Turning the Thames Gateway green

Monday 29th September 2014

The long term future for one of the most important and high profile wildlife sites in the UK, in the heart of the Thames Gateway has now been secured.

Oliver Road Lagoons in Thurrock (also known as West Thurrock Marsh) will reap the rewards thanks to a successful partnership between national land management charity, The Land Trust, property developer, Goodman and Natural England.

Partners are working closely with Buglife – the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, on the 40 hectare site to ensure the long term management of the site for the myriad of species it supports, including establishing a breeding program for the incredibly rare Distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus),

Jonathan Ducker, Development Manager at The Land Trust said, “The site will provide a vital refuge for endangered species and create similar conditions to the Thames Terraces. As these habitats are lost, brownfield sites, like Oliver Road Lagoons are playing a crucial role for the region’s biodiversity.”

Jason Harris, Commercial Director at Goodman stated: “We are delighted to have delivered a balanced development that has enabled us to create a habitat to protect both invertebrates and birds at West Thurrock. Our work has ensured that this land is dedicated to wildlife forever and that ongoing funds are available to maintain the habitats of endangered species. The project is in line with Goodman’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and the environment”.

Neil Fuller, Lead Conservation Adviser from Natural England said; “Natural England is delighted to be part of this working partnership, recognising that the project has continued to meet the challenges of delivering sustainable development and future site management for the benefit of nature conservation and people.”

The site, the former Thurrock Power Station, contains Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA), which has been extremely beneficial for wildlife, creating a mosaic of wildflower-rich habitats, leading to over 1,300 different species of invertebrates, bird and reptiles, of which around 50 species are classified as endangered, making this site their home.

“These PFA lagoons contribute to the West Thurrock Lagoon and Marshes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and are a wildlife haven on the north bank of the Inner Thames. The mix of saltmarsh, wetlands and grassland that link the land with the river provide habitats for nationally important invertebrates and a refuge for overwintering birds,” added Mr Fuller.

Dr Sarah Henshall, Lead Ecologist, from Buglife said, “Oliver Road Lagoons are home to an outstanding array of invertebrates, including dozens of rare and endangered species. The Distinguished jumping spider, Brown-banded carder bee and the Hump-back ant all call this site home.  This site was subject to a high profile campaign by Buglife to save it from development in 2007.  Although part of the site has gone to development, we think this new partnership is a very positive outcome for wildlife and we are delighted to be working with The Land Trust, Goodman and Natural England. The majority of the site is now safe and its long term management secured – a great outcome for bugs!”

The site is split in two halves by the West Thurrock Main Sewer, with the northern ash field to be the first of the two sites transferred to the Land Trust and the southern ash field transferring towards the end of the year. There is still work to be done to the site before it is open to the public.

To enable wildlife to thrive, sites of this kind need long term management. The Land Trust, responsible for long term investments in green open spaces, will be given an endowment to ensure the site is well managed and maintained for the benefit of wildlife and the community well into the future.