Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project

Year:2015

Duration:3 years

Cost:£70m

Country: UK

What did this project achieve?

Recycling Crossrail waste into a wetland wildlife habitat

The new wetland habitat in Essex is now a flagship RSPB site and a landmark conservation initiative created from 3m tonnes of earth from the London Crossrail tunnel excavation. The project made new land areas including seven artificial islands and saw the bulldozing of 300m of the seawall to flood 115 hectares of farmland.

This new landscape has evolved into a stable natural environment of mudflats, salt water lakes and coastline that provide more habitat for wildlife, particularly wading birds.

Engineers allowed the area to flood, creating a buffer, and helping absorb high water flows - reducing the risk of flooding

Engineers allowed the area to flood, creating a buffer, and helping absorb high water flows - reducing the risk of flooding

Difference the project has made

The twin aims of the Wallasea Island project are to combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding and to recreate the ancient wetland landscape of mudflats and saltmarsh, lagoons and pasture.

The project shows how waste material from large scale infrastructure projects can be sustainably re-used.

Spoil (waste earth) was transported by barge to Wallasea Island, saving thousands of lorry trips across London and Essex. It will provide a haven for a wonderful array of nationally and internationally important wildlife and an amazing place for everyone to enjoy.

Local flooding should be reduced by changing the the coastline – creating a larger ‘buffer’ area for high water flows to be absorbed into and reducing pressure on the sea wall.

The creation of new wetland habitats will also help to compensate for the loss of others elsewhere in the UK.

Over time the tide will deposit silt (fine sand) across the shoreline habitats which will increase food for wading birds. The RSPB has already reported a successful first breeding season.

How the conservation work continues

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project is a landmark conservation and engineering scheme for the 21st century on a scale never before attempted in the UK and the largest of its type in Europe.

Phase 1, Jubilee Marsh, opened in September 2015.

Although the reserve will continue to be developed until around 2021 visitors can view the progress as each phase comes to life and the marshland naturally regenerates.

The current access along the Allfleets Marsh Trail sea wall is a wonderful place to enjoy, whether walking, cycling, birdwatching, painting, photography or simply taking in the sea air.

 

“​‌

The Wallasea Island Wild Coast project is a fantastic example of how creative thinking can bring development and environmental protection together, delivering win-win solutions for both. This kind of sustainable growth allows us to protect our natural environment while putting in place the infrastructure our country needs to grow.

Rory Stewart

DEFRA Environment Minister

Fascinating facts

3m tonnes of excavated material were transported by barge from London

It took 1,500 return voyages for the boats

This avoided 150,000 lorry journeys

That’s the equivalent of 12m road miles or going around the earth 20 times

People who made it happen

  • Engineers: BAM Nuttall, ABPMer, Aecom
  • Clients: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Crossrail, Environment Agency

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