment Agency, carried out the design and assessment work which culminated in the scheme passing through the planning system in rapid time.

The scheme was subject to intense third party technical scrutiny but passed with flying colours and no objections. The construction of the new habitats and flood defences is due to start in the spring of 2012 and the scheme will be opened to tidal waters in 2013.

Commenting on the design process, Halcrow’s Dr Nigel Pontee, lead geomorphologist for the scheme said:

“This has been a challenging project. From a technical perspective this is a large scheme in a very dynamic environment. We have used the latest modelling approaches to ensure that the scheme will create the desired habitats whilst having the lowest possible impact on the River Parrett which runs past the site.

The managed realignment at Steart is large in comparison to the Parrett Estuary from which it draws its water and therefore it has a potential to impact on the dynamics of the estuary. We developed a hydrodynamic model to understand the complex estuarine processes and test a wide range of options for tidal exchange with the realignment site. Extensive discussions with stakeholders provided direction in appraisal of the options. The modelling showed that the final design would lead to negligible impacts on the estuary. The model findings, supported by an independent peer review, enabled the project team to present a sustainable project, prior to a planning application, which gained wide support from the public and stakeholders. ’’

The scheme will also provide protection for Steart village against flooding from the River Parrett. Additionally, Steart Drove, the only road that links Steart village with surrounding communities will also enjoy improved protection.

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