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£100M earmarked to improve river quality

More than £100M is being provided to help improve England’s rivers for wildlife such as otters and trout, environment secretary Caroline Spelman has said.

Some £92M will go to removing invasive weeds and animals, clearing up pollution and removing redundant weirs, dams and other man-made structures over the next four years in a bid to restore rivers to a better condition.

The money will be shared between the Environment Agency, Natural England and groups such as the Association of River Trusts, with a significant portion going to a “catchment restoration” fund to support local projects across the country.

An additional £18M will be provided this year to help farmers reduce pollution from agriculture and protect rivers, for example by putting in “buffer strips” of land between fields and water courses.

Mrs Spelman said: “The health of our rivers has come along in leaps and bounds, but we still see nasty invasive weeds and lifeless waters blight our blue spaces in our cities and countryside.

“With this funding, we’ll help all our waterways and streams thrive by tackling problems that until now have been sitting in the ‘too-hard’ basket.

“Our new grass-roots approach to boosting healthier waterways and flourishing wildlife has local experience and knowledge at its heart,” she added.

Ralph Underhill, co-ordinator of the Our Rivers campaign, which is backed by the RSPB, WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association, said: “This new funding may not solve all the problems overnight but it is a significant step towards securing the future of the river environment in England and Wales, which is under great pressure from a variety of threats including pollution and abstraction.

“Rivers are a national asset and in the current financial climate it is great to see a new investment in their future.

“We hope a significant amount of the money announced will be spent on the rivers and wetland areas of international importance to conservation that the Government has committed itself to improving.”

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