Case study:Chowder Ness Managed Realignment Scheme

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Location: 53° 41' 29", -0° 28' 53"
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Project overview

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Status Complete
Project web site
Themes Habitat and biodiversity
Country England
Main contact forename Natalie
Main contact surname Frost
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Contact organisation
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Parent multi-site project
This is a parent project
encompassing the following
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Project summary

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Associated British Ports (ABP) constructed a new Roll-on Roll-off terminal at Immingham Outer Harbour (opened in July 2006), which resulted in the direct loss of 22ha of intertidal mudflat area and potentially up to 5ha of indirect losses in a proposed Special Protection Area (pSPA) and a proposed Special Area of Conservation (pSAC). In consultation with regulatory bodies and local nature conservation interest groups, the two managed realignment schemes at Chowder Ness and Welwick were identified as contributing to a compensation package for the impacts of the above development. The initial objective of Chowder Ness was to create 10.5ha of mud and 0.8ha of saltmarsh to support a variety of invertebrate and bird species.

Chowder Ness was undertaken for the same purpose as another realignment on the Humber, Welwick, which is presented as a separate case study. Both schemes were designed and implemented by the same organisations (Associated British Ports (ABP) and ABPmer), and to very similar timescales and principles. To inform the final design of these sites, numerical modelling was undertaken based on LiDAR elevation data. This was to ensure the correct balance of habitats would be achieved. As mudflat creation was the main objective of the schemes, and as the sites were largely too high for this to occur, the land was re-profiled to increase the extent of lower areas where mudflat could develop (i.e. below Mean High Water Neap (MHWN)). These works included the creation of a gentle slope from the fronting, existing, mudflats to the rear of the sites to assist drainage.

At the 15ha Chowder Ness site, new flood defences were created at the rear of the site to a minimum height of 6.7m above Ordnance Datum Newlyn (ODN). Material for these defences was obtained from within the site from a combination of reprofiling and creation of temporary borrow pits (these were later infilled with material obtained from the seawall removal). The existing seawall was removed over a length of 570m (some 200m remain), to a level of around 1.6 to 2mODN. This removal, rather than the creation of solitary breaches, was chosen for a number of reasons: it improves connectivity with the wider estuary; it more closely recreates the type of environments that existed prior to the land claim; it enables the whole cross sectional area of the estuary including the realignment site, to respond to estuary wide changes; and it increases energy levels within the site, thereby improving the likelihood that mudflat habitat will be maintained (as mudflat creation was the main objective of the site).

As Chowder Ness was considered relatively small-scale in relation to the estuary as a whole any predicted changes to the hydrodynamics and sediment dynamics were expected be extremely localised and relatively small in magnitude (ABPmer, 2004).

The old defence was removed in a series of stages: (1) removing the rear of the embankment, (2) the concrete wave return, the bitumen and rock face, and (3) the overall lowering of the embankment (to levels around 1.6 to 2mODN).

Monitoring surveys and results

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A ten-year monitoring programme is being is being undertaken to describe both changes to sites fronting the realignment (in relation to bathymetry, invertebrates and waterfowl), and to the realignment site itself (in relation to topography, saltmarsh composition, changes to intertidal invertebrates and bird and wildfowl usage).

Over 12 ha of mudflat were created. During 2006/2007, a total of 13 waterbird species were found to be using the newly created intertidal area. All target species established for the site were observed with one exception. Although the grassland and hedgerow are relatively new habitats six bird species were observed using the grassland of the newly created embankment during 2007, four of which held breeding territories. Again, all target species were observed with one exception. Welwick: The site covers a total area of 54 ha to the edge of the current saltmarsh in front of the seawall. Landward of the current defences the site area covers approximately 48ha, whilst the current sea defence accounts for 3 ha and saltmarsh in front of this covers 3 ha. A total of 29 waterbird species have been recorded with the realignment site having developed as a major roosting site for a number of wading birds at high water. With one exception, all target species established for the site have been observed.

In total, 66 ha. of farmland have been converted into new inter-tidal habitat to compensate for the 22 ha. of land lost due to the new port developments.

At a very early stage, an integrated plan, considering flood protection, nature protection and maritime transport including mitigation measures, was developed. When the plans were first put forward, there was strong resistance because of the habitat loss. Through extensive consultation and close co-operation with a number of environmental organisations, an outcome was reached that was acceptable to all parties. The process ensured that the environmental impact of the project was clearly identified and mitigation and compensation actions taken. This led to a legally binding agreement – the first of its kind in the UK – that meant that ABP had to carry out the agreed set of offsetting measures but that they would not have to face a lengthy and costly public enquiry.

