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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Land deal heralds nature reserve
Saltholme Pools (BBC)
Saltholme Pools will be transformed into the nature park
Ambitious plans for a massive wildlife reserve on Teesside take a major step forward on Tuesday.

It is hoped the Saltholme project will attract hundreds of thousands of people to the site near Hartlepool.

On Tuesday ownership of the 400 hectares (988 acres) site was being transferred from English Partnerships to the Teesside Environmental Trust.

The plan will see low-grade farmland transformed into lakes, reed beds and wet grassland.

Experts say it is the biggest habitat recreation project yet conceived in the north of England.

Visitor centre

Saltholme, which is being developed in partnership with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is expected to attract at least 100,000 visitors a year and become one of the region's major tourist attractions.

The total cost of the regeneration project will be 5.7m.

The site is due to open to the public in 2007.

The project includes plans for a state-of-the-art visitor centre, offering a family-friendly experience of wildlife and providing facilities for education and community activities.

It is expected the reserve will bring in more than 1m to the local economy each year.

In time, it is hoped that other sites will be linked to the core area at Saltholme, creating a 1,000 hectare (2,471 acre) "Tees Valley Nature Park" stretching from Hartlepool south to the River Tees.

Experts say the new site will attract breeding bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit to a region where none of these species nest at present.

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