New project will enhance river at Godmanchester

Godmanchester Sluice Gates project will improve the river space.

Godmanchester Sluice Gates project is made up of representatives from several groups. - Credit: MATTHEW POWER

A project is underway to create a "beautiful green space" that will allow people to connect with nature at the old Mill Steps in Godmanchester.

The project will see the installation of a fish pass, to aid fish migration, along with improvement works around the former mill site and its river frontage.

This is an image of what the sluice gates look like now.

Godmanchester Sluice Gate project. Before pics May 27 2021 Matthew Power Photography 07969 088655 @mpowerphoto - Credit: MATTHEW POWER

Vast areas of broken concrete and steel fencing will be replaced by new fencing and broad sections of new planting. Native and specially chosen drought-resistant species will feature; alongside new bat boxes, additional nesting zones for birds, and information boards.

An artist’s illustration has been released following the project launch on June 14 when the mayor of Godmanchester, Cllr Clifford Thomas, joined representatives from Huntingdonshire District Council, the Environment Agency, Highways England A428/A14 Legacy Fund, Godmanchester Town Council, Godmanchester in Bloom and Godmanchester Community Liaison Group.

Councillor Marge Beuttell, responsible for operations and environment at HDC, said: “Huntingdonshire District Council is committed to investing in valued environmental assets to benefit our community and nature.

"This unique project, with excellent community engagement and trusted partners, will deliver an excellent location for people to enjoy the river and ensure that river wildlife can migrate along the whole of the Great River Ouse.

"As we invest in recovery after the challenges of the last 18 months, enabling projects like this helps Huntingdonshire to continue to be a great place to live and enjoy.”

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Visitors will be able to look directly onto the new fish pass; a hybrid mix of natural rock ramp and technical metal baffle slope, designed by the Environment Agency and Fishtek Consulting.

An artist's impression of what the Godmanchester river front will look like.

An artist's impression of what the area will look like once the project is complete. - Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Weirs, like those currently seen in Godmanchester, were installed historically to allow milling and for the benefit of boaters. Fish and eels struggle to navigate over these structures, which means they act as a barrier and prevent migration along the river.

The fish pass being installed to replace the weir has a gentle slope, slow flowing water and resting spots. This will enable all types and ages of fish to migrate more easily, including roach, dace, chub and eels.

The Environment Agency’s Fisheries Specialist, Kye Jerrom describes the significance of the work taking place in at the Mill Steps:

“Godmanchester is a priority location in our efforts to improve fish populations in the Ouse and help conserve endangered species like the European eel. Once complete, the project will allow fish to migrate freely upstream and downstream of Godmanchester opening up 100km of the Ouse to the sea at King's Lynn.

"We are using fishing licence income and environmental investment to help HDC improve connectivity for fish, and the habitat improvements this projects brings, will be great for angling as well as the local environment.

"Up until now, migration routes in the area have been cut off by the town’s complex of weirs, sluices and locks.”

Breheny Civil Engineering is currently undertaking the construction phase of the project, led by Huntingdonshire District Council and jointly funded in partnership with the Environment Agency, Highways England, Godmanchester Town Council and Godmanchester in Bloom. It is anticipated that the project will be finished in the autumn.

Godmanchester Town Council said: “We have long-hoped to see the area around the site of the old water mill renovated. Thanks to HDC, with support from the Environment Agency and Highways England, we now see the work commencing to provide an attractive natural green space for all to enjoy.

"In addition to the town council, a local liaison group has worked tirelessly to offer advice and recommendations on the design and materials for the topside landscaping, and to make this project a truly joint effort.”

Highways England’s lead on the project, Joshua Smith commented: “The fish pass is a great project that delivers environmental benefits but also contributes to the wider public realm, providing a valuable space to enjoy nature. Being on site with the partners, local community members, and Breheny Civil Engineering for the start of works was a huge milestone and we look forward to seeing the project come to fruition.”