Work has started an £11million project to cut the risk of flooding around Greatham Creek.
The Environment Agency has joined forces with businesses in the area, with SABIC UK providing funding towards the scheme and INOVYN ChlorVinyls providing some of their land to create new wildlife habitat.
The agency is working closely with partners at RSPB and Natural England to design and build a scheme which provides the maximum benefit for the internationally designated habitat and to keep disruption to wildlife and visitors to a minimum.
The first phase of the project, which saw new flood defences built at Port Clarence to reduce flood risk from the River Tees at a cost of £4.5million, was finished in December 2015.
Phase 2 will see the Environment Agency raise existing flood embankments along Greatham Creek, to reduce the flood risk to Port Clarence and land to the south.
There will also be a managed realignment of part of the current flood defences, with the building of a new embankment to the north of RSPB Saltholme Nature Reserve, before the existing flood embankment is breached to create around 30 hectares of intertidal habitat to the north of the reserve.
The area is frequented by seals, and a variety of bird species including shelduck, knot and redshank.
Phase 2 is expected to be complete by the end of 2018. Together the projects reduce the risk of flooding from both the River Tees and Greatham Creek at Port Clarence, protecting 350 homes and 32 businesses.
The Environment Agency’s senior advisor on the scheme Phil Marshall said: “I remember well the devastating impact the tidal surge in December 2013 had on the area, affecting around 50 homes and businesses.
“By working together with local industry we’re vastly improving existing defences to protect residents and businesses and reduce the risk of flooding now and into the future as sea levels start to rise. This is a vital conservation area enjoyed by visitors from far and wide and we’re taking the opportunity to create 30 hectares of extra habitat to ensure wildlife continues to thrive.
“In addition, while access to the creek is limited during the work, we are working with RSPB Saltholme to enable visitors to see live images from the creek of the ever popular seals.”
Daren Smith, SABIC site director (acting), added: “SABIC take the protection of our environment and our communities extremely seriously. Our own land was devastated by the flood but our employees worked extremely hard and quickly with local agencies to rebuild some of the natural habitats that exist there.”