Skinflats Managed Realignment

The inter-tidal habitats of the Inner Forth are spectacular places for nature, recognised by designations both at a national (SSSI) and international (SPA) level. These habitats are, however, under pressure. Historic land claim for agriculture and industry has led to the loss of roughly half of the inter-tidal habitats over the past 300 years. These pressures are only set to increase as climate change induced sea level rise and further development continues to erode these habitats, meaning there will be less space for nature in this human landscape. In response to these pressures, RSPB Skinflats was identified as a key site where new inter-tidal habitat could be created and where other land managers could see the resultant managed realignment being demonstrated.

In 2009, RSPB Scotland installed a regulated tidal exchange scheme at the reserve that allowed for inundation of part of the reserve at high tide, enabling the establishment of some inter-tidal habitat and colonisation of saltmarsh plants. However, infrastructure used to bring water onto the site did not function as planned and this has resulted in the sluice being kept largely closed meaning that the site does not have the regular inundation required to allow the continued establishment of saltmarsh vegetation.

With options for the site re-visited, a managed realignment was identified as the best option for delivering high quality and sustainable inter-tidal habitat. The project involved creating a 25m breach in the old sea wall to allow water to flow into the site at most high tides, acting as a replacement for the existing regulated tidal exchange system and resulting in the creation of 10 ha of new inter-tidal habitat. A new island will be enhanced by adding shingle on the top, with the aim of attracting breeding terns and ringed plover and feeding and roosting bird species associated with the Firth of Forth SPA and SSSI. 

During the delivery of this project, a number of key activities took place:

  • Consultants were commissioned to produce technical drawings for the managed realignment design. This included computer modelling for a 1 in 200 year flood event; to undertake an Environmental Appraisal Report, condition assessment of the embankments and associated studies and reports.
  • Enagagement with stakeholders, including local residents and communities about the project, through community drop-in sessions, letters and a briefing note.
  • A planning application was submitted including supporting documents to Falkirk Council for consideration as a major development. The project did receive planning permission.
  • Other necessary licenses and consents were applied for and secured from other agencies.
  • Appointed an external contract project manager, who then secured a suitable contractor to undertake the groundworks and produced final designs for the work.
  • To build up sections of embankment and breach the sea wall at RSPB Skinflats reserve to create a managed realigned area
You can download the full end of project report from the downloads section of this webpage.

There are four blogs detailing the project delivery on the RSPB website:

Any queries about the Skinflats Managed Realignment project should be addressed to Toby Wilson, RSPB Senior Conservation Officer

This project was co-funded by HLF through the IFLI programme and by the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community through EcoCoLife programme.