A £200,000 project to clean up waterways between Ashby and Measham is attracting new wildlife to the area
By Graham Hill
15th Oct 2021 | Local News
A NEW water quality project which will slash levels of dangerous pollutants on the River Mease has already created valuable wetland habitats for loach, bullhead, crayfish and even otters.
Agg-net.com reports that four acres of formerly scrub-covered farmland have been transformed by the wetland sediment-trapping scheme near Measham to help address the high levels of phosphates in the Mease.
The river, which encompasses a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), has suffered because of the build-up of pollutants from many sources and from urban development.
High levels of phosphates cause algae to bloom and reduce the levels of oxygen in the water, creating an environment where fish and other species can no longer survive.
But new ponds, wetland channels and riffles which make up a wetland sediment trap are already making a noticeable difference to the water quality and reducing phosphates, whilst woodland and vegetation, including nine old oaks, willow trees and hawthorns have also been protected and can thrive once more because of the works at the site.
The £200,000 project was only feasible because of 'unprecedented' collaboration and co-operation, according to The Trent Rivers Trust (TRT), the river restoration charity which led the work.
The TRT worked with farmers whose land borders the River Mease and the Gilwiskaw Brook, and with building products manufacturers Forterra.
The sediment-trapping scheme, where the Gilwiskaw Brook joins the river Mease, has created valuable new wetland habitat for nesting birds and invertebrates.
Major groundworks at the site started in the middle of July 2021 and were completed at the start of September.
Funding for the project is through a Developer Contribution Scheme (DCS) administered by North West Leicestershire District Council and delivered for the council by TRT.
The DCS seeks to mitigate the negative impacts of any developments which contribute wastewater to sewage treatment works which discharge into the catchment of the River Mease SAC.
Councillor Keith Merrie, portfolio holder for planning at North West Leicestershire District Council, said: "As the planning authority, we have a balancing act to play.
He said: "People need homes and jobs, so it's important that development goes ahead, but it shouldn't be at the cost of our natural environment; particularly special sites like the River Mease.
"It's important that developers contribute to schemes like this to mitigate for the impact of housing and other developments.
"It's good to get to this stage and see the sediment trapping already working – we look forward to seeing it make a real difference downstream."
The site, where two significant watercourses meet, is particularly well located, according to TRT's Ruth Needham: "It's downstream of significant pollution sources towards Ashby, but high enough within the catchment to improve the quality of 15km of the Mease.
"It's been an intense window of work and it's involved extensive collaboration and co-operation.
"We are working with all the partners in the Mease to restore the river back to favourable condition to get the species of interest returning, functioning, and thriving.
"Poor water quality has been a key barrier to that. We've got a lot of nutrients getting into the watercourse from a whole range of different sources. Plus, the habitat has been damaged in the past for decades.
"The next stage of the project is to plant wet wildflower meadow see.
"There are lots of shallows, gently sloping banks and softer-shaped channels – a real improvement for biodiversity; there are wet, dry and semi-dry areas for the invertebrates; and there are spaces for the fish to spawn and for wildlife to take refuge when the site floods.
"It's already transformed the site and will make a positive impact on the river for years to come."