Calls for extra protection for Boldon Flats wildlife site after reports of falling water levels

Residents are calling for extra protection for a South Tyneside wildlife refuge after reports of falling water levels.

Boldon Flats in East Boldon is already a designated Local Wildlife Site – but now members of the East Boldon Forum are calling for it to be given extra protection as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).

Chairperson Kirsten Richardson said members were ‘desperately worried’: “We have tried everything we can think of to save this wonderful site, including writing to the Church Commissioners who own the site, but the recent hot weather is now causing the mudflats to dry out before our eyes,” she said.

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"We have also raised our concerns directly with our MP Kate Osborne at a recent meeting”.

The water level recently fell after a report of a mechanical digger creating new drainage ditches on the site: “Residents are upset and feel powerless,” siad Ms Richardson.

"They are now reporting a noticeable reduction in garden birds in neighbouring gardens. We are calling on Ward Councillors to put pressure on the relevant authorities so that this situation can be resolved before South Tyneside experiences a significant loss to its biodiversity.

"What makes it worse is the global climate is changing and the loss of a rare mudflats habitat will add to the catastrophic collapse in bird species and numbers that the UK is already experiencing.”

Local Green Party councillor Coun David Herbert said he had contacted the Church Commissioners and South Tyneside Council’s senior ecologist had been out to the site: “The ecologist attended the site almost immediately as this action has caused a lot of consternation and upset, “ he said.

...and as it is now

"In the view of the ecologist, digging out drainage ditches is normal agricultural practise. The Local Wildlife Site status does not prevent such action and neither is it in breach of any wildlife legislation.

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"The water levels on the flats were already quite low due to the very dry year we have been having, and creating this extra capacity in the ditches has drawn the water down into the ditches.

"So it will appear as though the Flats have been drained in the short term.”

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Residents are calling for extra protection for Boldon Flats
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But the effects should only be temporary: “It is believed that the digging works have not impacted the outflow from the site so the overall levels on the flats will not be permanently impacted and the water will return to its previous level as the rain falls and fills it back up,” he said.

"I am aware that discussions are in progress about possible LNR designation for the flats. I am not overly concerned what designation exists as long as the wildlife is conserved and the habitat is enhanced. It is questionable if the present arrangements are achieving this.

“The land owners have offered to meet the interested parties including councillors and East Boldon Neighbourhood Forum to discuss actions going forward.

"I will be pushing for measures to be taken that prevent any such occurrence in the future and ensure this iconic and much loved wildlife site is managed as a vital ecological site.”

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The water level as it was...

A spokesperson from Northumbrian Water said: “We are aware of the situation at Boldon Flats in South Tyneside and have plans in place to investigate this in due course.”

Efforts to contact the Church Commissioners’ agents have been unsuccessful.