Work to uncover sections of London’s rivers begins

The Environment Agency is on the look out for opportunities to de-culvert short stretches of river in south London. Work has begun on restoring almost 400m of the river Ravensbourne, south of Bromley.

“It takes a lot of time and it’s not cheap,” Trevor Odell, project manager for the Environment Agency (EA) told edie. Despite the obstacles, the EA would like to de-culvert rivers where such plans won’t interfere with development and won’t compromise flood defences.

“The idea of putting rivers in pipes is not environmentally sound,” says Odell who says that “if we have the money, we foresee one de-culverting project a year in South London”.

The Ravensbourne de-culverting work began on 15 February and is taking place in Norman Park. The project is being funded by the EA and Bromley Council.

“It’s quite a big park and I can see why the river was put in a culvert – Bromley wanted to increase the amount of space for football pitches and the like,” says Odell. But Bromley has come to realise the environmental and amenity value of uncovering a 350-400m section of the river. When work is finished, the section’s bends and fish spawning areas will be restored.

Other rivers that may offer de-culverting possibilities include Lewisham’s river Quagee and the river Wandle in Croydon. “If we pick sensible sites, we should be able to deal with the economics,” says Odell.

Although Odell can offer no guarantees that uncovering short sections of London’s rivers will result in fish spawning, but it is a distinct possibility. “If you’ve got a roof over a river nothing grows,” says Odell.

Only time will tell whether the EA’s plans to restore sections of London’s rivers will get very far (see related story), but Odell hopes that local councils and property developers will work with the Agency to find appropriate sites. “Speaking as a civil engineer, we realise that a lot of our work has not been as environmentally sound as it should be,” says Odell. Now, engineers like Odell want to reverse some of the damage. “Think about it, in London you’ve got millions of people who’ve lost their rivers.”

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