CONTENTIOUS plans to flood part of Purbeck to create a 'diverse wetland habitat' are the focus of a public exhibition this week.

Natural England, the Environment Agency and the RSPB are working together to adapt around 150-hectares of moorland at Arne into wetland.

The Moors at Arne Project Team says: "With the sea level rising, important habitat for wildlife along the coast will be lost over the next 30 years.

"Where rising waters press against essential fixed sea defences, called 'coastal squeeze', this will mean a loss of inter-tidal features such as mudflats and salt marsh.

"New places for coastal wildlife will need to be created, particularly if the government is to realise its ambitious 25 year environment plan."

Project team members will be onhand to answer questions during the exhibition, which is scheduled for 2-7pm, on Wednesday, November 28, at Wareham Town Hall.

Many local residents are concerned about the project.

The Ridge Moors Action Group has been established to represent local people's views.

Speaking after the group was launched, co-chairman Peter Sibthorp said: "The major concern is flooding for the houses and businesses in Ridge, which is a low-laying area.

"If they build a huge sea wall, which some people are dubbing the Great Wall of Dorset, it will block the water directly and it will have to flow somewhere else."

However, a project spokesman stressed: "It is important to the project team that the community is involved in the project.

"At this stage, the priority is to identify issues of concern to residents so they can be investigated and accounted for in later design stages."

The scheme will involve the construction of new tidal embankments further inland than the existing ones.

Once in place, the land in front of the new embankments will be opened to the action of the tides and with this new salt marsh habitats will be created.

These new tidal embankments will be robust, say project workers, and the scheme will give greater flood resilience for local people and property.

"The partnership will not proceed with a scheme that causes houses to flood," stressed the spokesman.

The RSPB nature reserve at Arne proved a big hit with television viewers after featuring as the backdrop for the BBC's 2016Autumnwatch and 2017 Winterwatch programmes.