A river restoration project at Tufton has been proposed by the Tufton Fishing Syndicate of Reading because the River Test SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) “as a whole is in decline” and that various agencies including Natural England and the Environment Agency are “all keen that remedial works be carried out to help halt or even reverse the decline”.
The restoration project will encompass the replacement of a dilapidated weir, river narrowing, island renovation and low weir removal and narrowing. It is claimed that access to the site will not change after the works are completed.
The Wild Trout Trust state that “the River Test is nationally recognised as the quintessential chalk river and is designated for most of its length as a SSSI”. They continue, “The Test has a world-wide reputation for being a first class trout (Salmo trutta) fishery”.
CRESCENT SHAPED WEIR
The proposed replacement weir is to be crescent shaped and constructed of limestone blocks; the existing dilapidated weir will be removed and its components reused at the new weir. A consultant estimates that this would cost in excess of £1500 to complete.
Another low stone weir will have its materials reused in the creation of two narrowing pinch points each side of the river.
The river bank will narrow the channel by between 2.5 and 4.7 metres – or about 15%. The plans indicate that the narrowing over the majority of the length will only join to the existing bank at water level due to voles. The owners also state that flood defence consent has been granted by the Environment Agency, who have approved all plans and working methods.
NARROWING PREFERRED BY ANGLERS
An environmental consultant’s report with the plans states that “narrowing has always been the preferred action by the angling club and the river keeper, yet determining how, and at an acceptable cost, has been a stumbling block in the past.”
The consultant said that narrowing of 8 metres would be sought but expected the actual amount to be less. A cost of £1,200 for the two days of river narrowing work is expected. This is in addition to about £600 needed for the narrowing and island restoration further along, and the £1500+ for the weir replacement.
The existing island near the foot bridge will be restored using materials excavated from ditch maintenance in the adjoining water meadows. This improvement will create a fast, self-cleansing flow which could be a good spawning habitat for salmonids and for a river bed suitable for encouraging Ranunculus at the expense of Zannicbellia.
Suitable plant species proposed by the consultant for edge planting are: Iris, Angelica, Meadowsweet, Purple loosestrife, Hemp agrimony, Water-mint, Water forget-me-not and Lesser pond-sedge.
EXEMPLARY DEMONSTRATION SITE
The Environment Agency stated they would like to “hold these works up as exemplars (if you like as demonstration sites) to others”. They also suggested a survey be undertaken to conduct cross section and sediment sampling as well as biotic sampling both before and after the works. It is unclear if the owners will take up the offer from the Environment Agency to advise and undertake this monitoring.
These works are separate from ditching restoration works that saw their first phase completed in February 2011. Materials from these works were kept and are proposed for use in the river narrowing and island restoration.
The land is owned by the Tufton Syndicate and is part of a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme with Natural England. It had been hoped that the plans would be approved in time to start the works in mid-October 2011 so that they did not interfere with Salmonids spawning at the end of November.
The application was received by B&DBC on 30 September but not registered until 14 October, following an email from the applicant’s agent querying the status. B&DBC state that their target date for a decision is 9 December 2011, or as early as 21 November.
Portions of the river bank nearby are owned by others and no works are proposed on them in this planning application.
Details of the proposal in the planning application BDB/75200, which includes a detailed report by an environmental consultant HERE and its follow-up, after Environment Agency feedback, HERE.
You can comment officially on the plans by filling in the B&DBC form HERE. As of 15 November there were 7 comments submitted – all in favour of the plans.
Information about SSSI is available at Natural England’s website HERE.