RESIDENTS are up in arms over plans for a new nature reserve proposed as compensation for the loss of a valuable wildlife area.

More than 60 residents from Little Oakley and surrounding areas marched down the Essex Way to Irlams Beach.

The group wanted to show their anger at the possible loss of a much-loved and well-used footpath to the beach.

Hutchison Ports wants to create a new wetland habitat behind the existing seawall at Irlams, which, it says, would compensate for the loss of intertidal habitats due the developments at Bathside Bay.

The Bathside Bay project would see a major expansion of the container port terminal, boosting the local economy by millions of pounds a year.

However, the villagers say the cost in loss of amenity and wildlife is too high a price to pay.

The demonstration was organised by Little Oakley Parish Council after studying the port’s plans.

Dave Attrill, chairman of Little Oakley Parish Council, said: “I was amazed at the turn out on such short notice and it shows how passionate many people in the community are about this flawed project.

“Not only will we lose the footpath along the top of the existing seawall, we will also lose access to the beach itself.

“We are also really concerned about the loss of the existing diverse habitat and the landscape, and worry about the impact this massive project will have on the Hamford Water seal population.”

He pointed out the design and access statement for the planning application which says: “One of the key findings of the environmental assessments was the Bathside Bay Container Terminal would be likely to have an adverse effect on the integrity of the Stour and Orwell Estuaries Protection Area and Ramsar site.

“Consequently, in line with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, compensatory measures are required.

“Due to the nature of the habitat, the only feasible method of creating compensatory habitat was considered to be managed realignment.

“Land would be lost as a consequence of the Bathside Bay Container Terminal development, and the magnitude of this loss, of coastal flood defences.”

Little Oakley Parish Council intends to object to the planning application which has been submitted to Tendring Council.