2 November 2001

Retreat scheme sees largest land area yet abandoned to sea

By Adrienne Francis

and David Green

THE largest area of farmland to date is being abandoned to the sea under the governments "managed retreat" scheme.

About 78ha (193 acres) are being allowed to revert to salt marsh at Freiston Shore, Lincs.

The £800,000 Boston Wash Banks initiative was launched on Friday (Oct 26). Prisoners from HM Prison North Sea Camp once farmed the land, which is now managed by English Nature and the RSPB.

Lincolnshire Environment Agency project manager Chris Allwork said the scheme would be a catalyst for economic regeneration and tourism. "Retreat management has been the best option in this case, and other sites have been proposed at Humber Estuary in north Lincs."

The land was reclaimed from the North Sea in 1983. But there have been problems maintaining the earth wall which protects it from saltwater incursion. A new flood defence wall will be built further inland and the old wall deliberately breached.

The RSPB, which is working closely with the Environment Agency, is to attempt to recreate saltmarsh – a declining wildlife habitat all along the East Anglian coast. The saltmarsh will also act as a "soft" sea defence, reducing the impact of the sea on the new stretch of wall.

In some other areas, the fight to defend land against the sea continues. A new £31.4m scheme will improve defences along five miles of coastline in north Norfolk.

Countryside minister, Elliot Morley, said: "The need for works was highlighted by the severe weather in September, which damaged defences in the area and caused residents to be evacuated. Our agreement underlines the governments commitment to defending lives and property against flooding in the long term." &#42

The waters are out in Lincolnshire… Land once farmed by prisoners is being returned to the sea in an £800,000 scheme.