Stop the Lower Otter Restoration Project!
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Stop the Lower Otter Restoration Project!
Clinton Devon Estates and the Environmental Agency are planning to "realigne", aka open the historic embankments, built by Napoleonic prisoners of war c. 1800, along the Otter Estuary to so-call restore about 60 hectares of inter-tidal and fresh water wetland habitat.
What sounds like a great idea initially,will actually destroy an already amazing landscape and possibly endanger the properties of local communities.
The main reason Clinton Devon Estate has given for this project is that it will create habitat for wetland birds. A lot of the estuary as it is now already provides this, but in addition to this little freshwater ponds and streams for newts, toads and frogs, which will not be able to live in tidal , salt water flood areas. The fields as they are now are also habitat to voles and moles which are a vital source of food to the local barn owl population. Again, flooding these fields would mean loss of valuable hunting grounds for the owls.
Even the Deon Wildlife Trust proposed the area as Marine Conservation Zone : " A shingle barrier running eastwards from the west shore virtually closes the estuary from the sea. Behind this there is an extensive saltmarsh with a rich diversity of flora and fauna.This is an important area for birds such as curlews and lapwings."
Opening it to the sea will completely change this habitat.
Surprisingly some of the Devon beavers that started daming a side stream of the Otter in this area where looked at cautiously as a risk of causing flooding to the fields. So why was this not an option but the project is? As for the beavers, they as well won't be able to live in a tidal area so their possible habitat will be reduced to the upper Otter.
Another reason they are bringing forward is that "Unmanaged tidal flooding" will lead to erosion and other damage - this happens 3-4 times a year, but in case the project will go ahead it could happen 2x a day
And looking at the impact this project would have on the local community:
Instead of 2-3 times a year through storm floods, South Farm Road would be flooded twice a day, cutting off the farm and other buildings, both domestic and business, on that side of the river.
So as a solution it was proposed to run a new road via the old landfill side which is slightly raised. This area was until recently a lovely wooded area, habitat for many birds, mammals and other animals. Some weeks ago it was all cut down due to "danger of trees falling on the power line" . Very convenient...
Interfering with this old landfill site means also that possible toxic substances that where dumped there, can leak into the environment. Once opened it would be almost impossible to contain them.
They are stating: "Bankside trees are managed for erosion control and wildlife-rich woodland will be created on an old tip site."
Well, bankside trees dont need management , we need more bankside trees to avoid erosion! And the wildlife-rich woodland was cut down so the possible road to South Farm can be build there.
There are calculations and models on how high the water would be rising and how far up the river, but we should know by now that nature is usually not sticking to some man-made models. There is a very high risk that houses in Budleigh Salterton that are close to the estuary could be impacted. And if the tides rise higher up the river than calculated this could mean constant danger of flooding for Otterton.
The new footpath/costal path would be endangered too. To make it more resistant to flooding it is planned to make it a 'proper' asphalted path, usable for cyclists too. But the majority of people using the path now are walkers, who want to enjoy nature, dog walkers,wildlife enthusiasts, who don't want to have cyclists racing past all the time . The special flair of this path is that it is close to nature and blending into it.
The local Cricket Club would need to be re-located. So far no acceptable area has been found. Will we see more nature being sacrificed to find them a new home?
So why are they so keen to get this project through? Well under EU law they need to compensate for mudflats lost at the Exe estuary . The first place they wanted to do this, Dart farm ,was turned down after 10 years of protest by locl residents and landowners.
The estimated cost of this project is up to £12m, with Brexit looming above us the EU wont give much if any towards it, so it will have to come from the involved groups, which in the end means it will come from us taxpayers. And if things go wrong, the flooding causes damage, toxic substances from the landfill are set free, the additional costs will not just be monetarial.
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