Nature Island Launches On The Tyne

Issue 82

Maximising the opportunities that the river Tyne and the Quayside presents is one of our top priorities at NE1. Alongside 'greening' the city, both are central to our plans to help shape the future of Newcastle; that's why we are delighted to have played our part in a pioneering nature island project that launched on the river this month

Working closely with community charity, Groundwork North East and Cumbria, and the Environment Agency, as part of the Tyne Estuary Partnership, we have been involved in a large project to install a floating island on the river. The pioneering scheme will help create new habitats for wildlife in and on the water, as well as bringing nature to the city. At high tide, people will be able to see the island, which looks like a small, wild garden, measuring 1,000 square feet, floating on the Tyne in front of Wesley Square between the Millennium and Tyne Bridges.

The floating island is ground-breaking, as it is the first of its kind anywhere in the world to be installed on a tidal river like the Tyne and has been created to withstand the huge tidal flow variations on the river. Newcastle has always been a city of innovation and we are delighted that once again we are delivering a first-of-its-kind on a project that could be transformational for rivers and cities around the world.

The new floating nature island will be a vital hub for wildlife both on the island and in the water around and under it, helping to recreate habitats lost to industrialisation and urban development over the years, as well as helping to improve water quality and greening this section of the riverbank. Pollinator plants have been used to attract wildlife and to create space for nesting birds as well as an under-island ecosystem to shelter migrating fish.

While small in scale compared to the vastness of the river, the floating island is large in comparison with similar projects in other areas. It equates to roughly eight car parking spaces in size, providing a beautiful and significant addition to the Quayside, one that will deliver major environmental benefits. The floating island is being run as a trial that will be managed for the next three years and will provide a test bed for future, larger floating eco-systems on the Tyne and elsewhere.

As well as its impressive eco-credentials, the island is hugely significant for the future of the river and the wider city. Efforts to improve water quality are essential as we work to attract and improve activity on the water, bringing new people and new events and activities to join the kayakers, cruises and boats that already enjoy the river. Newcastle NE1 have supported this project from its inception because it closely mirrors our focus on the Quayside and reflects the hopes and aspirations of the people of Newcastle. We know from our consumer research that greening the city is a high priority for businesses and the public, and this is an important first step in softening the boundary between the Quay wall and the river, as well as establishing a precedent and demonstrating our ambition for improvements in the area. Our plans and vision for the Quayside and the river have been shaped by public opinion and the views of businesses, garnered from surveys and direct consultation over the last few years. We have also worked with leading North East architects and world-leading place-makers, Gehl, to pull these views together into an aspirational vision for the area.

Two of the key themes that have emerged from these discussions are the need to make more of the river and the Quayside with a call for more activities on and off the water, coupled with the need to make the city greener, with a focus on introducing more plants and trees. These themes and wishlists come together in the floating nature island.

At NE1, we are driven by the desire to continuously improve and develop our projects and their delivery. In the case of the floating island eco-system, we will be keen to explore how we can expand and improve on this idea in the future, as well as measuring how businesses and the public respond and interact with it.

Evaluating the impact of the floating eco-system will be the next step for the project and exploring whether similar projects could help businesses meet their environmental targets. In the future, businesses looking to measure and reduce their carbon footprint could get involved in supporting the project to offset their carbon usage. Developers working on projects that must allocate a percentage of their budget to improving the local area could even start to explore adding floating eco-systems into their offset portfolio.

Floating islands are not common and are tricky to create and manage, especially when navigating the huge tidal differences of the Tyne but they have the potential to deliver enormous environmental benefits. Creating something so innovative and bespoke has taken a lot of time, hard work, and collaboration between a multitude of key partners. We are now excited to see the fruits of this labour and to measure the impact delivered by the floating island.

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