£180,000 secured by the Western Sussex Rivers Trust to help restore rivers Lavant, Ems and Hambrook

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Chichester District councillors agreed to invest £180,000 over the next three years to help revive three locally precious and globally unique rivers in western Sussex.

The money will be used as part of two projects being led by the Western Sussex Rivers Trust (formerly known as the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust). One will focus on putting into action a restoration plan for the Ems and Hambrook, while the other will begin work on a restoration plan for the River Lavant.

WSRT Trust Manager Aimee Felus explains why this funding is so important:

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“The Ems, Hambrook and Lavant are among less than 300 chalk streams and rivers in the world. These rivers and streams were described by the Chalk Stream Restoration Strategy (2021) as our equivalent to the Great Barrier Reef, holding ‘a truly special natural heritage with a responsibility’.

River LavantRiver Lavant
River Lavant

Sadly these streams are suffering from the effects of abstraction (water being taken for use in our homes and businesses), drought, pollution, habitat loss, and development. We have all seen the effects of increased flooding over recent years – another symptom of how we manage our rivers. Taking action now to restore, protect and ready these precious habitats for future changes is vital.

We are delighted with Chichester District Council’s decision - it will enable us to focus resources on these three streams and rivers, all which flow into Chichester Harbour, an internationally important habitat for wildlife, so any improvements we make to the rivers will have a direct impact on this special habitat too.”

With so much potential for improvement in these rivers, new Chalk Stream Resilience Officers will be focusing on actions such as improving water quality, making the streams more resilient to high and low levels of water, and enabling habitats and species to thrive. Each river requires a tailored and specific plan, but some examples of the actions are:

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  • Improvements to allow fish to seek refuge during low flow times.

  • River and floodplain restoration such as re-wiggling the rivers, creating ponds and water meadow restoration to increase biodiversity.

  • Tackling invasive non-native species.

  • Community engagement events and activities, and boosting citizen science.

Not only do these projects aim to improve the rivers for an array of wildlife, they centre on helping people feel more connected to these precious habitats and will show that positive change is possible.

This funding is a fantastic sign of investment being made in our rivers. Keep an eye on the Western Sussex Rivers Trust website for updates as these exciting projects unfold. If you’d like to support the WSRT by joining the team, becoming a volunteer River Guardian or making a donation, please visit www.wrst.org.uk for more information.

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