Environment Agency celebrates completion of UK’s largest open coast realignment

Working on behalf of the Environment Agency, Team Van Oord has successfully completed a £28m scheme which includes the largest realignment of open coast in the UK.

This is a key milestone in a 15-year project to provide 7km of new sea defences to protect local communities in West Sussex, while at the same time creating a large nature reserve at Medmerry.

The new sea defences and nature reserve were showcased on 4 November when one of the highest tides of 2013 provided ideal conditions to demonstrate how the scheme will protect local communities from flooding.

Lord Chris Smith and Paul Leinster, chairman and chief executive of the Environment Agency, and Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB, officially unveiled a plaque to celebrate the scheme.

The new defences at Medmerry significantly reduce the flood risk to nearly 350 homes, local infrastructure and the main road into the village of Selsey. The groundbreaking project has also created more than 180 hectares of important new wildlife habitat to help compensate for the loss of similar conservation areas in and around the Solent.

With the flood defences complete, 10km of new footpaths, cycleways and bridleways are now being created across the site.

David Rooke, Environment Agency director of flood and coastal risk management, said: “With one in six people at risk of flooding in England, schemes such as Medmerry have a key role to play in protecting people and property.

“They also have an important role in the local economy by encouraging more visitors to the area. Creating large-scale habitat is vital to ensuring the survival of the country’s endangered species, improving water quality and reducing carbon.”

Mike Clarke said: “This ambitious project is a fantastic example of how we can create habitat for threatened wildlife, benefit local communities and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

“This project will become a thriving wildlife haven and a big draw for nature lovers. We should take confidence from the success here at Medmerry and help to secure our and nature’s future by investing in these sort of landscape scale projects.”

Gary Page, regional framework manager for Team Van Oord, said: “The 450,000 m3 of earth required for the new defences was dug from within the site which avoided more than 40,000 lorry movements on the local road network.

“In addition, the 60,000 tonnes of rock used to build the structures at each end of the scheme were delivered by sea to further minimise impact on the local road network.

“Throughout construction we’ve taken great care to protect the existing wildlife on the site and to record features of archaeological interest.”

Visit the Environment Agency website for more information about the Medmerry managed realignment scheme, including photos, videos and new time lapse images of the work on site.

7 January 2014