THE restoration of a 2km stretch of the River Stour is to get underway in the spring thanks to £100,000 from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Community Green Grants scheme.

Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust will use the money to extend its Love Your River Stour project along a stretch running through Cradley Heath and Lye.

The funding is the biggest award since the grants scheme was launched at the start of 2022 to fund projects that increase people’s access to nature, especially in deprived communities, by improving green spaces or enhancing the local environment in other ways.

To date, grants totalling £344,000 have been awarded to 13 projects across the region.

Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust has already enjoyed success with its Love Your River Stour project in Wolverhampton and Stourbridge, where it has seen an improvement in river quality and an increase in people visiting the waterway.

The WMCA funding will restore a further 3.5 hectares of ancient woodlands along the river and enhance eight hectares of plantation and other woodland.

The restoration, which will get underway from the end of March/early April, will also tackle pollution by removing man-made barriers and re-naturalising the river, create a hectare of species-rich grassland, and improve public access.

The wildlife trust will also run community engagement activities and volunteer days so local people can get hands on with the river restoration, providing 24 young people with the chance to train in environmental restoration.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chairman, said the Love Your River Stour project team “deserve huge congratulations” on the work already done and he added: “I’m so pleased we’ve been able to extend a helping hand through this grant to create even more beautiful and wildlife-rich natural spaces that will be a source of tremendous pride for the local community. At the same time, this grant helps us to support the training of more young people in environmental restoration.

“We know time spent in nature can be immensely beneficial when it comes to our mental and physical wellbeing, so I hope to see many more projects benefit from our funding.”

Simon Atkinson, head of conservation at Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust, added: “We are delighted to be the first recipient of a large grant from the WMCA Community Green Grants programme to continue our river restoration project on the Stour.

“This funding will enable us to extend our focus into areas of Sandwell and Dudley and restore the river to tackle the ecological and climate crises. We look forward to working with local communities in Cradley Heath and Lye to join us as we work for nature’s recovery.”

The Community Green Grants scheme is part of the WMCA’s Natural Environment Plan which sets out actions it will take with partners across the region to enhance biodiversity, protect endangered species and improve access to green spaces and waterways.

One of the plan’s key aims is for everybody living in the West Midlands to have access to high quality greenspace within a 300-metre walk of their home.