Natural England - River Cam enhancement – Cambridgeshire

River Cam enhancement – Cambridgeshire

Although the River Cam has good water quality, it suffers from poor habitat in places, meaning that fish stocks and biodiversity are lower than expected.

Cam river habitat - © Cambridgeshire County Council

The habitat enhancement project will greatly improve the river and adjacent bankside habitat for a range of wildlife species, including chub, minnow and brown trout. The visual amenity and access to the river by the public will also be greatly enhanced, and interpretation of the enhancement features will be provided.

The project has involved:

  • putting 1,200 tonnes of gravel in place to form shoals and fish spawning habitat

  • re-grading 200m of riverbank to create safe public access down to the water’s edge

  • creating 300m of sensitive riverbank protection to provide cover for fish creating flow deflectors to scour silt from the riverbed to leave clean and oxygenated gravel

  • replacing sluices to hold water in adjacent ditches

  • creating a small area of reedbed

  • managing ditches to act as “wet fences” to increase the level of protection for kingfishers and otters

  • creating backwaters to give fish refuges during flood periods

  • allowing a wildflower meadow to revert to being a flood meadow to control floodwater as it moves along the Cam and to provide an important habitat for wading birds such as snipe.

The project started in April 2008 and will continue until 2011.

The project is being led by South Cambridgeshire District Council, and other partners include the developers Grosvenor/USS, and the Wild Trout Trust, Environment Agency, Cam Valley Forum, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Biodiversity Partnership, Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire Horizons, and the Wildlife Trust.

The project has secured improved and protected river and adjacent bankside habitats, improved the landscape in this area and will enhance public access and interpretation, with future potential for community engagement and volunteering in managing some of the habitat improvements (such as reedbed). Partnership working and understanding has been strengthened. The project is an accessible example of river restoration, and so provides a useful educational resource for professionals and community groups. The project has enhanced the biodiversity and landscape of a section of the River Cam ahead of housing and population growth and has safeguarded existing sensitive habitats from disturbance.

One of the areas being developed for housing is the Cambridge fringe site of Trumpington Meadows, located to the southwest of Cambridge. The development will be fairly compact and high density. As part of the development a 60-hectare Community Riverside Park is proposed that will move from more formal ‘country park’ type Green Infrastructure to more informal ‘enhanced countryside’ Green Infrastructure. This will provide an important resource for new residents. It is intended that The Wildlife Trust will manage the park to maximise the area’s wildlife potential. The Riverside Park will be bounded on its western edge by the River Cam – an important landscape feature. Public access routes are proposed along most of the river corridor within the Riverside Park area.

Activity – Home to some of the brightest minds and most innovative businesses in the world, Cambridgeshire is a dynamic area with a thriving economy and an international reputation. It has fast become one of the most attractive places to live and work in the UK. Success and popularity have brought their own challenges. With the number of people choosing to live and work in the County increasing steadily, demand for housing has escalated, pushing house prices way out of line with salaries. The County must now deliver 73,300 new homes, 50,000 new jobs, and over £3.7 billion worth of infrastructure between 2001 and 2021, as outlined in the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy.

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