River project stays on course

The importance of green spaces to the health and wellbeing of communities has been brought into sharper focus by the Coronavirus pandemic, and work has been continuing at South Kesteven District Council on a major environmental project that will have a big part to play as life returns to normal.

The Witham/Slea Blue-Green Corridor is a £1.29m three-year ecological scheme that will rejuvenate rivers and riverside areas in Grantham and Sleaford.

It will establish and improve riverside walks and river environments; safeguard and enhance wildlife habitats; and connect communities along the River Witham and River Slea.

The project will be delivered by SKDC, working in partnership with North Kesteven District Council, the Environment Agency, National Trust and the European Union. It is also supported by the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust and local landowners.

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has provided 60% of the project cost, with the remaining 40% coming from the four funding partners.

SKDC's Cabinet Member for Commercial and Operations, Cllr Dr Peter Moseley, said: "Lockdown restrictions have highlighted more than ever the need for communities to have access to areas of green space that can improve wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.

"As well as improving habitats for wildlife, this project will benefit communities by making local green spaces more attractive and encouraging healthy lifestyles.

"The opportunities for community engagement and volunteer activities are being explored and social media accounts will be launched to keep local communities and interest groups informed about progress and how to get involved."

Teams are standing by for when lockdown restrictions have eased sufficiently to allow them to start work.

The plans feature ten linked improvement projects identified along a two-mile stretch of the Witham through Grantham, including:

• work to improve habitat and the appearance of the river at five points - Belton Lane into Queen Elizabeth Park; Wyndham Park; Sedgwick Meadow; Stonebridge Close; and St Catherine's Road to Bridge End Road

• creation of a wetland area in Queen Elizabeth Park

• development of a meadowland area at Sedgwick Meadows

• reconnection of the floodplain at Belton House

A plan will be implemented for sustainable tree management along the river corridor and a riverside path will be extended to link with Grantham's Spitalgate Heath garden village development.

"These individual projects will create the habitat needed to support the diverse range of native species that occur naturally, contributing to the aim of restoring the Witham to a more natural state and reconnecting it to nearby communities," said Cllr Dr Moseley.

"We have the opportunity to develop a vibrant riverside corridor and make big improvements to the ecology of the area."

The National Trust's Wildlife and Countryside Adviser, Carl Hawke, said: "The planned work alongside and within the River Witham at National Trust's Belton Park and Sedgwick Meadows will improve the habitats significantly, providing benefits for fish, otters, water voles and white-clawed crayfish that live there, while visitors may be lucky enough to glimpse these wonderful creatures."

The Environment Agency's Environment Programme Manager, Matt Latham, added: "This project is a great example of restoring and enhancing our natural environment to benefit a growing urban area within Lincolnshire, and aligns with the Government's vision in its 25-year Environment Plan."

Information about the ten projects in Grantham will go on display in Wyndham Park Visitors Centre when possible. More information about the project is available at www.withamsleabluegreencorridor.co.uk

Projects for River Slea

Four projects have been drawn up for the River Slea as part of the Blue-Green Corridor scheme. They are:

• Riverbank improvements at Cogglesford Mill

• Habitat improvements and footpath creation at Lollycocks Field

• In-channel improvements from Castle Causeway to Water gate

• Footpath improvement along the river to proposed new residential development by the A15

Cllr Mervyn Head, NKDC's Executive Board Member with special interest in the project, said: "As well as enhancing the natural environment and supporting greater biodiversity at the very heart of Sleaford, it is my great hope that through the Blue-Green Corridor project we can engage people more fully with the River Slea which is such a special and distinct feature for the town.

"Not only will this wonderful project contribute towards our environmental and climate change aspirations for North Kesteven, it will also improve access to the river for both local residents and visitors to Sleaford; enhancing their enjoyment of the town, contributing greatly to the quality of the living environment and lifting everyone's health and wellbeing."

blue-green corridor logos Queen Elizabeth Park Wyndham Park

Picture caption: Three stretches of the River Witham through Grantham where work will take place: Queen Elizabeth Park (top), Wyndham Park and Sedgwick Meadows (below).

meadows

The project has received up to £743,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.