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08 Mar 2012

UK’s largest new wetland to be created in Somerset

Posted in All

Innovative approach improves flood protection and creates new habitats

Atlantic marsh creation - before

Planning permission has been granted to create one of the UK’s largest areas of new wildlife habitat on the Steart Peninsula in Somerset.

The Environment Agency and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) have worked closely with the local community to develop plans for an innovative flood defence and habitat creation project.

Over the next two years 400 hectares of the Steart Peninsula will be turned into wildlife-rich habitats including saltmarsh and freshwater wetland. These internationally important habitats provide vital feeding and breeding grounds for wading birds and wildfowl as well as homes for animals such as water voles and great crested newts.

Atlantic marsh creation - after

Better protection

In addition to boosting wildlife, the scheme will provide better protection for Steart village against flooding from the River Parrett. Stert Drove, the only road linking Steart village with surrounding communities, will also enjoy improved protection.

‘This exciting project offers an excellent opportunity to improve flood protection for the people who live and work on the Steart Peninsula while at the same time create internationally important intertidal habitats that will turn this stretch of the Somerset coastline into a haven for wildlife,’ said Nick Gupta for the Environment Agency.

Between 300 – 600 hectares of wetland habitat needs to be created in the Severn Estuary over the next 20 years to compensate for the loss of existing saltmarsh and mudflats through rising sea levels and the construction of new coastal flood defences.

The Government has an obligation to meet these targets and could face legal proceedings if it fails to create enough new coastal wetlands. The habitat creation at Steart will go a long way to meeting the target for the Severn Estuary.

“Sea level rise is affecting both wildlife and local communities as it squeezes wetlands along our coast. But thanks to the Environment Agency, we have this opportunity to create a productive and useful landscape that will help us face these challenges and bring benefits for people and wildlife

“We’re developing a dynamic new approach to land management at Steart and aim to show how it can be used to create similar wetland habitats elsewhere,” said WWT Chief Executive, Martin Spray.

Artist impression of the boardwalk cycle and bridle access

The UK’s largest new wetland

The Severn Estuary is internationally important for waterbirds. The project will benefit a number of species including shelduck, dunlin, redshank, avocets and wigeon. Several commercially important fish including sea bass use saltmarsh as nurseries for their young. Historically, the area has been used for arable farming. After conversion it will be used for grazing livestock and remain in productive agriculture.

The Steart Peninsula is already popular with bird watchers and dog walkers. The project will improve access for people with disabilities, horse riders, cyclists and walkers and provide panoramic viewpoints and wildlife observation hides.

Not only is it one of the largest projects of its kind, but uniquely Steart village is located right within the habitat creation area. The project team was in regular contact with the residents of Steart throughout the consultation period. Local people have been closely involved in planning the project and will continue to be consulted as the scheme progresses.

Artist impression of viewing point overlooking Atlantic marshes

“We have been included in discussions every step of the way and 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 tranquility of the peninsula.

“The creation of this threatened habitat is to be welcomed and I look forward eagerly to seeing the results. I hope that when eventually the scheme is up and running other coastal villages facing the same challenges will be reassured by our experience,” said Dick Best from the Steart Residents Group.

Construction of the new habitats and flood defences is due to start in the summer of 2012. The site will be owned by the Environment Agency and managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).

Click to see more pictures and videos on the project.

Video: WWT Habitat Creation Manager Tim McGrath talks about creating new saltmarshes on the Steart Peninsula in Somerset.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fu60Qca_YBM’]


  • Mo

    A fine project – we need more of this type of news to counter the crass ideas of the Govt. to even think about another airport – especially in the Thames estuary!
    Longlive the WWT and all who support our wonderful wetland life.
    Well done Tim!

  • Tldrumclair

    Fantastic news. It’s so good to projects such as this getting planning consent. Another great piece of work by all concerned to ensure the conservation of these vitally important areas of natural habitat. Well done.

  • Ralph H Sambrook

    Another great opportunity for wildfowl and wildlife preservation/conservation

  • Roger

    It looks as if the newly-weds in Steart wil be well served too with the “bridal access”* that the artistic but illiterate member of the project team has dreamt up.
    Seriously, congratulations to the EA for securing public money for this exciting project at a time of cut-backs in Government’s wildlife spending.

    * see caption of picture “Artist impression of the boardwalk cycle and bridal access”

  • J.P.

    Complimenti, un progetto che merita una maggiore pubblicità. Italiani come me che amano le zone umide lo stanno divulgando questa spelndida notizia
    G.P. Roma Italia

  • Morrismac

    Presumably the bridal access is so that newly-weds can enjoy a wildlife too 😉

  • MazzyB

    Great news! It is for these sort of projects and the aims of WWT that we chose WWT Life Membership as the one item on our wedding present list 3 years ago this month.

  • John

    Are you anticipating its use for weddings as you are proposing “bridal” access?? – perhaps that should be changed to “bridle”!

    But more seriously, this is great news – it has long been a favourite area of mine and now it is to be even better!

  • Trevor

    The one problem I see is the nuclear power station being built near here. How does this fit in?.
    Is this the EC site that we were told to build under EC law in Somerset as we did not have enough wetlands?.

  • wwtadmin

    Thanks for your comments.

    Trevor – these new wetlands will be created on low lying land on the Steart Peninsula, approximately three miles east of the existing power stations at Hinkley Point.

    Our wetland creation project will go ahead independently from the proposed new development at Hinkley and no construction traffic will be passing by Steart. Now with planning permission for the wetlands in place this exciting new reserve could be completed as early as Spring 2014!

    Saltmarsh around the UK is being lost as rising sea levels “squeeze” this intertidal habitat against our sea defences. The opportunity to create to create this big area of saltmarsh at Steart will help the UK meet its targets under the EU Habitats Directive Also this project will improve flood protection for the local communities that live and work on the Steart Peninsula.