Ribble river basin project endorsed as leader in Europe

The River Ribble Pilot project has been endorsed as a leader in Europe during a conference aimed at improving water management. The river is being used as a pilot in river basin planning in order to prepare for the Water Framework Directive.

Delegates to the conference, The Ripple Effect, were given a tour of the Ribble Valley, encompassing the urban centres of Burnley and Blackburn as well as the agricultural areas around Pendle, to get a feel for the challenges facing the basin.

The Ribble was specifically chosen because of its diverse surroundings and formed the main focus for the conference.

Rob Oates, UK Natural Rivers Programme Co-ordinator for WWF, one of the conference’s organisers said: “The conference demonstrated international best practice examples of public participation in the development of river basin plans. WWF believes that the Ribble experience will be a catalyst to encourage public participation across the UK as the implementation of the WFD continues.”

Across Europe 15 river catchments have been chosen as pilots for the new legislation to ensure the consistency, coherence and harmonisation of national and European guidance. The Ribble and West Lancashire area is the chosen site in the UK.

The Ribble Pilot will test current European guidance on public participation and river basin planning. The tests will finish this summer, when the Agency reports back to the European Commission. The Environment Agency will also be testing its own guidance in the Ribble area before implementation across England and Wales. These tests will be ongoing over the next few years.

Finally, the work being done in the Ribble area will go towards a ‘prototype’ River basin management plan for the Ribble in 2007, which will contribute to the North West’s River Basin District Management Plan.

Other projects under the spotlight at the conference included the Danube River basin, the Spanish Jucar pilot, the Grand River in Canada and the South African Mondi Wetlands Project.

The conference culminated in a keynote address on the importance of public participation for the WFD by Helmut Bloech, Head of the Water Protection Sector for the European Commission. He hailed the Ribble as the leading project in Europe.

By David Hopkins

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