The Tees Estuary is a unique environment where industrial facilities share the landscape with a wide range of coastal habitats which teem with wildlife.
There were previously seven SSSIs protecting parts of the Tees Estuary, which have now been merged and expanded into a single, landscape-scale SSSI, totaling nearly 3000 hectares (or 12 square miles).
The extensions have more than doubled the area of SSSI in the Tees Estuary. 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 also continues to protect two areas of nationally-important geology, notably the mysterious prehistoric ‘submerged forest’, a part of which was exposed on the beach at Redcar after the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018.
Natural England provides advice on day-to-day operations on the estuary ‘up front’ to set out how current activities can take place in a way that continues to allow wildlife to flourish. The advice is set out in the Memorandum of Understanding of the Tees Estuary Partnership, which has a vision to enhance both the economic and environmental assets of the area.
Per the Natural England press release – The approach embodies the ambitions set out in Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which seeks to put people at the heart of nature by working closely with others and developing shared objectives at a landscape-scale.
The consultation on the SSSI took place alongside a consultation on the extension of the existing Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site to include additional marine, coastal and freshwater habitats and new bird species for protection. Following the consultation, Natural England will submit its recommendations on these extensions to DEFRA for consideration.
Natural England also designates the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve, and the long sandy beaches, and harbour seal haul-outs are integral and well-loved parts of the local landscapes.
[we welcome Tony Juniper to his role at Natural England, and hope for many more such announcements]