Lower Otter Restoration Project delayed after concerns raised over nesting birds

The Lower Otter Estuary

The Lower Otter Estuary - Credit: Lower Otter Restoration Project

Vegetation and tree clearance work at a project that will return the Otter Estuary and floodplain to a more natural condition has been postponed after campaigners were left furious over the impact it would have on nesting birds. 

Wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham led the campaign after highlighting the issue in a video on Twitter that has been viewed more than 35,000 times. 

The project, that was set to begin on Tuesday (May 6), would have seen the removal of vegetation on the River Otter estuary, which would be essential for the success of the project and the restoration of an intertidal landscape which will become home to many new species. 

But following the protests, the Environment Agency has said the start of work has been reviewed, and landowners Clinton Devon Estates have confirmed the work will be postponed. 

The EU-funded Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) will reconnect the River Otter to its historic floodplain and return the lower Otter Valley to a more natural condition. 

The creation of new habitats and restoration of the site will be achieved by breaching the embankment. 

Once established, the new site will become a wildlife reserve of international importance within five years, fulfilling the aspirations of all partners involved. 

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In a statement, Clinton Devon Estates said: “Following consultation with our partners and other environmental organisations over risks to nesting birds, the start of vegetation clearance work in preparation for the Lower Otter Restoration Project has been postponed. 

“Any works in the future will be undertaken on the basis that they will not have a risk of impacting breeding birds. 

“The purpose of this vital project has always been to work with nature to achieve a more sustainable way of managing the Otter Estuary and its immediate surroundings, and we are committed to ensuring this continues to be a priority.” 

An Environment Agency spokesman added that the delay had been agreed so ‘that timings reflect the balance of ecological risks’. 

But the project has now been delayed, with no date yet confirmed for when the vegetation clearance will begin. 

When complete, the flood plains project is expected to create 55 hectares (136 acres) of wildlife habitat on the river, estuary and floodplain. 

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