WORK on a new multi-million pound scheme to ensure fish have an easier route to swim along the river Severn is set to move on to Diglis and Bevere this month.

And those behind the project say while the decision to cut down riverbank trees "has not been taken lightly", trees felled will be replaced to reduce the impact.

Unlocking the Severn, the group behind the £19.7 million project, says it is one of the largest river restorations of its kind ever attempted in Europe. It will see 158 miles of the river reopened to fish, by creating routes around physical barriers, namely weirs, that currently prevent migration to critical spawning grounds.

The aim of the project is to secure the long term future of many of the UK’s declining and protected fish species, particularly the locally-threatened twaite and allis shad.

State-of-the-art fish passes will be installed on four navigation weirs on the river Severn, following fish passage improvements that started last year at two sites on the river Teme. Diglis and Bevere will be the first two sites on the Severn, with installation of the passes due to start in April and May respectively. Site teams will be at both locations later this month to remove a number of trees along the riverside.

On the trees, Unlocking the Severn stressed: “To mitigate the loss of the trees, five new trees for every one that is felled will be planted along the river Severn corridor. The tree removal has been approved by Worcester City Council and Wychavon District Council.”

Construction of the fish passes is expected to take around 10 months.

Jason Leach, programme director, said: “We’re delighted to be starting work in Diglis and Bevere on what is a once in a lifetime project that will bring major environmental benefits to the river and the species that can thrive here.

“The decision to remove trees was not taken lightly and only after all other avenues were explored. The tree work is being undertaken before bird nesting season. We would like to assure people that we are only proceeding on the basis that the long term ecological benefits are so worthwhile."

Work on Unlocking the Severn began at Powick Weir and Knightsford Bridge weirs in July 2018. The work at the other sites - Diglis, Holt, Bevere and Lincomb weirs - will be carried out over the next three years.

The £19.7m includes £10.8 million of funding from the National Lottery – awarded through the Lottery Heritage Fund - and £6 million from the European Union. An information day is being held on February 17, at Diglis Island, between 11am and 3pm.

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