Wildlife and industry, side by side

10:21 am, Wednesday, 17th June 2020

RARE nesting birds, a herd of Hereford yearling cattle, and even the odd deer or two – an increasing variety of animals are existing happily side-by-side at the South Humber Bank’s award-winning mitigation wildlife site.

Those in charge are particularly proud to have witnessed pairs of Avocets, which are protected, with their chicks at the 40-hectare Cress Marsh wetland and grazing area.

Specifically developed for birds to feed over winter, it is now hoped that these Avocets will make the area a semi-permanent home – returning in the colder months and nesting again there next year. Oystercatchers, Little Ringed Plovers and Lapwing chicks with their parents have also been spotted at Cress Marsh and they are now included in a long list of bird varieties that have been recorded as visiting over the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, the initial herd of 12 cattle may well be added to in the coming weeks and they will remain there until November. Their job is to keep the grassland area of the site ‘mown’ naturally, which is good for the birdlife.

“There is no need for concern though, the wetland of the site is shallow enough for the cows even if they wander over that way,” said North East Lincolnshire’s Ecology Technician Sian Niblo.

The herd is owned by Skegness-area farmers Maggie and John Willoughby who were only too happy to send their animals on a summer holiday.

“We graze the cattle on three wetland areas, and they all seem to be very happy, there’s usually plenty of grass for them, and plenty of space for them to wander safely,” said Maggie.

Sian and North East Lincolnshire Council’s Ecology Officer, Rachel Graham, have been involved in the creation of Cress Marsh, which is officially called the South Humber Gateway Mitigation project.

This spring its developers were delighted to win the Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment category at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence 2020 – a major accolade for the work that has gone into its creation.

Described as a ‘ground-breaking’ project, planners and project managers at ENGIE – the regeneration partner of North East Lincolnshire Council – worked with Natural England, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB, the Humber Nature Partnership, the Environment Agency and land owners and developers to create this private area of wet and grass lands along the South Humber bank, which is also a Special Protection Area (SPA), SSSI and a Ramsar site (Natura 2000).

The approach enabled Cress Marsh to be developed for mitigation and it now contains a private bird hide next to a large central lagoon, which feeds seven more water-filled ‘cells’ via a network of culverts and sluices.

This ‘offset’ land is available to businesses up front, allowing them to adhere to planning requirements with no delays.

Cress Marsh is part of the council’s £42m SHIIP (the South Humber Industrial Investment Programme) project. SHIIP is the most ambitious industrial project in the area’s history and is made up of several significant developments, which are funded by a blend of council investment and grants. This includes support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, (HLEP), and the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP).

Delighted to hear of the success of Cress Marsh, North East Lincolnshire Council’s regeneration head, Cllr John Fenty, said: “With carefully planning and extensive partner involvement, Cress Marsh has proved how well industrial and natural development can be achieved side by side.”