River Severn – Multi-million pound project to reopen UK’s longest River to protected fish species

Work begins this week on a major UK wildlife project on the River Severn thanks largely to £10.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) – using National Lottery players’ money – and £6 million from the European Union LIFE programme.

The £19.7 million project is one of the largest of its kind ever attempted in Europe, and also one of the biggest natural environment schemes ever supported by HLF. Unlocking the Severn for People and Wildlife is being run by the Canal & River Trust, Severn Rivers Trust, Environment Agency and Natural England.

The project will reopen 158 miles of the River Severn to fish, by creating routes around physical barriers that currently prevent migration to critical spawning grounds. This will help to secure the long-term future of many of the UK’s declining and protected fish species, particularly the now threatened twaite and allis shad which hundreds of years ago were a staple food in the court of Henry III.

Many of these species became extinct in the upper reaches of the River following the installation of locks and weirs required to allow navigation that powered the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s. State of the art fish passes will now be installed on four navigation weirs on the River Severn and fish passage improvements made at two sites on the River Teme.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The National Lottery is one of the biggest funders of the UK’s natural heritage, so it’s entirely fitting it is supporting Unlocking the Severn for People and Wildlife. The shad may be almost unknown now, but it was the fish of kings and queens, from Henry III to Elizabeth I and Charles II. The River Severn used to teem with the migratory activity of this species – and with other species that will also benefit from this investment. This project will bring new life and increased biodiversity to a significant stretch of the longest river in the UK and will also see historic buildings from the Severn’s industrial past restored and given new uses.” 

Unlocking the Severn for People and Wildlife will also deliver ambitious heritage, education and science programmes that aim to reconnect eight million people with the River. This includes working with over 200 school classes, 100 community groups and creating thousands of volunteering opportunities.

The project aims to have the knock-on effect of attracting more visitors to the region and boosting the local tourist economy. Recreational fishing on the River Severn currently contributes £13.5million per year to the local economy, and it is hoped that the project will boost this by a further £4millon. Click here to read more

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