Shropshire Star

£1.7 million project aiming to reduce flooding on the River Severn given the green light

Two projects aiming to reduce flooding on the River Severn and deliver a catalogue of environmental improvements are set to be given the go-ahead.

The River Severn in Shrewsbury. Photo: Nick Humphreys.

The schemes, totalling £1.7 million, both focus on tributaries which join the Severn at Shrewsbury and are being made possible by government grants.

A report to Shropshire Council’s cabinet says they will explore a range of natural solutions to managing flood risk, and will bring other benefits around carbon capture and storage, biodiversity, health and wellbeing and economic growth.

It is hoped that learning from these ‘demonstrator’ projects can then be scaled up across the whole Severn catchment.

Funding will come from a pot of £4.5m allocated to the River Severn Partnership by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2020.

The report says the two latest initiatives will be the largest in the programme.

While the Environment Agency will have oversight of the schemes, Shropshire Council is the lead local flood risk management authority for the River Severn Partnership and will be responsible for their delivery and management. Cabinet approval is required as they both involve grants worth more than £500,000.

The first project centres around the Rea Brook, which flows from Marton Pool past Minsterley, Pontesbury, Hanwood and Bayston Hill to its confluence with the River Severn in the centre of Shrewsbury at Coleham Head.

The report says: “There are eight waterbodies within the Rea Brook catchment, none of which meet the required Good Ecological Status under the Water Framework Directive and four that show signs of deterioration.”

With a budget of £900,000, the scheme will be delivered by the Severn Rivers Trust.

It will involve the construction of 200 leaky dams, four hectares of woodland creation, 1.5km of hedgerow planting, creation of at least 35 water storage features such as ponds, scrapes and swales to increase capacity during storm events, and installation of rainwater harvesting systems on farms.

It aims to improve water quality, provide vast areas of new and improved habitat, and reduce the need for fertiliser by improving soil quality.

The report adds that the project will also provide an opportunity to develop “green finance solutions”.

The second project focuses on the re-wetting of peatlands around the River Perry, which flows from Hengoed, near Oswestry, to its confluence with the Severn two kilometres downstream from Montford Bridge.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust will take the lead on the scheme, in partnership with Harper Adams University, with a budget of £800,000.

The report says: “The Perry has one of the highest densities of unprotected lowland peat under farmland as identified by Natural England’s Peat for the Planet project.

“This is peatland that has been generally drained and is in a state of deterioration.”

The project will see the re-wetting of 11 hectares of peatland, the creation of three hectares of native woodland, at least five water storage features and nine hectares of paludiculture – growing sustainable crops on re-wetted peatland.

It will also include two peatland conferences at Harper Adams University, to enable engagement and support for the North Shropshire Farmers Group.

The report concludes: “Delivery of the Shropshire based demonstrator projects for the River Severn Partnership will accelerate testing and learning around nature based responses to climate resilience and adaptation.

“It will help establish the River Severn Partnership as the UK’s first strategic rural partnership, harnessing the natural and cultural value of the UK’s longest river system to provide the catalyst for community resilience and economic prosperity in the face of climate change and a nature emergency.”

Cabinet will consider the report at a meeting next Wednesday.

The first project under the programme, which saw £500,000 allocated to natural flood management work in the Guilsfield area near Welshpool, got underway in March 2022.

A series of smaller projects are also planned, including feasibility studies for a centre of excellence for climate change and a water management scheme on National Trust land, and the use of drone technology to identify further opportunities across the Severn catchment.

These projects will not need to come before cabinet as they will cost less than £500,000 each.