The Ecology Consultancy has worked closely with DP World London Gateway Port since 2012 on their development of the UK’s newest deep-water port and one of Europe’s largest logistics parks.
The creation of the port would involve the reclamation of a significant area of land from the Thames Estuary resulting in the loss of mudflats used by large aggregations of wintering wildfowl. The mudflats lay within the Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area (SPA), and their loss required compensation through the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010).
A new area of mudflat at Site A, adjacent to Stanford Wharf Nature Reserve in Essex, was created through a controlled breach of the sea wall in 2011. Further compensatory mudflats were created on an area of land known as Site X, in Cooling Marshes on the north Kent coast, opposite the London Gateway Port. The habitats on Site X were dominated by grazing marsh and its associated ditch systems, with their own wildlife value as a resource for breeding birds, wintering birds, and a population of water voles.
52% of compensatory mudflat habitat has been created and the site allowed to flood naturally. Any negative ecological impacts of the inundation works are being compensated through habitat creation and enhancement on a neighbouring area of farmland.
Work has already started to prepare for the inundation of Site X with
Our ecologists worked closely with clients and contractors in preparation for the inundation of Site X, and developed a rolling mitigation programme to minimise risks to ground nesting birds and mammals, including water vole and brown hare. In consultation with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, we recommended a bespoke wildflower seed-mix to be sown on the extensive new sea wall as compensation for habitat loss and for the benefit of rare bumblebees and other species.
Working closely with local farmers, DP World engineers, and the environment team, as well as liaising with Natural England, The Ecology Consultancy helped provide detail on the original design, provided a baseline valuation of the habitats to be lost, and assisted with the implementation of mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures. This included an arable reversion to wet grassland, the creation of a 1.5ha wader scrape, and the creation or restoration of 3.5km of drainage ditches for the benefit of aquatic plants, invertebrates, and water voles. Some ditches were left to colonise naturally, whilst others received communities of sedges, rushes, and reeds transplanted from the ditches that were to be lost at Site X, along with nationally scarce aquatic plants including brackish water crowfoot.
Our ecologists are continuing to monitor the ecological health of the new habitats and their wildlife in both Site X and the adjacent compensation land. We hope the new site will eventually become adopted into the boundary of the Marshes Special Protection Area.