Bid to breathe new life into waterway

River Slea from Westgate/Westbanks. EU funding bid to develop it as a green corridor. EMN-180503-173635001
River Slea from Westgate/Westbanks. EU funding bid to develop it as a green corridor. EMN-180503-173635001

Sleaford is in the running for a six-figure sum to make more of neglected sections of the River Slea.

North Kesteven District Council has put in an expression of interest for an EU ‘green infrastructure’ grant tailored to improving watercourses, wildlife habitat and access for the public.

It is a joint bid with South Kesteven District Council, which is seeking money for a project on the River Witham through Grantham.

At a public information meeting last week, NKDC Economic Development Manager Alan Gray said his authority is bidding for £105,000 towards a £175,000 project to create new wildlife havens and upgrade riverside paths linking the town centre to new housing planned to the west of The Drove. Much of the shortfall would be made up by housing developer contributions, he explained.

Mr Gray said they have now been invited as one of four Lincolnshire projects to put forward ‘full blown’ bids, warning: “We do not know if the money requested matches the amount available, but it is positive we have got through the initial stage.”

Mr Gray said the masterplan for Sleaford envisages ‘green wedges’ along the riverside with an upgraded riverside footpath running east-west. He said: “We want to improve access to the western part of the Slea where the pathway goes from gravel to earth to make it accessible for disabled people, and try to allow easier access to the woodland next to the river which is in private ownership. It probably needs some management to encourage wildlife, such as bird boxes and duckboards, and a footbridge for access.”

Islands of rocks and stakes within the watercourse would improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the upper reaches of the river, making it more attractive, while the banks between New Street bridge and Cogglesford Millwould be repaired to encourage varied plant life.

Deadline for the bid is the end of May, which could mean a start to the project by the end of the year, in partnership with Lincolnshire Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Hill Holt Wood.