DP World London Gateway has completed the creation of 65ha of important intertidal habitat, comprising 59ha of mudflat, which will provide feeding ground for wading birds and fish, and six hectares of saltmarsh.
The new intertidal mudflat – equivalent in size to 82 football pitches – is located on the south bank of the River Thames, just north of Cooling in Kent and to the south east of DP World London Gateway Port.
The new habitat is to be called Salt Fleet Flats Reserve following a vote by the public and members of the local community.
As part of the permission to build the deep-sea terminal, DP World created additional new mudflat habitat to compensate for habitat that was predicted would be lost during construction. But DP World has more than compensated, creating an additional twelve more hectares than it needed to, totalling a 59ha wildlife sanctuary.
The mudflat is the second that DP World has created in South East England. Completed in 2010, Stanford Wharf Nature Reserve, on the north bank of the Thames, provides 27ha of new inter-tidal mud flat habitat. That site is managed in partnership with leading wildlife conservation organisation the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Although largely funded by DP World, The Environment Agency made a financial contribution to the project through a partnership agreement with DP World, and some of the newly constructed habitat will count towards its requirements to compensate for intertidal habitat loss caused by predicted rises in sea levels.
Salt Fleet Flats Reserve was created by constructing a new 2.4km-long sea wall, inland of the existing one, before that was breached along a 700m section to enable the land to flood with the tide. This was the largest breach of a sea wall in the UK.
To provide further enhancement at the site, project ecologists The Ecology Consultancy worked with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to develop a bespoke seed mix to be sown along the new sea wall. It is expected this will attract rare bee species and other invertebrates by increasing the diversity of flowering plant species and the biodiversity resource they provide.
Hundreds of members of the local community voted for the site’s name. School children from the Hathaway Academy in Grays, Essex, residents in Kent villages High Halstow, Cliffe and Cooling, Essex towns Stanford-le-Hope and Corringham and those who visited DP World London Gateway as part of Estuary 2016, a festival celebrating the River Thames, voted for ‘Salt Fleet Flats’, which is derived from the name of a watercourse located just south of the site.
Steve Bewers, Project Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “We congratulate DP World London Gateway on the successful completion of the creation of this new huge area of intertidal mudflats at Cooling in Kent.
“More habitat has now been created than was required by DP World to compensate for losses that were predicted to arise through the creation of the Port.
“Over 800ha of additional tidal storage is considered to be required in the Thames estuary by the end of this century. Some 30ha is needed within the next 20 years and the extra area provided in the new intertidal area at Cooling will make an important contribution to the target.”
Rachael Jones, Environment Manager, DP World London Gateway, said: “The completion of this important project has been a great effort by all those involved.
“We’re delighted that members of the public have been able to help us in naming the new site. It was a very close vote between Salt Fleet Flats and Willow Wick Reserve, but we are really pleased with the name Salt Fleet Flats, which refers to the name of an important existing water body next to the site.
“The new wetland habitat is already attracting wading birds and we will be monitoring how it develops and establishes over time. We are looking forward to seeing how the site is used during the overwintering bird season and the first fish surveys at the site will start next month, working in co-ordination with the Environment Agency.”