Artificial city

Man-made rock pools and strings of mussels part of the wildlife habitat plan for ‘dolphins’ on the River Wear in Sunderland

Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application for Palmers Hill Quay on the north side of the River Wear this month.

The site, which is east of Wearmouth Bridge and south of Bonners Raff, comprises a constructed foreshore as well as a number of freestanding concrete and timber structures known as ‘dolphins’.

New plans from Groundwork North East and Cumbria (GNEC), part of the Revitalizing our Estuaries programme, propose measures to restore nature and boost biodiversity.

The habitat creation program is planned for a shoreline location east of the Wearmouth Bridge.

Documents submitted to the local authority state that the GNEC aims to “carry out interventions that protect and restore the marine environment”.

The charity had previously been commissioned by the Environment Agency to identify ‘opportunities for environmental improvements in the Wear estuary’ which has been ‘heavily altered by human activity’ over the years.

According to a design and access statement submitted to council officials, “hard, steep or vertical man-made banks reduce habitat and biodiversity, preventing native plants and animals from inhabiting the estuary”.

As part of a wider investigation, Palmers Hill Quay in Sunderland has been identified as an area that could benefit from ecological work to “improve biodiversity input and habitat connectivity”.

The plans submitted describe the work as “the installation of artificial rock pools, mussel ropes and a wooden habitat on the upper shore.”

A scoping report prepared for the applicant provides further details of the proposed bespoke “built habitats” for Palmers Hill Quay.

This includes “bioreceptive podpools” made from natural concrete that would be positioned in groups along the riverbank to create rock pool habitats.

Elsewhere, the wooden platform could benefit from ‘mussel ropes’ tied between the timbers to help extend existing mussel beds.

Other measures include magnetically attached rock pools installed on various parts of the steel infrastructure of the concrete platforms of the Dukes of Alba.

A design and access statement adds that the project would help “mimic natural estuarine intertidal habitats”.

A decision on the application is expected later this year, once a council consultation period is complete.

For more information on the planning application or to follow its progress, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/01818/FU4