PLANS to make habitat improvements along the River Mease could see the environment protected for years to come, it has been claimed.
Natural England and the Environment Agency will be carrying out work on a stretch of the river running for more than a kilometre from Gilwiskaw Brook, in a bid to create a better area for wildlife.
It will be the first part of a 20-30 year plan for the watercourse, which runs through Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.
A spokesman for Natural England said: “The River Mease represents one of the best examples of an unspoilt meandering lowland river, which supports characteristic habitats and species.
“There are opportunities to make the river even better to ensure these species continue to thrive and support more wildlife, and that they are more resilient to climate change.”
Pollution along the river has seen a decline in the population of fish and otters, among other species, and work is also taking place to try to address that, according to the organisation.
Issues created by previous work on the floodplain and river channel will also be dealt with in the project.
“If a more naturally functioning channel and floodplain connectivity can be restored where the impacts of past modifications are evident, the length of suitable habitat for wildlife will increase, as will the numbers of animals and plants that depend on the river.
“Restoration would also help increase resilience of the river system to the more extreme high and low flows expected in future because of climate change,” the spokesman said.
Work, which is taking place in conjunction with the Environment Agency, could see woody debris introduced to the river to aid the development of the river, the removal of bank structure on the fringes of the river, and re-profiling of the banks, as well as raising the beds to encourage a variation in flow.
A wet woodland could also be created and a weir removed, in a plan which will secure the future of the river for decades.
Suggestions for the first part of the work are currently out to consultation.
The first phase of the work could cost up to £203,000, with the full project estimated to cost a maximum of £760,481.