CLEAN-UP efforts around the River Biss may be bolstered by a £3,000 grant from Westbury Town Council.
The council’s finance committee approval of the funds for the joint project between the council and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, will need to be rubber stamped by the full council in September. The scheme aims to improve the areas around the river and help protect wildlife species.
In August last year, volunteers and Trust staff took to the Bitham Brook to rid the stream of dumped items and litter.
Plans for the area range from smaller low cost projects such as litter picks and improving bankside management, to larger, more ambitious projects such as wetland creation, re-meandering the river or improving fish passage over weirs.
Some work may be achievable in the next 12 months and other projects may take years of fundraising and planning.
A further £3,000 from the Westbury Area Board is also being requested.
“In January 2020 the Westbury Town Council’s town improvement group undertook a ‘water walk’ which produced a list of potential projects to improve the Bitham Brook, not only for wildlife, but also for the people that live alongside it,” explains Alice Baker, water team manager at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.
“Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is keen to work alongside the town council to bring these projects to life and engage the local community in restoring and maintaining the Bitham Brook for the future.
“The Trust is undertaking a fundraising process to raise money for a 5-year large-scale programme that would engage local residents with the river and the heritage of the watercourses through events such as river safaris, litter picks, riverfly monitoring and engagement with owners. This project will look to work along the whole of the Biss catchment from Westbury and into Trowbridge.
“Within this larger project, is a smaller scale project looking to tackle the issues relating to in-stream habitat and bank erosion through Westbury specifically. This project would look to enhance the river and watercourses throughout Westbury and ensure its vitality for years to come.”
The aims of the project are to:
• Introduce in-stream habitat to the Bitham Brook through Westbury with the use of locally sourced wood and delivered with the help of volunteers. This will benefit a host of species including invertebrates which will support fish communities as well as iconic species including kingfisher. The use of volunteers will also help connect the local community with their river, a method which has proved very popular in previous projects.
• Restore areas of bank erosion caused by dogs accessing the water with the use of wood and gravel. This will help protect the bank, reducing sediment pollution into the channel as well as providing formalised access points for dogs. This ensures the continued enjoyment of the river for everyone whilst protecting the river itself.