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Sea Defences (Essex)

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

The Petition of Councillor Dave Blackwell, Canvey Island residents, and others,

Declares that the Environment Agency proposal to abandon, to the sea, 800 acres of land on the west of Canvey Island is wrong; further declares that sacrificing such a large, ecologically and environmentally important area could increase Canvey's problems; believes that Canvey issues like flooding, building a thousand more houses, an additional Canvey access road, hazardous industrial plants and protecting Canvey's very special environment are interlinked, and believes these should be considered together as they affect island people's future safety and quality of life.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to abandon its plans to flood such a large area of Canvey Island and to meet with the Hon Member for Castle Point, Councillor Dave Blackwell and Canvey councillors to discuss their plans.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 30 March 2009; Vol. 490, c. 761.]

[P000341]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

The Environment Agency's Thames Estuary 2100 (TE2100) project has developed a long-term tidal flood risk management for the estuary. This plan sets out what is required to manage increasing flood risk through to the end of the century and also identifies seven potential locations where the alignment of defences could be changed in order to create new inter-tidal habitat which is being lost locally through sea level rise. West Canvey Marshes, as a former saline marsh, is one of those potential locations. Although West Canvey has been identified as one of seven potential sites, with demonstrable benefits and advantages, no decision has been made and the proposal is open to full and transparent consultation.

The creation of new inter-tidal habitat is required under the European Birds and Habitats Directive to compensate for habitat lost due to sea level rise. The Environment Agency in consultation with Natural England have assessed that around 1,200 hectares of this designated habitat will be lost in the estuary as sea levels rise over the century. Inter-tidal habitat is vitally important for the continued health of the estuary ecology providing both a feeding ground for birds and a source of food for the estuary fishery. West Canvey Marshes, which are owned by the RSPB, would be a sustainable site for inter-tidal habitat creation because it retains the topography of the original salt marsh that occurred in that area before it was reclaimed and drained in the 17th century.

The required inter-tidal habitat creation could be achieved by the managed realignment of the existing flood defences. This would not increase flood risk on Canvey Island and it would help provide justification for constructing an improved defence that would lower the risk of failure of the current local barriers. This new defence could also provide the opportunity for a new road link for the island; the Environment Agency's public engagement shows that the limited access/egress to/from Canvey is an issue of major concern to many Canvey Island residents.