The £80 million Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area Ecology Mitigation and Flood Defence Project to improve flood defences and enhance the natural environment on the River Severn hit a key milestone today (11 December).
The partnership of Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils, the Environment Agency and West of England Combined Authority completed a significant section of higher flood defences along Passage Road next to the Severn Estuary at Aust.
The new earth embankment represents the first part of a package of flood defence measures along 17km of coastline to reduce flood risk to 2,500 homes and businesses. The work will help to unlock up to 12,000 new jobs in the Avonmouth and Severnside Enterprise Area by 2026 -2027.
Councillor Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, said: “The past year has seen significant progress as we construct new flood defences in the northern section of the Enterprise Area. Our engineers are now preparing for the next sections of new or reinforced flood walls and new embankments along the River Severn and Avonmouth Docks.
“Driving this project is the urgency for society to take measures to tackle the climate emergency, support the natural environment and protect local communities at Pilning and Severn Beach from flooding before it is too late. This major investment is creating jobs and despite the challenges of Covid-19, our contractors BMMjv have introduced safety measures to continue construction, sustain momentum and make sure we are on schedule to complete by 2026/27.”
Stimulating the regional economy
The flood defences will allow for anticipated rising sea levels and will ensure the reduction of flood risk for at least 60 years – something which regional leaders are confident will lead to even more significant investment in the Enterprise Area.
Funding of £63m has come from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, administered by the West of England Combined Authority.
Tim Bowles, Mayor of the West of England, said: “The Enterprise Area’s location near the M5 and M49 motorways places it as an economic gateway between England and Wales, and the West of England with the Midlands and South West. Our region’s recovery plan has a focus on building back greener with sustainable opportunities for all. So we must provide businesses with the confidence that their plans for new jobs and investment will not be hampered by flooding concerns.
“The past year has seen a great advance towards making the Enterprise Area a reality. The next twelve months will see even more flood defence and innovative technology, like glass panel defences, to deliver the reassurances to businesses that the West of England is the premier location for their investment.”
Enhancing the natural environment
The partnership is committed to creating 80 hectares of new coastal wetland habitats at Northwick and Hallen Marsh.
Emma Baker, Area Director at the Environment Agency, said: “The scale and complexity of this project require some changes to the natural environment. But we are planting much more in terms of high-quality tree numbers and shrubs than we are removing over the course of this project.
“For example, over the past twelve months, we created new ponds for thousands of new plants and protected wildlife, like Great Crested Newts. The new wetland habitats will reinvigorate a thriving environment to be one of the most important in the country.”
Flood defence and natural environment plan for 2021 onwards
Some of the further improvements over the next year include:
- We continue our flood defence wall construction at Old Passage and Severn Beach from Winter 2020 onwards. The installation of trial panels takes place at Severn Beach, south of Station Road (Spring 2021) and New Passage (Autumn 2021) which will provide the community/stakeholders with an opportunity to see what the new flood defence features will look like
- In Spring 2021, construction starts of the longest stretch of reinforced concrete wall from the River Avon, around the Avonmouth Docks and north up the River Severn coastline. Construction is on a phased basis and is expected to take up to two years
- Start to plant a combined total of two hectares (equivalent to about three football pitches) of native, mature species of trees, including silver birch and hornbeam, and shrubs. We estimate planting a significant number of trees as part of our tree replacement programme that could last for centuries
- Replace hybrid poplar trees along the Severn Way footpath near Northwick which are coming to the end of their lifespan with new native species trees, on a raised bank nearby, to enable us to continue flood defence work along the Severn Estuary.
Discover more about our plans