The Tees Estuary has been given increased protection, celebrating the partnership between nature and industry.
Today, Natural England is celebrating the decades of work by business leaders and nature conservationists to restore the wildlife of the Tees Estuary by it being named the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest.
This will ensure that the wildlife of the Tees Estuary has a secure future and make a strong contribution to the ‘blue belt’ of marine protected areas around England.
The Tees Estuary is a unique environment where industrial facilities share the landscape with areas of high conservation value, including a wide range of coastal habitats which teem with wildlife.
There were previously seven SSSIs scattered around the Tees Estuary, which have now been merged and expanded into a single, landscape-scale SSSI, totaling nearly 30 sq kms.
Additional areas of sand-dune, saltmarsh, mudflat, grassland, lagoons and estuarial waters are protected, along with the populations of breeding and wintering birds, the iconic population of harbour seals and sand-dune invertebrates.
The extended SSSI continues to protect two areas of nationally-important geology, notably the mysterious ‘submerged forest’, remnants of a forest present 7,000 years ago, a part of which was exposed on the beach at Redcar after the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018.
Stephanie Bird-Halton, Natural England’s Area Manager for Northumbria said: “This is the culmination of many years work by a wide range of partners to protect and create habitat in one of England’s most surprising places for wildlife.
"The Tees Estuary shows how sustainable development can go hand-in-hand with environmental enhancement, exemplified by the return of harbour seal to the estuary in the 1980s.
"The SSSI, together with the new ways of working enshrined in the Tees Estuary Partnership, will help secure the future of this world-class landscape for nature, and the newly-opened stretch of the England Coast Path will showcase the area’s wildlife - and the tireless work of site managers to look after it - to local people and visitors from further afield.
"Natural England sees the confirmation of the SSSI as a celebration of our partners’ commitment to nature conservation, and as a springboard to future successes for the Tees Estuary Partnership.”
Stephanie said given its location close to the urban centres of Hartlepool, Stockton, Middleborough and Redcar, the importance of this area for people is integral to Nature England's work with partners.
She said: "The designation will ensure that local communities continue to have this amazing natural resource available as part of their daily lives.
"Research has shown how the natural environment provides society with benefits in terms of helping mental and physical health, offering informal recreation opportunities, inspiration for art, and helping people feel connected with their local area."