Campaign launched against 'devastating' flood defence scheme

January 28 2019
Campaign launched against 'devastating' flood defence scheme

MORE than 1,400 people have backed a campaign to stop 500 trees and more than two miles of hedgerow being cut down to make way for a flood defence scheme.

Campaigner Lisa Pretland, who launched the petition, said the loss of the vegetation between the two Severn crossings would be “devastating” and is unnecessary because the bank could be raised removing them.

The work is meant to help unlock the potential of the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area. Project leaders South Gloucestershire Council, Bristol City Council and the Environment Agency say raising the bank between New Passage and Aust is the only option.

They say the scheme will reduce the risk of flooding and create a wetland habitat to protect the internationally important habitats and species of the Severn Estuary.

Ms Pretland says the trees are “magnificent” and can be seen from Wales on the skyline.

She added: “The trees and hedgerow have been there since the 1980s. They form a significant coastal pathway feature. They are full of life, housing rare birds and bats and act as a perch for hunting birds such as kestrels, owls and buzzards.”

We’ve achieved a tree protection order on the trees – a big win in the interim, but this is not enough to save them completely.

We need this petition signed so the council understand the strength of feeling.”

In a joint statement, the two councils and Environment Agency said the loss of the trees was regrettable but they were reaching the end of their lifetimes and will be replaced. They said that “the least harmful option has been selected, taking into consideration all of the practical, policy and delivery constraints presented”.

They said: “We are working alongside ecological experts to ensure a thriving environment will be established in the area for people and wildlife to last the rest of this century and beyond.

From an ecological perspective, we are creating at least 80 hectares of new wetland habitat to help protect the internationally important bird species that live on the Severn Estuary.”

The flood defences are intended to help to encourage businesses to invest in the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area, helping to support the creation of 12,000 new jobs by 2026.

They will also reduce the flood risk to 2,500 homes and businesses.

The partners added: “We will use the economic benefits resulting from this project to continue to provide the best ecological future for the estuary.”

The petition can be viewed online at bit.ly/2Hf3oG3.

Picture: Nature lover Lisa Pretland says Filton and Bradley Stoke MP Jack Lopresti is backing her campaign.