National Trust report pushes for the government and communities to adapt in order to protect coastline

Aerial view of the aftermath of the December 2013 floods. Pictured: Blakeney Marsh. Photo: Mike Page Aerial view of the aftermath of the December 2013 floods. Pictured: Blakeney Marsh. Photo: Mike Page

Friday, April 11, 2014
8:49 AM

The loss of an “internationally important” freshwater habitat on the north Norfolk coast would be a “disaster” for wildlife and tourism, a conservation expert has warned.

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Freshwater warning

The loss of an “internationally important” freshwater habitat on the north Norfolk coast would be a “disaster” for wildlife and tourism, a conservation expert has warned.

It comes as the Shifting Shores National Trust report recommends a policy of working with nature, adapting to change and organisations working together to preserve its land including the Blakeney Freshes, which attracts wildlife tourism.

The document has been published in the wake of the winter storms and focuses on the trust’s 1,130km of coastline.

But Blakeney Parish Council chairman Tony Faulkner said he personally believed it was more important to protect properties than land.

He said that if new freshwater areas were created, it was not as important to retain the Blakeney Freshes and the combination of freshwater and saltwater could attract more wildlife.

Richard Porter, a professional conservationist from Cley, said: “Complete abandonment of the freshwater marshes would be a disaster for wildlife conservation.

“While I can understand and fully support most cases of letting nature take its course, there are special cases and Blakeney Freshes is one of those cases.

“We are talking about an internationally important area for wildlife.”

Mr Porter added the reserve was iconic for green tourism because of the nature it attracted including avocets, bearded tits, bitterns, marsh harriers and Brent and pink-footed geese.

Part of the trust report said: “Wherever possible the trust will conserve and enhance wildlife at the coast and create new spaces to allow it to adapt.

“As sea levels rise, coastal habitats will be subject to flooding and erosion where they are in front of man-made sea defences.

“Sometimes, wildlife will be unable to adapt.

“At Blakeney we may see the loss of freshwater marsh and coastal reed bed.

“We urgently need to find space for new freshwater habitats, giving wildlife the chance to adapt to change.”

Mr Porter said the creation of new freshwater areas would cost more than the rebuilding of defences.

But Mr Faulkner said: “People and property are more important than land. It is a question of looking at the issues and trying to get the right balance.”

What do you think? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

It comes as the Shifting Shores National Trust report recommends a policy of working with nature, adapting to change and different organisations working together to preserve its land including the Blakeney Freshes, which attracts wildlife tourism.

The document has been published in the wake of the winter storms and focusses on the trust’s 1,130km of coastline.

But Blakeney Parish Council chairman Tony Faulkner said he personally believed it was more important to protect properties, rather than land.

He added if new freshwater areas were created it was not as important to retain the Blakeney Freshes and the combination of freshwater and saltwater could attract more wildlife.

Richard Porter, a professional conservationist from Cley, said: “Complete abandonment of the freshwater marshes would be a disaster for wildlife conservation. While I can understand and fully support most cases of letting nature take its course, there are special cases and Blakeney Freshes is one of those cases. We are talking about an internationally important area for wildlife.”

He thought the trust did not need to fully rebuild the bank protecting the freshwater marshes from saltwater.

Mr Porter added the reserve was iconic for green tourism because of the nature it attracted including avocets, bearded tits, bitterns, marsh harriers, brent geese, pink-footed geese.

Part of the trust report said: “Wherever possible the trust will conserve and enhance wildlife at the coast and create new spaces to allow it to adapt. As sea levels rise, coastal habitats will be subject to flooding and erosion where they are in front of man-made sea defences.

“Sometimes, wildlife will be unable to adapt. At Blakeney we may see the loss of freshwater marsh and coastal reed bed. We urgently need to find space for new freshwater habitats, giving wildlife the chance to adapt to change.”

Mr Porter said the creation of new freshwater areas would cost more compared to the rebuilding of defences.

The Blakeney Parish Council chairman said: “People and property are more important than land. It is a question of looking at the issues and trying to get the right balance.”

The Blakeney area is one of 70 hotspots for the trust, as well as Brancaster beach which was severely damaged in December.

Phil Dyke, coast and marine adviser for the trust, said: “We need to start thinking about things differently. We are urging the government to think about developing policies and practice regarding defending and adapting.”

The organisation is hoping to have a strategy in place by 2020 and wants to involve the community.

Mr Dyke and an Environment Agency spokesman added a decision regarding the Blakeney Freshes had not been reached.

Simon Pryor, natural environment director at the National Trust, said: “Hard defences will always have their place, but the winter storms that hit many coastal areas hard have provided a valuable reminder that they have a limited life.”

What do you think? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk.

2 comments

  • The National Trust. Yet another talking shop for those who are unable to get a job in the real world. Humans and Wildlife will do and have adapted to their surroundings, without the help from the NT. Instead of trying to force others to do something, what exactly is the NT going to do about it ?. After all, they get shedloads of grant money from the Government, or is that used on the highers, pay and expenses ?

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    "V"

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Freshwater habitat on the coast... bums on hide seats, members fees in pockets. I am all for conservation but not the National Trust They have turned the quiet and remote Wicken Fen into a playground My geography might be shaky but as sea levels rise and there are incursions by the sea, wont rivers and streams back up and form fresh water wetlands further up stream where there is space? The problem comes when building is allowed on that space, the flood plains. Wells and Scolt head are parts of the coast where there is natural accretion of beach, if we just leave things alone the marsh might rebuild at Blakeney etc.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Friday, April 11, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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