Worcester’s MP Robin Walker was pleased to get an update on a £20million project to reopen the River Severn to fish and wildlife in order to boost tourism and local community use of the river. Residents can take part in the Unlocking the Severn consultation – with the chance to win £50 of High Street vouchers – until Friday 13th January at www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/OnTheStreet.

Meeting with Mike Morris, Deputy Director of the Severn Rivers Trust, Robin was updated on the multi-agency initiative, Unlocking the Severn, which is the largest river restoration project in Europe – and residents are now being invited to share their views on the plans. The project aims to reopen 250km of river habitat for all fish and secure the UK breeding population of twaite shad, as well as bringing major business and tourism benefits through reconnecting millions of people with the lost natural, cultural and industrial heritage of the River Severn.

The shad was a species favoured in the court of Henry III, once abundant and famed all across Europe for its taste and quality, but has been in critical decline since the late 1800s. The project will also benefit other critically declining species such as salmon and the European eel – all species on which the communities along the banks of the River Severn were historically built.

The project has been developed as part of a 3 year long collaborative partnership between the Severn Rivers Trust, the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England. Funding has been delivered via a £10.8 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a £6 million grant from the European Union LIFE Programme, with work due to begin in 2018 and be completed by 2020.

In Worcester, a new glass-bottomed viewing gallery will be constructed at Diglis as part of the project, allowing migrating fish to be viewed as they pass through. In addition, interactive Fish Parks will be established at four locations along the Severn and an education programme will be developed for all ages to allow children and adults to engage with their river in different ways and help protect it.

Robin said:

“This is an exciting and ambitious project which has been many years in the making. The scale of the project is a real testament to the passion of the partnership agencies working to deliver it.

“Recreational and commercial fishing activities contribute £15 million to the river each year with a further £4.4 million per annum from recreational activities, such as walking and cycling along the Severn Way. The project will build on this by restoring the fish populations to bring additional economic benefits, as well as enhancing the recreational and tourism opportunities along the river.

“To have England’s only fish viewing gallery built at Diglis Weir will be another exciting development for the city, bringing more and more people to World Class Worcestershire.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to contribute to the development of the project so that it can best reflect the views and needs of local residents and community groups.”

Notes to editors

To access the Severn Rivers Trust ‘Unlocking the Severn’ survey, please visit http://smartsurvey.co.uk/s/onthestreet. Entries for the prize draw close on 13th January 2017, and the winner will be notified by 31st January.

More information on the project, published by the Severn Rivers Trust, can be found at: http://severnriverstrust.com/uncategorized/major-new-project-to-unlock-river-severn-for-people-wildlife/