15 September 2016

Sheffield’s Porter Brook Pocket Park project was announced as the Winner in the ‘Contribution to the Built Environment’ category at the 2016 Living Waterways Awards ceremony, held at Birmingham Town Hall last night (14 September 2016).

Launched by the Canal & River Trust in February, and sponsored by Kier, Arcadis, CPC Civils and Fountains, the Living Waterways Awards seek to recognise the most exciting and inspiring waterway-based improvement projects across the UK.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, explains:

“The Living Waterways Awards celebrate the individuals, communities and organisations that have done the most to make a difference to the nation’s rivers, canals, lochs, lakes, reservoirs and docks, making them exciting places to live, learn and spend time.”

The Porter Brook, on the southern edge of Sheffield City Centre, had been largely forgotten; lost behind industrial units and derelict land or buried in culverts.

As part of Sheffield City’s Council’s strategy to both regenerate its rivers and prevent flooding , a culvert was removed over a stretch of the brook hidden beneath a car park, and a thriving new riverside park has been created just five minutes from the City’s central train station.

Working with Trout in the Town riverbed material was redistributed and stabilised using boulders and large woody material, all reclaimed from site.  These have created deep scour pools within the channel to ensure habitats remain during low river levels.  A good range of aquatic life has since colonised the stream, including wild trout.

The park’s layout includes the first section of a new riverside walkway, which it is planned will eventually run the entire length of the brook within the City Centre along with further deculverting and naturalisation.  Stone terraces allow direct public access to the water’s edge, now well used by school students, commuters, local office workers and residents.

Gabion walls make use of local gritstone and slowly release rainwater into the brook, and the park has been designed to flood during extreme weather events, forming part of the City’s flood defence strategy.

The long vacant car park is now an attractive development site and a proposal for workspace, cafes and flats is now in the pipeline.

Funding came from the Councils City Centre Breathing Spaces programme and the Environment Agency Local Levy.

Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for parks, leisure and tourism at Sheffield City Council, said:

“This prestigious national award recognises the successful transformation of what was once just a temporary car park into a brand new riverside public open space. Although this is only a relatively small project, it has had a big impact on the urban environment and is already being seen as a catalyst for regeneration and further improvements upstream.”

Christopher Rodrigues CBC, Chair of the Living Waterways Awards Assessment Panel, added:

“This section of a once forgotten waterway has been returned to a more natural state and transformed into a valuable public green space, with important new wildlife habitats.  It also provides an innovative alternative to standard flood defence systems.”

Further details of the 2016 Living Waterways Awards can be found at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/living-waterways-awards-2016