07/06/2023 - Permalink

Go-ahead for £1.7m schemes aiming to reduce River Severn flooding

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Two projects that aim to provide nature-based solutions to reducing flooding on the River Severn are to go ahead after gaining the approval of Shropshire Council’s Cabinet today, 7 June 2023.

The two projects are part of a wider programme of testing and learning planned for the upper part of the Severn catchment, to be funded using £4.5 million of Government funding and to be delivered over the next four years.

The two ‘demonstrator’ schemes are being delivered on behalf of the River Severn Partnership, which is jointly chaired by Shropshire Council and the Environment Agency but encompasses a wide range of government partners, businesses and community-based organisations across the entire Severn and Wye catchment area.

As the two projects exceed £500,000 in value, and as Shropshire Council must sign the grant funding agreements, approval was needed from the council’s Cabinet.

The first – £900,000 – scheme for Rea Brook in Shrewsbury will be delivered by Severn Rivers Trust and will see the construction of 200 leaky dams, 4ha of woodland creation, 1.5km planting of new mix hedgerows across slopes, creation of at least 35 water storage features such as ponds, scrapes and swales to provide additional offline water storage during storm events and installation of on-farm rainwater harvesting systems where maximum benefit can be achieved such as on large roofs

Benefits will include an estimated 35ha of new wetland habitat to facilitate the development of a more natural hydrology, provide valuable habitat for wading birds and amphibians, improve water quality and reduce the need for fertiliser through soil biodiversity improvements, support farm businesses through water efficiency savings and provide native woodland for a range of priority species and for the sequestration of around 2,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide

The second – £800,000 – project for the River Perry looks at peatland restoration and will be led by Shropshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Harper Adams University. It will involve the rewetting of 11ha of peatland, the creation of 3ha of new, native woodland, at least five water storage features and 9ha of paludiculture*, alongside two peatland conferences at Harper Adams University to enable engagement and support for the North Shropshire Farmers Group.

The benefits that could be achieved include creating examples of peat rewetting to a more natural state as well as rewetting for paludiculture* purposes. The project will quantify the opportunity to hold water within peat and work with local landowners to identify opportunities as part of farm businesses.

Ian Nellins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member, said:

“Delivery of the Shropshire based demonstrator projects for the River Severn Partnership will accelerate testing and learning around nature-based responses to climate resilience and adaptation.

“It will also help establish the River Severn Partnership as the UK’s first strategic rural partnership, harnessing the natural and cultural value of the UK’s longest river system to provide the catalyst for community resilience and economic prosperity in the face of climate change and a nature emergency.

“Delivery of the demonstrator programme will utilise the unique value of a joined-up multi sector partner approach under the River Severn Partnership to influence thinking by Defra.”

A third project at Guilsfield Brook commenced in spring 2022, led by the Severn Rivers Trust with partners from Powys County Council, Shropshire Council and the Environment Agency. It’s the first joint work between English and Welsh partners within the River Severn Partnership.

A further five projects are also now in development under the ‘demonstrator’ programme. Their aim is to test delivery of an integrated approach to water management and the role this can have in unlocking opportunities for growth and improved wellbeing by reinstating natural connections with the floodplain.

Ben Shipston, assistant director of operations for the National Trust in the West Midlands, where they are participating in the demonstration programme, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Shropshire Council and the Environment Agency to deliver water management related improvements, on land surrounding Attingham Park, for the benefit of nature and people. With both the River Severn and River Tern flowing through the estate we have a great opportunity to slow the flow of water across our land, in the green corridor between Shrewsbury and Telford.”

Learning from the development and delivery of the projects will be gathered by Shropshire Council and shared with the Environment Agency – to inform Defra ministers – as well as with the wider River Severn Partnership, to support wider scale-up of delivery across the Severn and Wye catchment.

Further information

The River Severn Partnership aims to provide a strategic and integrated response to the challenges of climate change across the River Severn catchment area.

*Paludiculture, or farming on rewetted peat, is a system of agriculture for the profitable production of wetland crops under conditions that support the competitive advantage of these crops.