Essex wetland set to be flooded

ONE of Europe's most renowned wetland sites and established nature reserves is set to be flooded to allow more water to be pumped to south Essex.Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve, south of Colchester and home to thousands of wild birds, will lose around nine acres of land and its visitor centre if plans to raise the reservoir level by three metres get the go ahead.

ONE of Europe's most renowned wetland sites and established nature reserves is set to be flooded to allow more water to be pumped to south Essex.

Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve, south of Colchester and home to thousands of wild birds, will lose around nine acres of land and its visitor centre if plans to raise the reservoir level by three metres get the go ahead.

But as part of a package of compensation proposals being drawn up by reservoir operators Essex and Suffolk Water, Essex Wildlife Trust's nature reserve will instead be relocated to 80 acres of nearby arable land, which will become a new wildlife haven.

The decision to raise the water level was taken internally by Essex and Suffolk Water about 12 months ago after forecasters advised that extra water was needed in the south of the county.


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The water company has been consulting widely with concerned landowners - some of whom could be issued with compulsory purchase orders - and local parish council about the move, which will see the reservoir's volume increase by 50%.

An initial environmental impact assessment has been carried out and the company is now in the process of drawing up details of what will need to be done, including the possible realignment of two causeways, before the controlled flooding in about 10 years time.

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But Essex Wildlife Trust has already started preparing for the gradual migration of wildfowl from their current habitats, which are designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSI).

Jo Calver, senior warden at the Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve, said over the next three years, nearly 21,000 trees will be planted creating almost 30 acres of new woodland.

"This is an exciting long term project and although we're losing our current home, everybody will be getting a bigger and better one.

"The new reserve will be an ideal spot for visitors, but we need help planting the trees."

A spokeswoman for Essex and Suffolk Water said: "We're still at the early stages of the design work and hope the engineers will start their detailed work in the next couple of months.

"But we're consulting all the time with local people and I think they realise how essential the project is."

Steve Miller, chairman of Abberton and Langenhoe Parish Council, said: "We're thoroughly delighted by the proposals at the moment, but there is a bit of concern that they will place trees around the perimeter of the reservoir destroying of views of it."

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