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4 November 2013, 13:21
The UK's biggest sea defence scheme to protect coastal areas from flooding has been completed on the South Coast.
The project in Medmerry, West Sussex, cost £28 million, took two years to build and saw 7km of new walls built behind old defences that had been breached.
It protects 350 properties, two holiday parks and a water treatment works and also provides 180 hectares of coastal habitat for wading birds and protected species, including the water vole.
Environment Agency chairman Lord Chris Smith said: "With one in six people at risk of flooding in England, schemes such as Medmerry have a key role to play in protecting people and property.
"They also have an important role in the local economy by encouraging more visitors to the area. Creating large-scale habitat is vital to ensuring the survival of the country's endangered species, improving water quality and reducing carbon.''
It will open to the public later this year, with the RSPB managing the wildlife habitat and the Environment Agency in charge of the flood defences.
RSPB chief executive Mike Clarke said: "This ambitious project is a fantastic example of how we can create habitat for threatened wildlife, benefit local communities and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.
"The UK is internationally important for coastal wildlife, particularly the millions of migrating birds that rely on saltmarsh and mudflats. Saltmarsh is disappearing as a result of sea level rise.
"This project, which the Environment Agency has delivered, will become a thriving wildlife haven and a big draw for nature lovers. We should take confidence from the success here at Medmerry and help to secure our and nature's future by investing in these sort of landscape scale projects.''
Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said: "This new scheme will support the local community - not only minimising their flood risk but boosting growth through the new habitat and tourism opportunities.''