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Wildlife relocated as part of multi-million-pound coastal defence scheme

A leading civil engineering firm has become the first company to successfully relocate an entire shore-sized habitat of honeycomb reef worm as part of its work on a crucial coastal defence scheme.

In what is thought to be a world first, Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK saved a large section of Sabellaria alveolata habitat after laying down around 1,000 tonnes of beach material to form the foundations at the now completed Penrhyn Bay project.

The Ruthin-based company’s multi-million-pound contract included procuring and importing around 60,000 tonnes of rock armour.

A T-shape rock groyne was then constructed to reduce erosion and minimise the impact of stormy weather and associated flooding.

As part of plans to rehome slabs of honeycomb worm, which were delicately extracted from under the footprint of the new groyne, driven directly to their new habitat, and positioned carefully to preserve their original orientation and structure, Jones Bros enlisted the support of CloudBase Productions Ltd.

Director of the company that specialises in marine biological surveys, Rohan Holt, said: “There are plenty of signs of life, including big chunks of reef that have cemented themselves into their new resting place.

“These are joined by swarms of juveniles that actively seek areas ready-colonised by adults, as they transform from their planktonic stage.

“There is about 10-25 per cent coverage, which should eventually merge with the nearby established material.

“As this is the first time a relocation of this scale has been undertaken, both Jones Bros and I are really pleased to see such promising results.”

The seafront has also benefited from improvements, with a new cycle path, fresh seating, and handrailing opposite The Beach Café Bar.

Parking areas have been relocated closer to the entrance of Rhos Golf Club, while a new pedestrian crossing point is in place between Maes Gwyn Road and Pendorlan Road, with a disabled beach access ramp also installed.

Jones Bros project manager Sam Roberts, who oversaw a team of 30, including three apprentices on the scheme, said: “It’s a development we’ve loved being a part of and we are thrilled to have completed it ahead of schedule.

“Protecting the environment in which we work is always high on the agenda, so to have the opportunity to transfer such a vast size of reef, and for it to succeed, is fantastic.”

During the development, the civil engineering contractor also donated funds towards Ysgol John Bright’s Addams Family show at Venue Cymru and sponsored playing kits and training equipment for Penrhyn Bay Football Club under-8s.

Jones Bros also attended Conwy Careers Fair for 16–24-year-olds and invited primary school pupils from Ysgol Glanwydden to visit the site and learn more about the works as part of their studies.

The project was on behalf of Conwy County Borough Council, and largely funded through the Welsh Government’s coastal risk management programme.