London river re-routing scheme scoops Living Wetlands Award

Changing river path to reduce flood risk and improve wildlife leads to award.

A scheme that saw an underground river in south London brought above ground to reduce the risk of flooding has won this year’s Living Wetlands Award. The award was given to the Environment Agency by the RSPB and the Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM) after it successfully relieved the flood risk in Lewisham and enabled wildlife to flourish. Director of policy at CIWEM Justin Taberham said: “This is a fantastic example of an urban restoration project that has multiple benefits for biodiversity, flood defence and leisure. What was a fairly degraded site has become an urban oasis for wildlife.” He added: “This development demonstrates that a flood alleviation scheme can be actively combined with the multi-functional dimensions of environmental enhancement and habitat creation, while including improved recreational capacity and the aesthetic aspect of a poor-quality, inner-city green space.” A team from the Environment Agency brought the River Quaggy — which was routed beneath the city in the 1930s — above ground again by channelling it through Sutcliffe Park in Eltham. The team also lowered the park to create a floodplain around the river and built a new lake as an extra precaution against floods. Environment Agency representative Richard Copas said: “It is fantastic how much the wetland environment has established itself in such a short space of time and how many species it is now attracting to this part of London.”

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