Urban river funding plans for Burnley and south London: Why we’re crossing everything for 2013…

Burnley river map - Ribble Rivers Trust

For many rivers trusts and river restoration groups across the UK, the last working week before Christmas has been a blur of deadlines: final drafts of reports on projects successfully completed, budgets and planning for work running up to the end of the financial year, and plans and applications for projects somewhere out there in the future.

Anyone involved with applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund will know that funding bids don’t get much bigger (or more intricate) than these – and at least two urban rivers across the UK are the focus of major local efforts to draw down full funding for river-focused urban regeneration.

At the Ribble Rivers Trust, Jack Spees and Victoria Dewhurst have been leading a local partnership drawing up plans for a raft of transformative work in the centre of urban Burnley. HLF development funds worth £81,000 have already provided the opportunity to start working with the town’s residents to visualise access and habitat improvements.

During the Industrial Revolution, the beds of the Rivers Brun and Calder through Burnley were completely paved, apparently to create a self-cleansing raceway ideal for flushing away sewage and manufacturing effluent…

Burnley river raceway - Ribble Rivers Trust

but not so hot for fish passage or indeed natural processes of any kind.

Despite some sediment deposition in the intervening years, more than 2.2 kilometres of Burnley’s rivers are still continuously armoured with cobble and concrete. Studies show that even in low flows the raceway’s average speed of 1.9cm per second offers no respite for fish trying to migrate upstream through Burnley’s town centre. So the Ribble Rivers Trust’s Urban River Enhancement Scheme includes a hugely exciting plan to break out several areas of the raceway into semi-natural pool and riffle sequences, complete with gravel, boulders and large woody debris – whilst still maintaining the area’s flood defences. A new fish pass will also be built on the Brun in Thompson Park.

Meanwhile, on the River Wandle in south London, Groundwork’s Stephen Crabtree and the Wandle Trust’s Bella Davies have spent late nights finessing a first-round pass into the HLF’s very first urban Landscape Partnership Scheme, worth a total of £1.9 million after development funding of £78,000. With the idea of a healthy river at the heart of the planned Wandle Valley Regional Park, community stewardship, river-based education and river restoration in the Ravensbury Park area are important components of this bid.

If the full HLF bids for the Brun and Wandle projects are successful, the grants will be announced in summer 2013.

Here at urbantrout, we can’t wait to see the start of these exciting initatives, and you can be sure we’ll be feverishly tearing the pages off our calendars in the countdown to those formal funding announcements…

Burnley river restoration visualisation - Ribble Rivers Trust

(Photos: Ribble Rivers Trust)

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