MAJOR ecological improvements could be made to some of East Lancashire’s watercourses as part of a £1.6 million project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Campaigners from the Ribble Rivers Trust have been awarded £371,500 by lottery chiefs to work up proposals which would create ‘healthier waters’ across their catchment area.


And if the Ribble Life Together scheme finds favour, this could trigger a £1.6 million payout for a wider initiative to be delivered over a three-and-a-half year timeframe.

Work will be focused on upgrading the natural heritage of the Ribble and its tributaries, alongside partners such as United Utilities and the Forestry Commission, between now and the end of 2016.

Jack Spees, trust director, said: “We’re ecstatic about being awarded the Heritage Lottery Fund grant. We believe it will significantly transform the water environment, benefitting both wildlife and people living in the catchment.

“We also want to demonstrate that working in partnership can achieve much more and we hope this will result in changes to the way organisations deliver activities in the catchment in the future.”

Hopes are high that the initial outcomes of the scheme will include reduced flood risk, clean bathing waters and promote the river basin as a valuable tourist attraction. Catherine Birtwistle, the trust’s publicity manager, added: “We have not decided yet where the grant will be focused. It could be the Ribble, Calder or Hodder.

“We will be assessing this as part of the initial work.”

The trust has been involved in a number of major efforts to clean up local watercourses, including the Burnley Urban River Enhancement Scheme, which has seen significant efforts to reprofile the River Brun through the town centre and install a number of fish passes along the Calder and Brun .