Press release

Reducing coastal flood risk and adapting to climate change in Lancashire

Work has begun on a major new flood defence scheme that will use restored saltmarsh to absorb wave energy and tackle the effects of climate change on the Lancashire coast.

The scheme, one of the biggest of its kind in England, will reduce flood risk to over 140 properties and several square kilometres of farmland in the Hesketh Bank area of the Ribble Estuary. It has been made possible thanks to a partnership between the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and a £1million grant from WREN’s Biodiversity Action Fund Land Purchase Programme.

The scheme will reduce flood risk and adapt to climate change by combining a traditional flood embankment with restored areas of saltmarsh, safeguarding against rising sea levels at the same time as creating habitats for local birds and wildlife.

Environment Agency Flood Risk Manager, Andy Brown, said: “By allowing the sea to return we will be able to reduce flood risk to local people now and in the future, as the new defences take into account rising sea levels. By using natural saltmarsh we can adapt to climate change at the same time as preserving local habitats.”

Last winter’s storms caused chaos around Britain’s coastline but it was clear that sea defences fronted by saltmarsh suffered less damage than those without it.

After the improvements to the embankment have been made, the saltmarsh will be restored by breaching existing outer banks, allowing the tides to cover a site that was isolated from the estuary by private developers 30 years ago.

The first phase of work is being carried out by local contractors, A E Yates from Horwich.

Mr Brown added: “This is a great opportunity to reduce flood risk to homes, businesses and safeguard farmland in the Hesketh Bank area now and in the future. By working in partnership with other organisations, we have been able to combine our resources and expertise to achieve our goals together. We’ve also been able to start work sooner, meaning we can use materials from within the site to rebuild the bank rather than importing it, reducing the impact on the local community.”

David Mercer, Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager for The Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve, added: “Restoring the saltmarsh will bring significant benefits both to wildlife and to local communities. The work demonstrates what can be achieved when working in partnership: sound flood protection, improved security for local farm businesses and the creation of a great place to enjoy the spectacular wildlife of the Ribble Estuary.”

Tony Baker, Ribble Reserves Manager for the RSPB, which owns most of the site and will take on the management of the site once the work is complete, said: “There is a misconception that flood risk management and nature conservation are incompatible. The Hesketh Out Marsh East scheme shows that the exact opposite is true. By creating robust flood defences that will protect people’s homes and businesses long into the future, we can also provide amazing homes for our precious wildlife.

“We have been very lucky to have been awarded £1million by landfill community fund WREN, enabling us to buy this land, which will be so important for both nature and flood risk reduction.”

WREN is a not-for-profit business that awards grants generated by landfill tax through sites owned by FCC Environment, to community, environmental and heritage projects countrywide, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change by creating ecological networks and buying space and time for wildlife populations under pressure.

Lisa Green, Operations Manager at WREN said: “We are committed to supporting land acquisition projects that will help achieve long term conservation goals. The funding enables organisations around the UK to create, develop and grow important habitats, ensuring the futures of our wonderfully diverse flora and fauna.”

Notes to editors

The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home.Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organizations.

WREN is a not-for-profit business that awards grants to community, environmental and heritage projects across the UK from funds donated FCC Environment as part of a voluntary environmental tax credit scheme called the Landfill Communities Fund. Since 1998, WREN has granted over £190m to more than 6000 projects which benefit people living within 10 miles of a FCC Environment landfill site.

FCC Environment are the leading UK waste and resource management company and are part of a global group with a strong heritage in providing services for communities and business. Their vision is to be the environmental company of choice, delivering change for a sustainable future. They offer:

  • municipal services – household waste collection, street cleansing, parks and gardens maintenance

  • business waste solutions – waste collection and recycling services for small and large companies

  • recycling – material recycling facilities, household waste recycling centres

  • green energy – recovery of energy from waste

  • waste processing – industrial waste treatment, hazardous wastes and landfill disposal

They employ 2,400 people and operate more than 200 facilities across England, Scotland and Wales.

Landfill tax and the Landfill Communities Fund

Any waste that is discarded which cannot be reused, reprocessed or recycled may ultimately be disposed of in a landfill site.To encourage landfill site operators (LOs) to reuse, recycle, recover more value from waste and use more environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal, landfill tax is charged on each tonne of waste sent to landfill.

LOs are able to claim a credit (currently 5.1%) against their landfill tax liability to support a wide range of community and environmental projects in the vicinity of their landfill sites through the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF). The LCF is regulated by ENTRUST on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs, and the projects are delivered by enrolled environmental bodies (EBs).

Since its inception in 1996, over £1.3 billion has been spent on more than 50,000 projects across the UK. For further information, please visit ENTRUST or see HMRC’s general guide to Landfill Tax.