£1.4m. plan to revitalise rivers in Burnley town centre

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A BIG £1.4m. plan to revitalise rivers in Burnley town centre has been unveiled to the public.

Visitors were shown the vision for the Urban River Enhancement Scheme which hopes to breath new life into the town’s rivers.

The three-year URES project – one of the first of its kind in the country – will look to naturalise a 2.2km stretch of river through the town which was heavily developed during the Industrial Revolution.

Plans are to restore natural habitats along the cobbled river bed sections of the Calder and Brun rivers and bring wildlife back to central Burnley including otters, salmon and kingfishers.

At the moment the urban “raceway” rivers through the town centre have currents which are too strong for fish to swim up.

But, if funding is granted, the URES team could begin restoring “natural balance” by installing vegetation, bends and backwaters which will provide ideal habitats for fish and invertibrates. Housing for otters could be created in secluded parts and another fish ladder has been proposed which would help spawning salmon and rainbow trout travel up impassable sections of the river.

Victoria Dewhurst, of the Ribble Rivers Trust which is behind the plans, said: “Salmon cannot get through the town yet because of the urban sections until we start doing the work on it. The current is too strong for fish to swim up.

“Migrating fish are important for ecosystems as they bring nutrients and fish eggs which are the start of the food chain.

“Otters are coming back too – we have had recorded sightings in the Calder.”

As well as physical improvements the URES project hopes to engage comunities in Burnley.

Victoria said: “There is the physical aspect to it and then there is the public aspect of it to get people to value the river.
“There is a whole educational process that goes on as well.

“We want to engage people and get them to pariticipate in it.”

Plans are to involve children with threatre and drama at Burnley Youth Theatre and also with fish breeding programmes in classrooms and bug cameras so youngsters can see river invertibrates up close.

Education and training in river management skills could be offered, as well as regeneration projects around the river banks, including bridges, railings and benches.

Clean-up operations have already been carried out along the river with an army of volunteers with more planned for the future.

Victoria added: “People are very interested in what we were doing. It is all about restoring habitats and environments and the North-West is leading the way. It is really exciting times for the river and for the environment.”

For more information, or to have your say on Burnley’s rivers, visit www.ures-burnley.org.uk