Monday 13 June 2016

Contractor appointed for essential River Don maintenance

A local social enterprise has been appointed to carry out channel maintenance works on the River Don as part of Sheffield City Council’s pioneering Lower Don Valley Flood Defence Project.

The River Stewardship Company (RSC) will be managing riverside trees and invasive plants (such as Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed) and removing litter and debris. This essential maintenance helps to reduce the risk of flooding and keeps the river at its best for people to enjoy it and wildlife to thrive in and around it.

This work is an integral part of the £19 million flood protection project for the Lower Don Valley, which spans an 8 kilometre stretch between the Wicker and Blackburn Brook at the M1 motorway and is now well underway with construction of physical flood defences set for completion next summer.

The RSC has spent the last two years working on the River Don on a pilot project. Now their work will continue with a new contract that runs until June 2019.

Councillor Bryan Lodge, Cabinet Member for Environment at Sheffield City Council said: “The River Stewardship Company will continue with the great work they’ve done so far to maintain the river at the Lower Don Valley. It’s an essential part of the flood defence scheme, that once complete will protect hundreds of businesses from the devastating effects of flooding.

“The significance of this work should not be underestimated – it is vital to prevent blockages in the river, which can lead to increased flooding in severe storms. In addition to reducing the risks of flooding, it’s our priority to protect and restore the natural environment along the river, and through this new contract we can deliver on all of these priorities.

“I’m delighted that we can start to progress our long term plans which will reduce the risk of flooding, regenerate the area and protect wildlife habitats now and in to the future.”

This is a complex programme of work that once complete will raise the standard of flood protection to a one in 100 chance of annual flooding and provide protection from flooding for over 500 businesses and around 5,000 employees in the area.

Sheffield City Council is leading the project, and is working in partnership with Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and the Environment Agency. It is funded by the council, DEFRA, Environment Agency, and an annual contribution over a 5 year period from over 250 local organisations through a Business Improvement District (BID).

Adam Rollitt, Operations Manager at RSC said: “We have been carrying out riverside maintenance and community engagement work on the Lower Don Valley in Sheffield for over 8 years, so we feel privileged to be able to build upon this work and continue to employ and engage local people in the maintenance of their local waterway.”

The River Stewardship Company (RSC) keep rivers clear with the help of local volunteers. They are looking for more people to help them with their work on the River Don. Mr Rollitt added: “Through volunteer days and other events, we can educate people about the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Don, as well as providing opportunities for work experience, gaining new skills, social inclusion and benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.

“There is a great sense of camaraderie within our volunteer team, everyone is working to a common and positive outcome. We’re always looking for new people to join us, it’s so rewarding and I would encourage anyone who is interested to come forward and get involved.”

Sheffield resident, Hayde Sohze has been volunteering on the project since July 2014, he said: “I come every week to help the local environment, learn new skills and meet my friends, who have similar interests to me. I have learned a lot while I have been here, I’ve gained accredited skills in First Aid at Work and Health and Safety, plus many transferable skills such as using tools, working within a team and confidence building. I’m really happy to be to be involved and giving something back to the local community.”

People who would like to volunteer to help carry out this work can contact Hellen Hornby on 0114 3540012.

To find out more about the project, visit call Clare Maguire at the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce on 0114 213 2993.