Photo by Peter Holmes
Restoring habitats to increase resilience

Author: New Economics Foundation

Location: West Sussex, South East England

The Medmerry Realignment Scheme is an innovative flood defence project in West Sussex and the largest managed realignment scheme on the open coast in Europe. Opened in November 2013, the Medmerry flood defence held firm during the 2013/2014 floods and is seen as a gold standard of flood defence in the UK. It directly protects 350 houses, as well as the sewage plant and the main road to Selsey.

Between 2011 and 2013, the Environment Agency (EA) constructed 4.25 miles (7 km) of new flood bank inland from the sea between Selsey and Bracklesham, in West Sussex, currently one of the stretches of coastline most at risk of flooding in southern England. It then breached the existing shingle beach to create, creating amazing new wetland habitats for local wildlife.

The previous shingle bank at Medmerry required expensive maintenance each winter, and was not able to prevent coastal flooding during major storms. Much of the site is now managed by the RSPB as a nature reserve. The important new wildlife wetlands are expected to offset the anticipated loss of protected intertidal habitats in the Solent over the next 100 years. In addition, new public access points will be created for residents and visitors to enjoy the wildlife.

This new form of defence has helped to save £300,000 in taxpayers’ money each year, the cost of repairing the shingle bank. It also supports local economic growth by allowing businesses to operate year round. Medmerry’s new wetlands have enabled the holiday village to revamp itself as an ecotourism destination.