Coquet Estuary Vision

 

The Coquet Estuary Vision project is a partnership project with the Northumberland Rivers Trust delivered through the Northumberland Coastal Group (subgroup of the Northumberland Catchment Partnership). It aims to address reasons for failure of the river under the Water Framework Directive and to highlight opportunities for priority biodiversity habitat creation, public engagement and enhanced economic opportunities through tourism. 

The project helps to achieve the following targets as identified in the Environment Agency Corporate Plan; 

            A cleaner, healthier environment which benefits people and the economy 

o            Increased biodiversity and improved habitats. 

o            Cleaner water used in a more sustainable way. 

o            Cleaner and healthier seas. 

o            Productive land and soils. 

o            Well protected designated sites. 

o            More people enjoy the natural environment.

 

Improving the estuarine environment in a key tourism area with adjacent protected areas will provide cleaner, healthier inter-tidal waters, increased biodiversity, restored priority habitats and also provide public and stakeholder input to ensure mutual gains for infrastructure and nature tourism objectives. 

This project seeks to work with multiple partners, through the Northumberland Coastal Group, to both protect and improve our environment through increasing opportunities for water-dependant priority habitat creation. 

This will be done by involving local stakeholders to achieve multiple natural, social and economic outcomes in an holistic manner through local consultations and engaging with communities to ensure a lasting legacy of care to environmental improvements due to early involvement. 

Current Situation  

The Coquet is classified as a heavily modified waterbody (HMW - (GB510302203000) that is unlikely to improve its WFD status principally due to a series of weirs in the local reaches of the catchment. These weirs are causing a barrier to estuarine processes, habitats and species, resulting in a lower inventory of estuarine habitats than could be realistically realised in this area. 

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     Figure1 Armstrongs' Map of Northumberland (1769)

The Amble area has undergone extensive industrialisation due to its role as a port for coal industry, and since the end of the coal industry is now considered as amongst the 20% most deprived areas in the country whereas the neighbouring Warkworth area is amongst the 30% least deprived (Indices of Deprivation explorer, 2015), lacking in natural habitat due to its industrial and maritime past. Currently, the harbour at Amble is preventing natural coastal habitat development which is very unlikely to change. The town of Amble is currently undergoing regeneration through a renewed investment into improving the coastal town. 

In 1764, heavy rain caused morphological changes in the course of the Coquet, resulting in a new channel being formed (Fig. 1) (Armstrong, 1769). 

The 4shores Project (2005-11) delivered 6ha of coastal saltmarsh and 0.7ha of scrapes and intertidal habitat through breaching the Castle Dike flood embankment. Furthermore, as part of 4shores, the nearby estuary at Alnmouth has also undergone habitat creation and improvement works that have greatly contributed to their species richness. 

There are a number of areas around the estuary where there is a potential and willingness to create new biodiversity priority habitat. This includes ambitions to create wetlands at Gloster Hill and de-silting at ‘The Gut’ watercourses. 

Need for change 

The estuarine habitat and WFD status of the Coquet is unlikely to improve without stakeholder involvement and a cooperative approach to deliver holistic solutions. Previous work undertaken by the EA in the area has been a huge success and can assist in informing any planned works in the Coquet estuary. 

Without this project it is likely individuals will continue to operate independently of others working in the area, thereby wasting revenue, capital, time and opportunities. 

The project will also assist the  Coastal Partnership in achieving their objectives by identifying the following opportunities for capital works: 

  • Increased biodiversity and improved habitats
  • Water-dependent and estuarine habitat created. Improvement to existing coastal and riverine habitat.
  • Cleaner and healthier seas
  • Improved inter-tidal habitat and ease of movement for estuarine fish.
  • Productive land and soils
  • Land unmanaged and/or unsuitable for arable and pasture farmland utilised for the benefit of wildlife.
  • Well protected designated sites
  • Enhancement of complementary biodiversity priority habitats adjacent to a suite of designated sites, including Northumberland Shore SSSI, Warkworth Dunes and Saltmarsh SSSI, North Northumberland Dunes SAC, Northumbria Coast Ramsar and Northumbria Coast SPA.
  • More people enjoy the natural environment
  • Providing increased opportunities for local residents to view natural habitat, informed by careful consultation with communities.
  • Greater visibility in public and the media, and an even stronger reputation
  • High profile project in a key area to provide opportunities for media coverage and, by providing a good service with partners and communities, strengthening our reputation.
  • Stronger partnerships with others to accomplish our common goals
  • Delivery of the project through the coastal group will strengthen partnerships within the work area and provide multiple opportunities for stakeholder investments to achieve common goals in a coordinated manner.
  • Help more local communities to achieve the outcomes they want
  • Careful consultation with the local community will provide opportunities for the public to feed into the design process what they feel is a need in their area, thereby increasing a sense of ownership and ensuring a legacy of care and monitoring of outcomes.
  • 1,000 kilometres of rivers, lakes and coastal waters are healthier
  • Potential to enhance
  • 530 hectares of new habitats are created
  • Potential to identify opportunities to create 30ha> of new priority biodiversity habitat.
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