Following the successful delivery of two important river restoration projects in Rotherham, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust (SRWT) and the Environment Agency (EA) are leading a third phase of works to restore and enhance the river Rother and adjacent washlands area downstream of Catcliffe in the vicinity of the M1 near Junction 33. Find out more at the dedicated Rotherham Rivers 3 page.
We’ve put together a series of FAQs regarding this stage of the works:
EA and Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust
Works are being undertaken to enhance wetland habitats within the flood storage area, and to improve the geomorphological and habitat diversity within the River Rother to help achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive.
The Rother has been extensively altered in the past to accommodate agriculture, industry and to protect people and property from flooding. These modifications have a continuous impact on the water environment and prevent river processes from restoring the Rother to a more natural state. This modification of the natural channel has resulted in long reaches of straightened river, with few habitat features and poor habitat diversity. Floodplain wetlands have also been lost as a consequence.
Two previous phases of the programme have tackled some of these issues at different parts of the river:
• Rotherham Rivers 1 2013-2016
• River Rother Restoration (Rotherham Rivers 2) 2016-2021
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) recognises that many rivers have been extensively modified to fulfil an essential purpose: flood protection, water supply, navigation, recreation etc. It acknowledges that it would now be impossible to return these rivers to Good Ecological Status without severely impacting on these essential purposes. However, through ‘mitigation measures’ or in other words ‘proposed actions’, Good Ecological Potential can be achieved – this strikes a balance between required modifications and improving the river environment. A number of these measures or actions are still outstanding on the River Rother. This project attempts to deliver some of these in order to establish a healthier river with thriving wildlife that is an attractive place for people to enjoy.
In addition to in-river improvements, the adjacent Environment Agency-owned washlands/floodplain offer an opportunity for habitat enhancement and creation. The washlands are of a significant size, and although serve multiple functions, their potential to support high quality habitat has not yet been fully realised.
Another driver is the historical impact of the M1. Built in 1965 the road dissected the river and washland and dominates the landscape. As such National Highways have provided funding to promote a certain amount of site recovery and biodiversity enhancement.
We anticipate enhanced habitats both on the floodplain and in the river, which in turn support a range of species including fish, otter, dragonflies and wetland birds.
National Highways and the EA
The main in-channel works will take place downstream of Catcliffe in the vicinity of the M1. Smaller scale works will take place on various parts of the floodplain.
The main river works involves the installation of three features:
An inset floodplain – this is the creation of a terrace within the channel at a slightly higher level than normal water level. It will positively change the flow of the river for aquatic wildlife and provide damp, marginal habitat that is currently missing. River banks will also be shaped to a more natural form. These works will generate a considerable amount of soil. A proportion will be used for the next feature with the remainder taken off site.
A berm/channel narrowing – further upstream this feature will be built out from the current bank to narrow the channel. Again this will positively change the flow and create marginal habitat.
Riffles – just downstream of each of the above features riffles will be installed. These are made from cobble sized rocks (infilled with smaller material) to favourably alter the flow, oxygenate the water and provide good habitat for fish and aquatic insects.
The wider programme also includes the creation of wetland scrapes, hedge and tree planting and meadow enhancement.
We anticipate the main river works being delivered over a 6-8 week period this autumn, starting on the 2nd October.
The fish spawning season (spring) and bird nesting season (spring/summer) means work can’t take place at those times of year.
A contractor – Ebsford Environmental – will deliver the works on behalf of SRWT and the EA.
Inevitably works of this size will cause disruption. A public footpath will need to be crossed with plant machinery but the contractors will be operating a safe system of work meaning it will remain open to the public. There will be significant lorry movements to and from Long Lane for a period of three weeks. This will be controlled by a traffic management system; inevitably this will cause some disruption but will be minimised as much as possible.
No, the proposed work has been modelled to ensure flood risk does not increase.
No, excavation of the bed is not required just careful placement of material e.g. cobbles for the riffles into the river. Sediment management will be implemented by the contractor to catch any minor displacement.
A biodiversity net gain assessment has been carried out for the river and the Parkway part of the washland. The baseline for this was measured as:
133.65 habitat units
31.93 river units
Post-works the following is anticipated:
165.43 habitat units
33.66 river units
This equates to a total gain of 29.21%
More information on the river restoration programme is available at wildsheffield.com/rotherham-rivers-project