Environmental boost for Mersey Gateway Project
Plans for a new bridge across the Mersey have been given a major boost today with the withdrawal of objections from the Environment Agency and Natural England.
Both organisations have confirmed to the inspector holding a public inquiry into the project stating that they are formally withdrawing their objections to the plans.
Cllr Tony McDermott, Leader of Halton Borough Council and Chair of the Mersey Gateway Executive Board, said: “We’re very pleased with this news. We’ve been working closely with both the Environment Agency and Natural England to ensure that they are satisfied with our plans. Our proposals include some major environmental and other benefits for Halton and the surrounding area, and its good to know this has been recognised in this way.
The project team announced two weeks ago that a new 28.5 hectare nature reserve is set to be created in the heart of Halton around the Mersey Gateway bridge if the project is given the go-ahead.
A 28.5 hectare saltmarsh nature reserve is proposed for the Upper Mersey Estuary, running 200 metres either side of the proposed new bridge. This will include habitats in both Runcorn and Widnes, including Wigg Island. The main public viewing points will be from existing visitor facilities on Spike Island and Wigg Island.
The long term aim is to create a new nature reserve that will protect the local environment over the next 30 years. The proposed features of the new nature reserve include:
- restoring high quality saltmarsh throughout the nature reserve
- creating new saltmarsh scrapes and pools close to the new bridge
- attracting internationally important bird species found further downriver to the new site
- increasing the local breeding bird population such as skylark and meadow pipit
- introducing rare breeds of ‘conservation cattle’ to graze alongside the river to help convert the existing vegetation to a wider range of saltmarsh plants
- fencing the saltmarsh area off to protect it from disturbance by people and dogs, and
- the creation of a new charity – the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust – to manage the proposed nature reserve.