A NEW fish bypass has been opened in a £128,000 project to bring wildlife back to a local river.

The bypass has been opened at Oakenshaw Weir on the boundary of Rishton and Clayton-le-Moors as part of the project organised by the River Ribble Trust.

It has been constructed to bypass the weir and allow migration of salmon, trout, eels and other fish upstream to the River Hyndburn.

This means they will be able to reach habitat inaccessible since at least 1844 when the weir supplied water for the Oakenshaw Printworks.

Cabinet member for education, leisure and arts, Cllr Ken Moss, has been involved with the project for several months and was there for the opening along with council leader, Cllr Miles Parkinson and members of the Hyndburn Prospects Foundation.

Cllr Moss said: "There have been no salmon in the River Hyndburn for around 170 years due to the steep weir.

"Studies further downstream have found salmon fry so the new pass will be very beneficial for biodiversity further up the river."

The £128,000 project has been funded by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Environment Agency, Natural Course and the Windfall Fund.

As part of improving the natural heritage, volunteers will plant 1,650 native trees in the adjacent woodland which will include a mix trees including hawthorn, holly, hornbeam and wych elm.

This will also involve schools in the area getting involved with the planting.

Alison Silver, Windfall Fund grant manager, said: “We’re really proud to be supporting this scheme and have been looking forward to it starting.

“As well as improving and celebrating the natural heritage of the Hyndburn Brook, it will inspire the local community and leave a positive legacy in our local area.”

Hyndburn Council has supported the work by enabling construction access through the adjacent land which allowed a contractors' compound to be installed and machinery to use the track through woodland at the bottom end of Lower Barnes Street in Clayton.

Work has now been complete and builders have left the site.

The woodland was designed with advice from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust to fit in with an existing Biological Heritage Site

Cllr Moss said: "This project will make a huge difference at Oakenshaw Weir, and it will be great to see the work the schools and volunteers achieve."