Lessons learnt

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Accretion: In order for the site to support both mudflat invertebrates and saltmarsh plants, it was important that fine marine sediments would be imported into the site, as these would provide the ideal environment for intertidal flora and fauna. Furthermore such sediment import would ensure that the site would continue to increase in elevation as sea levels rise. Observations from previous managed realignments have shown that sites can accrete relatively rapidly immediately after a breach, but that elevation increases then tend to level off. At Chowder Ness, site elevation monitoring has so far followed a similar trajectory. To date, overall, the site has increased in elevation with the main change in elevation occurring in the initial two years following the realignment.

  • Invertebrates: The monitoring has shown that invertebrates have colonised this new sediment. In 2009, between 571 and 15,429 specimens were found per m² (belonging to between 2 and 6 species). The abundance, diversity and biomass of species in the mudflat have been increasing since the realignment has been implemented, and are now similar to the fronting, pre-existing, mudflat sites; in fact, average abundance within the samples collected in 2008 was greater than the fronting mudflats.
  • Birds: Shorebirds are making good use of the site; for example, a total of 16 different waterbird species were recorded using the realignment site between September 2008 and March 2009. Species observed in the highest numbers on the site included shelduck, golden plover, lapwing, dunlin, curlew, black-headed gull and common gull.
  • Saltmarsh and Grassland: With regards to the development of other habitats, there was a requirement to also create saltmarsh and terrestrial habitats. By 2009, as expected, a small proportion of the site had developed into saltmarsh; this is concentrated along the eastern edge of the site. This saltmarsh is mostly dominated by sea aster, although this is interspersed by other saltmarsh plants commonly associated with the lower marsh, such as spear-leaved orache and sea milkwort. With regards to terrestrial habitats, these were created to support a range of farmland bird species at the top and landward side of the new flood embankment, and along a grassland berm between the base of the embankment and the soke dyke. Within the 2009 surveys, eight bird species were seen to use the grassland, of which six were definitely breeding. These species included moorhen, skylark, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, reed bunting and grasshopper warbler.

Image gallery

Aerial view of site in December 2006 (5 months post realignment) (taken by ABP)
Marsh development in the eastern corner – 1 year on, 2 years on, and 3 years on (bottom pictures demonstrating difference two months can make, with sea aster in bloom in the bottom right picture)
Dunlin feeding within the site

Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district Humber
River basin Louth Grimsby and Ancholme


River name Barton Blow wells drainage
Area category 10 - 100 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category Less than 100 m
Maximum altitude (m) 98
98 m
0.098 km
9,800 cm
Dominant geology Calcareous
Ecoregion Great Britain
Dominant land cover Arable and Horticulture
Waterbody ID GB104029067620


Name Inner Humber Estuary North, Lincolnshire
WFD water body codes GB104029067620
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name Barton Blow wells drainage
Pre-project morphology
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body No
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use Arable
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m) 570
570 m
0.57 km
57,000 cm
Project started
Works started 2005/02/01
Works completed 2006/07/03
Project completed
Total cost category 1000 - 5000 k€
Total cost (k€) 1500
1,500 k€
1,500,000 €
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources ABP

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Supplementary funding information

A new Roll-on Roll-off terminal was constructed by Associated British Ports (ABP) at Immingham harbour in 2006 on the south bank of the Humber estuary. It resulted in the direct loss of 22 ha of intertidal mudflat and potentially up to 5 ha of indirect losses in the estuary proposed Special Protection Area (now an SPA) and possible Special Area of Conservation (now a candidate SAC). In consultation with regulatory bodies and local nature conservation interest groups, two managed realignment schemes at Chowder Ness and Welwick were identified as contributing to a compensation package for the impact of constructing the new harbour.

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure
Other reasons for the project


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications
Floodplain / River corridor
Planform / Channel pattern
Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement)


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Invertebrates No Yes Yes Yes No Improvement

Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

Link Description creation and restoartion of coastal and estuarine habitats a managed realignment in the Humber estuary Green Port Hull Habitat creation as compensation for port development in Natura 2000 areas of the Humber estuary - UK Defra pages

Supplementary Information

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  • Creation and restoration of coastal and estuarine habitats A review of practical examples and a description of sequential guidelines for habitat creation and restoration in port areas (2007) S. Bracke, T. Bucx, N. Frost, H. Jaspers, J. de Groot, G. Quemeneur, F. Sahin, P. Slim, H. Slootweg, H. Smit, E. de Swart, T. Tessier, L. Vermeersch, T. Vanoutrive. New Delta
  • Environmental Statement for a Managed Realignment Scheme at Chowder Ness. Report No. R.979. (2004). ABPmer
  • Managed Realignment in the Humber Estuary, UK. (2008). Hemingway, K.L., Cutts, N.C. & R. Pérez-Dominguez., Institute of Estuarine & Coastal Studies (IECS), University of Hull, UK.
  • Potential for sustainable habitat creation in the Humber Estuary. Environment Agency Humber estuary shoreline management plan habitat migration study. (2000) Binnie Black and Veatch