The tide of fortune appears to be swelling for the long-sought renaissance of the River Ver. The Council’s recent consultation showed 74% public support for the project with just 10% opposed.
A feasibility report has just been presented to the Council which will be available to the public in the next three weeks or so. Once that has been considered, funding of £400,000 needs to be committed to the design stage which will last 12 months. If all proceeds according to plan, work would take place in 2020-2021.
It is of course all subject to funding. The overall costs will be c£7.5million. The Environment Agency (‘EA’) would be likely to fund one third, and the balance of £5million would need to be funded by the Council, other grants and crowd-funding. This is currently a ‘priority project’ for the EA and so for the time being it has priority for funding (subject to periodic Defra reviews).
The only real controversy relates to ‘Reach 4’ and the displacement of the Sopwell allotments. Understandably, allotment-holders who have invested years of time, effort and money into their plots have raised serious questions as to the need for the displacement of their allotments. However, the EA is adamant that the re-alignment of the river to the valley floor is overwhelmingly desirable and that the present allotments will become unsustainable as ground water levels rise as abstraction from the upper Ver is set to be halved by 2024.
Whatever, the outcomes are in relation to Reach 4, the project as a whole is vital for the future of this rare chalk stream and for Verulamium Park as a venue for pleasant recreation.