More than half a million pounds worth of funding has been secured to transform a neglected reservoir in Clitheroe into a nature reserve and public space.
The Ribble Rivers Trust has been granted up to £500,768 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund to spend on the Primrose Lodge Blue and Greenway Project, which will see the site improved and restored to provide a valuable habitat and accessible public area.
The Primrose Lodge site, which is situated off Woone Lane, was historically constructed to power Primrose Works and has long been identified as requiring improvement, both environmentally and for public access.
And working with Ribble Valley Borough Council and the site owners, Beck Developments Limited, the Ribble Rivers Trust has developed a scheme to support the application for funding to improve the lodge.
Beginning in 2019 – with a planned finish date in autumn 2020 – the proposed works will be split into three phases.
The first phase is de-silting, which involves digging out 4,000 cubic metres of silt in key areas to create permanent open water, and re-landscaping within the existing site.
This will be complemented with the planting of emergent and marginal vegetation, which will provide habitat for insect, birds, amphibians and fish.
The second phase proposes to create a network of public access within the site.
A footpath is planned between Whalley Road and Woone Lane, with a new bridge over the brook, plus a board walk and a viewing platform over the newly restored
open water area.
The stone wall between Woone Lane and the lodge will also be removed and the overgrown woodland areas will be thinned out, providing improved views into the site.
The final phase of the project is the construction of what is expected to be the longest fish pass in England, which will allow salmon, trout, eels and other fish species to migrate further along Mearley Brook through the town and beyond to the village of Worston.
This will help to boost fish populations, which in turn will encourage otters, kingfishers and other river species, which are commonly found below the lodge, yet absent or in very low numbers upstream.
The proposed creation of public access to blue and green space is seen to be particularly beneficial to local communities and it is hoped this will attract further visitors to Clitheroe. As well as benefitting the town, the works will help to improve water quality and contribute to reducing downstream flood risk.
Jack Spees, CEO of the Ribble Rivers Trust, said: “This work doesn’t just benefit aquatic animals, it’s good news for the communities who live nearby, many of whom have expressed support for improvements to be made to the lodge.
“This will provide the communities access to more blue and green space, and to be able to experience nature up close not far from home.
“We also hope this will encourage more people to visit, enjoy and value the rivers and green spaces of Clitheroe.”
Ben Wilkinson, managing director of Beck Developments said: “RRT’s successful bid for European funding represents the greatest opportunity in a generation to not only regenerate the lodge in the short term, but to put in place a long-term management plan which would safeguard this under-utilised blue and green space for the public to enjoy for many generations to come.”
Ribble Rivers Trust became a charity in 1998 and has delivered an enormous amount of work all around the Ribble catchment area, from Ribblehead in the Yorkshire Dales to Preston and everywhere in between.
Initially set up as a voluntary organisation, the Trust employed its first member of staff in 2005 and established a base in Clitheroe.
As part of its 20-year anniversary, the Ribble Rivers Trust has focused activities to improve and celebrate the streams and rivers of Clitheroe, and the wider Ribble Valley.
The Trust also has aspirations to develop a river-themed visitor centre in Clitheroe in the near future.