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Support for chalk stream project

News release from 27 January 2022

Plans for a project to support Greater Cambridge’s chalk streams have moved forward following a decision by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

A plan to carry out projects which make local chalk streams and the species they support more resilient was submitted to the Combined Authority by Greater Cambridge Shared Planning – a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils.

The plan now forms part of the Combined Authority’s budget, which was discussed and agreed by its board yesterday (Wednesday 26 January). It was agreed by Board Members that £420,000 towards this work will be made available from the Combined Authority, so long as additional checks such as value for money assurances are passed. This follows an invitation from the Combined Authority to its constituent councils, where funding has been made available to support ideas for projects that reflect the aspirations and business plan objectives of the Combined Authority.

The chalk streams of Greater Cambridge are of international importance and their restoration is fundamental to addressing both Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils declared Biodiversity and Climate emergencies. The chalk aquifer which feeds these unique watercourses also supply the region’s drinking water. As a result, to help ensure there is enough water for local people and to support the economy, they must be healthy.

Projects that have been proposed by the Councils range from specified physical restoration, offering management advice to landowners and further feasibly work such as removal of weirs to aid fish passage.

Cllr Katie Thornburrow, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, Cambridge City Council, said: “The region’s chalk streams are a rare and precious part of our natural environment and support a vast range of species, including brown trout and water voles. The recent Chalk Streams Project report highlights that almost all chalk streams are degraded and the course of the rivers have changed, but does outline a large number of ways that they can be restored, enhanced and protected.  Thanks to this funding we will be able to deliver a wide range of projects, working with local people and landowners to keep the chalk streams for future generations.  We should also remember that we can all make a difference by using as little water as possible.”

Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins, Lead Cabinet member for Planning at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I have long been saying that our local chalk streams are incredibly precious. They need our help. The projects that will come forward as a result of this funding will help many different people work together to restore and protect them. Our work to plan for the future of Greater Cambridge via our emerging Local Plan, which places climate change firmly at its core, is entirely reliant on ensuring that adequate water supplies are available and the environment is protected. I’m looking forward to seeing projects made possible by this funding come forward.”

The Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Dr Nik Johnson, added: “Chalk streams are a vital component of the ecosystem unique to our beautiful region. These water courses provide a haven to many of our most beloved native species such as the otter, kingfisher and water vole. Furthermore, they are an important element in purifying the very water that keeps us healthy. Making these improvements to preserve these streams is therefore a legacy to the future. By supporting schemes like this is we are delivering on our commitment to doubling nature and the protection our fragile ecosystem.”

This project will build on previous work carried out on chalk streams, where Cambridge City Council and Cambridge Water commissioned the Wildlife Trust and Wild Trout Trust to assess the health of local chalk streams. For more information visit: www.cambridge.gov.uk/chalk-streams