WORK to transform a section of river that will help wildlife and fish to flourish is now under way.

The Environment Agency is to remove a 117-metre culvert from the River Darwen at Shorey Bank.

The culvert is covering the river, and, project manager Tony Callaghan said removing it will help the near-extinct small-reed to thrive in the town.

Tony Callaghan, Environment Agency project manager, said: “Removing this culvert is one small step in our plans to transform more than 9,500 miles of rivers in England and Wales by 2015 – the equivalent of the distance between the UK and Australia.

“Our rivers are the healthiest for 20 years, but we are doing even more to further improve water quality and biodiversity.

“This area of Darwen is home to a very rare plant called narrow small-reed, which is only found at four sites in England.

“By removing the culvert it will give more space and light for this plant to flourish and will also allow brown trout to travel further up and down the river.”

Removing the culvert will also reduce the risk of flooding to more than 120 properties.

In its current form, if the Shorey Bank culvert was to collapse, it would block the River Darwen and could cause flooding.

The works will also help people to access and enjoy the river bank.

A circular footpath will be built through the wooded area on the opposite side of the river to the A666.

Once complete, people will be able to access the new path from the A666 by two new footbridges or from the footpaths running down the hill from Frederick Street and Nelson Street.

The work will be finished in April.