A HUGE £3.4m will be pumped in to projects to improve a number of rivers across West Cumbria.

The funding has been secured by West Cumbria Rivers Trust for a range of major river improvement projects across the region that will contribute to flood risk reduction efforts, improve wildlife habitats and restore river environments.

A £1.5 million project will restore the River Keekle near Whitehaven.

The river was lined with plastic in the 1990s amid fears that possible future erosion could expose deeply-buried mine waste underneath. The plastic is breaking up and pieces being washed downstream, creating blockages, localised flooding and plastic pollution. The Trust plans to remove the plastic and restore the riverbed with funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development’s Water Environment Grant and the Environment Agency.

A second project aims to reduce pollution in Crookhurst Beck which flows into bathing waters on the coast at Allonby, by working with farmers to reduce nutrient run-off into the beck.

Measures will include new slurry storage systems, watercourse fencing and clean and dirty water separation systems.

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development’s Water Environment Grant has awarded £235,000, which complements existing funding from United Utilities and the Natural England Facilitation Fund.

Three further projects focus on ‘natural flood management’ (NFM) – using techniques inspired by nature to hold rainwater on the land for longer during extreme weather, reducing the rate at which it flows towards communities.

In the Cocker and Glenderamackin river catchment areas the Trust will work with landowners to develop NFM measures such as leaky dams, kested hedgerows and tree-planting, aiming to contribute to flood risk reduction in Cockermouth and Keswick respectively.

A further £818,000 has been awarded for the Cocker and £693,000 for the Glenderamackin, each from a combination of DEFRA’s NFM Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development’s Water Environment Grant.

In Bootle a natural flood management project will look at improvements to the River Annas catchment, aiming to reduce flood risk to the community of Bootle, in a project awarded £166,000 by the DEFRA NFM Fund and the Walney Extension Community Fund.

Jodie Mills, operations director at West Cumbria Rivers Trust, said: “We’re really excited about getting started on these projects which will bring a huge range of benefits to both people and wildlife across West Cumbria. We’re celebrating our tenth anniversary this year and the Trust has gone from strength to strength. We’re delighted to kick off our next 10 years with this range of major projects.”