Black Country river restoration funded by £100,000 Community Green Grant

The restoration of a two kilometre stretch of the River Stour in the Black Country is set to get underway thanks to £100,000 from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Community Green Grants scheme.

Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust will use the Community Green Grant money to extend its successful Love Your River Stour project along a stretch running through Cradley Heath and Lye.

This is the biggest award since the grants scheme was launched at the start of 2022 to fund projects that increase people’s access to nature, especially in deprived communities, by improving green spaces or enhancing the local environment in other ways.

To date, grants totalling £344,000 have been awarded to 13 projects across the region. BBCWT has already had great success with its Love Your River Stour project in Wolverhampton and Stourbridge, where it has seen an improvement in river quality and an increase in people visiting the waterway.

The WMCA funding will restore a further 3.5 hectares of ancient woodlands along the river and enhance eight hectares of plantation and other woodland. The restoration will also tackle pollution by removing man-made barriers and re-naturalising the river, create a hectare of species-rich grassland, and improve public access.

BBCWT will also run community engagement activities and volunteer days so local people can get hands on with the river restoration, providing 24 young people with the opportunity to train in environmental restoration.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, visited BBCWT to hear how the grant was enabling the Love Your River Stour project to be extended. The Mayor said:

“It was a pleasure to meet the Love Your River Stour project team. They deserve huge congratulations on the work they’ve already done and I’m so pleased we’ve been able to extend a helping hand through this grant to create even more beautiful and wildlife-rich natural spaces.

”They will be a source of tremendous pride for the local community. At the same time, this grant helps us to support the training of more young people in environmental restoration.

“We know that time spent in nature can be immensely beneficial when it comes to our mental and physical wellbeing, so I hope to see many more projects benefit from our funding.

“If we can continue to open up waterways and green spaces right across our region, we can make a tangible and wonderful difference to the quality of life for residents in the months and years ahead.”

Simon Atkinson, Head of Conservation at Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust, added: “We are delighted to be the first recipient of a large grant from the WMCA Community Green Grants programme to continue our river restoration project on the Stour.

“This funding will enable us to extend our focus into areas of Sandwell and Dudley and restore the river to tackle the ecological and climate crises. We look forward to working with local communities in Cradley Heath and Lye to join us as we work for nature’s recovery.”

The Community Green Grants scheme is part of the WMCA’s Natural Environment Plan which sets out the actions it will take with partners across the region to enhance biodiversity, protect endangered species, and improve access to green spaces and waterways.

One of the plan’s key aims is for everybody living in the West Midlands to have access to high quality greenspace within a 300-metre walk of their home. It also supports the region’s #WM2041 net zero target.

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