TIME is running out for the Environment Agency (EA) to complete a new £4.6 million bird reserve at Greatham Creek on the Tees Estuary.

The project was delayed by bad weather in 2012 and the discovery of Roman and Iron Age archaeology but the imminent start of the seal pupping season is causing concern.

With seals due to start giving birth in June, contractors are due back on site to secure an old tip before breaching a flood embankment to allow the tide from the estuary to wash in and out of a specially created area between new flood banks further inland.

The EA is creating a new area of saltmarsh and mudflat to compensate for the long term loss of natural habitat from the new Redcar coastal flood defences and other planned flood defence schemes on the estuary.

“We have quite a tight timescale to ensure all the preparation work is completed before we breach the bank. We must ensure that the breeding seal colony at Greatham Creek is not disturbed, so if we are delayed by bad weather, we may not be able to finish the work until after the breeding season in August,” said the EA’s environmental advisor for the scheme, Bruce Munro.

“However, if all goes according to plan, we expect to breach the old bank sometime during the last week of May.”

The new habitat will be known as the Saltern Wetlands – a name chosen by local people to reflect the previous history of the site, and will include a new public footpath along the top of the new flood bank that will provide excellent vantage points for bird watchers.