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River Lea Prize

23 May 19

Luton river restoration project recognised at top awards

Affinity water employees holding the highly commended project prize

A project to restore a section of urban river in Luton has been recognised at a top environmental awards ceremony.

The Manor Road Park River Lea project was awarded with a ‘highly commended project’ at the 2019 UK River Prize awards, which recognises and celebrates the best in river restoration and catchment management.

The recognition is the culmination of two years’ worth of work by Affinity Water, Luton Council, the Environment Agency and the Luton Lea River Catchment Partnership to revitalise the local environment and habitat along part of the River Lea that runs through Manor Road Park in Luton.

That work has delivered multiple water quality, environmental and social benefits – including reducing the risk of flooding, improved habitats for wildlife and connecting the river back into its surrounding environment for residents to enjoy.

Jane Everett, Asset Scientist at Affinity Water, said: “We are absolutely delighted that this project was recognised for how we have worked with our partners to restore a section of river in what is a very built up, urban location.

Manor park before the restoration works

“Before our intervention, the River Lea flowed along a deep, restricted channel made of concrete which meant that silt covered the natural gravels, making it harder for fish and other creatures to thrive. The high walls also separated the river from its essential counterpart – the floodplain – and was not able to be enjoyed by the local community either.

Manor park after the restoration works

“Today, this section of the River Lea meanders through the park in the way it naturally should. It features in-channel pools and riffles, which improve and manage river flows and encourage fish and insects to flourish within the new chalk stream habitat.

“Just as important it is has become reconnected with the community so they can enjoy and appreciate this rich but rare natural asset.”

Laura Church, Corporate Director for Place and Infrastructure at Luton Council said, “We’re really pleased that the work completed at Manor Park last year has received this recognition, the change is remarkable and this award is well deserved. It reflects the hard work that went into delivering an important environmental project for the town. Manor Park is now a great space for all visitors, people and wildlife alike, and is a huge improvement.”

The River Lea is particularly valuable because it is a chalk stream - a globally rare, iconic habitat. There are around 200 chalk streams in England, of which 10 per cent are in Affinity Water's supply area.

The 2019 UK River Prize awards is organised by The River Restoration Centre (RRC) and made at its annual conference, which brings together professionals from all areas of river restoration.

This year’s impressive level of entries was judged by a panel of industry experts, including Martin Janes (The River Restoration Centre), Oliver Lowe (Natural Resources Wales), Pam Nolan (Environment Agency), Ann Skinner (Independent) and Christopher Spray (University of Dundee).

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