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09 April 20

Revitalising Chalk Rivers partnership complete River Lea Restoration works

  • River Lea just one of 240 globally rare chalk streams in England
  • Restoration works will allow wildlife to flourish in the River Lea along New Bedford Road and make river more resilient during low flow conditions

Affinity Water has now completed a chalk stream restoration project working with the Environment Agency, Luton Borough Council and catchment partners.

The Moor river improvement project, situated at New Bedford Road, Luton, is one of a number of projects that are taking place as part of the Revitalising Chalk Rivers partnership, in collaboration with the Environment Agency. Luton Borough Council and the Luton Lea River Catchment Partnership have also played their part in improving the biodiversity along the river corridor.

Kevin Barton Head of External Communication for Affinity Water said: “We are delighted that working with our partners, Affinity Water has been able to revitalise the Upper River Lea, just one of around 24 chalk streams in our catchment area. Chalk streams are globally rare habitats and as precious as the Bengali Tiger. There are just 240 of them in England, with 10 per cent located within our supply area, which the River Lea is a part of.

“We want to thank our partners the Environment Agency, Luton Borough Council, and the Luton Lea River Catchment Partnership too. This river restoration project has provided the ideal habitat for fish to be able to breed again.”

The river restoration work is part of a wider programme to restore globally rare chalk streams to their natural condition and help create sustainable habitats to allow fish, insects and plants to flourish. The programme will also help rivers across the southeast meet the EU Water Framework Directive of Good Ecological Potential by 2027.

Affinity Water Environmental Enhancement Programme Manager, David Watts said: “The River Lea is now more resilient to low-flows. We’ve carried out tree works to cut back overgrown trees along this stretch of the river. This allows sun light to reach the river and its banks to enable plants to grow again.

We created new channel that meanders further into the park and constructed a bund to divert the river into the new channel. Berms, riffles and pools have been created in the new river channel to provide a mosaic of different habitats for insects, plants and fish. The old river channel now provides a wetland habitat and a buffer from road run-off pollution.

By designing the new river channel and creating a buffer area this will reduce the amount of silt entering the river, as a result the gravel on the riverbed is now accessible to fish species, such as trout, and a wide range of invertebrates, providing the fish with an ideal habitat to breed. The river channel has also been designed to be resilient in times of low-flow and has increased the flood capacity in this area by 700m.”

“Construction started on 6 January 2020, our contractor battled the storms of Ciara and Dennis and the subsequent high river levels to complete the project before the Coronavirus lockdown.”

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