£20 million project will 'unlock' the River Severn

A major new project which it is said will unlock the River Severn for fish and wildlife has secured £19.4 million funding and is expected to re-open the UK's longest river to many fish species which became extinct in the upper reaches following the installation of weirs required to power the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

It will also see the construction of England's first underground fish viewing gallery at Worcester's Diglis Weir which will enable visitors to catch a rare glimpse into what goes on beneath the surface of the river.

Work will start in 2017 and has been made possible by a £10.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund plus £six million from the European Union LIFE programme. It is claimed it will re-open the Rivers Severn and its major tributary the River Teme for fish and wildlife whilst reconnecting millions of people and local communities with the lost natural, cultural and industrial heritage of the river.

Said to be the largest undertaking of its kind ever attempted in Europe, the project will address problems caused by blockages and secure the long-term future of many of the UK's declining and protected fish species by substantially increasing access to critical spawning grounds the fish require. This includes historically economically vital species such as the now threatened twaite and allis shad – a species favoured in the court of Henry III. Once abundant they were famed across Europe for their taste and quality. The project will also benefit other critically declining species such as salmon and the European eel – species on which the communities along the banks of the River Severn were historically built.

With the £10.8 million received from Heritage Lottery Fund and £six million from the European Union LIFE programme, the project will also work closely with local communities and schools to reconnect millions of people with the natural, cultural and industrial heritage on the rivers. Along with the UK's first Shad Fest and England’s only fish viewing gallery at Diglis Weir in Worcester, a major citizen science program will also get people involved in the preservation of this lesser known UK fish. In reconnecting people with the River, the project will raise awareness of the value of our UK river systems, not only for enhancing biodiversity, tourism and fishing, but ensuring the River Severn system is protected for our future generations to enjoy as part of our natural and historic heritage, and an important piece of what made Britain the economic powerhouse it is today.

The project was developed as part of a three year long collaborative partnership between the Severn Rivers Trust, the Canal and River Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England.

The project is expected to take approximately five years to complete.

Pictured above at Diglis Weir are, from left to right, Joanna Redgwell of Natural England; Tony Bostock of the Severn Rivers Trust; Sophie Castell of the Canal and River Trust; Lynne Farquhar of Natural England; and the Environment Agency's Dave Throup.

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