Image credit - Wild Ken Hill

There could be ‘catastrophic damage’ to nature if Wash Barrier plans go ahead

Thursday 02 November, 2023

Alongside a variety of other conservation charities, we are warning of catastrophic damage to one of the UK’s most important wetlands ahead of a public meeting in Hunstanton to discuss a proposed tidal barrier on The Wash. 
Our Planning and Advocacy Manager, Mike Jones, will speak at the event in defense of this vital wild landscape and highlight its importance on a local, national and global scale for wildlife and people.
Despite more than three years of speculation, there are still significant concerns people are being kept in the dark about Centre Port’s tidal barrier project, including the catastrophic effects such a development would have on wildlife and people. 
Conservation organisations and local businesses including us at NWT, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB and Wild Ken Hill are frustrated by the lack of transparency from the developer. The Centre Port chief is expected to face fierce opposition from scientists, conservation charities and community members as they prepare ahead of a meeting at the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton on Friday. 
James Sutcliffe, CEO of Centre Port Ltd, is expected to give an update at this Friday’s meeting on his ideas for an enormous tidal barrier on The Wash, which are believed to involve building a deep-sea container port on the cherished estuary. Community members have previously asked him to explain the plans, but have had only ‘vague’ statements about the future of The Wash and a lack of transparency from the developer. 
Wild Ken Hill founder, Dominic Buscall, said: “I publicly debated this issue with Mr Sutcliffe in May. Aside from the widespread opposition to the idea, one of the notable features from that evening was the complete lack of information on his ideas. Six months later and that continues to be the case. It is now time to put this whole proposal to bed.” 
No firm plans for the development to go ahead have been confirmed, and the developer would need to complete studies on the environmental impacts and demonstrate the project’s viability before any work could begin. Similar proposals to build a tidal barrier on the River Severn were rejected by the Government in 2010, as result of potential environmental risks and rising costs. 
The Wash estuary is currently under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage status as part of England’s East Coast wetlands, in recognition of its global importance for wildlife, but the future protection of this exceptional area could be dealt a significant blow if the gigantic infrastructure project is given the green light. The tidal barrage development threatens to cause catastrophic damage to one of Europe’s most important wetland habitats for wildlife. 
Previous talks about the idea prompted Tim Jickells, a retired professor of oceanography at the University of East Anglia, to warn against turning The Wash into a ‘green, fetid lake’. 
Phil Pearson, RSPB senior conservation officer, said: “A tidal barrier on The Wash would be disastrous for the UK’s most important estuary for wetland birds and would have knock-on effects on other nationally and internationally important habitats for wildlife such as the East Coast and the Fens. 
“This kind of thing has been tried before and never works as intended. The evidence from other barrage proposals around the world highlights the potential catastrophic impact that can occur to an estuary’s habitats and wildlife if these sorts of projects go ahead. “The proposed Wash barrier is being touted as supporting renewable energy generation, but in reality the estuary is wholly unsuited to this project.” 
Tim McGrath, director of conservation for the WWT, said: “Saltmarsh, which is abundant on the estuary, naturally stores carbon and helps us adapt to the impacts of climate change, while providing additional multiple benefits to nature and people. Saltmarsh is extremely effective at storing carbon, and typically captures carbon 40 times faster than temperate forests. As well damaging a natural flood defence, a tidal barrier on The Wash could create additional flood risk, as well as releasing vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, further contributing to issues the scheme is claiming to ameliorate.” 
Mike Jones, our planning and advocacy manager, said: “In addition to providing habitats and food for many wetland species, saltmarsh can also mitigate the effects of flooding, alongside traditional measures such as sea walls. 
“Building a huge tidal barrier would likely flood and destroy the saltmarsh along this stretch of coast, destroying vital wildlife habitat and exposing local communities to increased flood risk which undermines the supposed purpose of the scheme.
“We are facing a joint biodiversity and climate crisis and the two are inextricably linked – to address one, it is crucial we address the other, which is why we must put nature at the heart of our decision-making, including development and infrastructure planning on our land, coast and sea.” 
The importance of The Wash is recognised in national and international environmental designations including Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Ramsar site and Special Protection Area (SPA). 
Share this

Top news stories

2024-04-10 We've sent a letter to the DEF We've sent a letter to the DEFRA Secretary of State to counter an “ill-advised attack” on Natural England
Wednesday 10 April, 2024
We have today sent a letter to the Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP, DEFRA Secretary of State.  The correspondence calls...
2024-02-19 Cromer goats join NWT! Cromer goats join NWT!
Monday 19 February, 2024
Twelve rare breed goats are settling into their new life with Norfolk Wildlife Trust after retiring from their conser...
2024-02-09 High-tech cows aid nature cons High-tech cows aid nature conservation at NWT Sweet Briar Marshes
Friday 09 February, 2024
Six rare breed cattle, sporting the latest in grazing technology, have been released at Norfolk Wildlife Trust's ...
2024-02-08 NWT Cley Marshes to host Rober NWT Cley Marshes to host Robert Gillmor retrospective
Thursday 08 February, 2024
Norfolk Wildlife Trust will host a retrospective exhibition of the work of renowned wildlife artist, Robert Gillmor, ...
2024-02-02 Population of UK’s tallest bir Population of UK’s tallest bird hits record-breaking high
Friday 02 February, 2024
Survey results show 2023 was another successful year for the Common Crane, with a record 80 pairs confirmed in the UK...
2024-02-01 National Lottery Heritage Fund National Lottery Heritage Funding to support our new 'Building Foundations for the Future' project
Thursday 01 February, 2024
We are delighted to announce that we have been granted an incredible £241,642 from The National Lottery He...
2024-01-19 UK Government authorises use o UK Government authorises use of bee-killing pesticide for sugar beet
Friday 19 January, 2024
'Emergency' authorisation to use a highly damaging neonicotinoid has today been approved by UK Government, de...
2024-01-04 £210,000 boost for west Norfol £210,000 boost for west Norfolk's wetland wildlife
Thursday 04 January, 2024
Norfolk Wildlife Trust opens the new year with an exciting new project making vital improvements to rare wildlife-ric...
2024-01-04 Our former leader, Brendan Joy Our former leader, Brendan Joyce OBE
Thursday 04 January, 2024
Everyone at Norfolk Wildlife Trust is deeply saddened to hear of the death of former Chief Executive Brendan Joyce OB...
2023-12-08 British Sugar fails to deliver British Sugar fails to deliver on 3-year plan to end use of banned neonicotinoids
Friday 08 December, 2023
Time's up! Minister urged to help sugar farmers go neonic-free and honour ban as deadline approaches to end relia...
2023-12-05 Western Link road planning dec Western Link road planning decision sparks outrage amongst environmental groups
Tuesday 05 December, 2023
Following yesterday’s announcement that Norfolk County Council has given the green light for a planning applica...
2023-11-14 Shared vision revealed for Nor Shared vision revealed for Norwich nature reserve
Tuesday 14 November, 2023
We have revealed the emerging long-term vision for our newest nature reserve Sweet Briar Marshes. Sketches,...