16 September 2017
Green Party councillors have called for much stronger plans to protect wildlife in the River Wensum, saying the council’s proposed new river strategy is “lacklustre and vague” on this issue.
The Green group on Norwich City Council has responded to the draft strategy, welcoming the commitment to complete the riverside walk between Duke Street and St George’s Street as well as other projects such as improving access for canoeists.
However, they expressed disappointment at the lack of a full biodiversity strategy to accompany the plans.
Councillor Simeon Jackson, who has led the group’s response to the strategy, said: “We are pleased to see the publication of a draft strategy for the river – something we first proposed back in 2010.
“There are some very good proposals in there, but overall we feel the balance is too far in favour of tourism and business opportunities, with not enough weight given to environmental concerns and the needs of residents. The environmental section of the strategy is lacklustre and vague, with few definite plans.
“One of the objectives of the strategy is to address inequality in local communities. As an aim, this is fantastic, but it is not supported by the actual content of the strategy, which focuses exclusively on the city centre rather than some of the disadvantaged communities to the west of the city. There are huge potential benefits from improved access to the river, but without a clear indication of how benefits for deprived communities will be ensured or measured, this policy just looks like a box-ticking exercise.”
Councillor Denise Carlo added: “One specific proposal we have suggested is the replacement of the harsh metal sheeting by softer infrastructure along the banks of the river through the historic city centre. At present, the Wensum as it flows through the city looks more like a canal than a river. A range of tried and tested soft engineering techniques for riverbanks is available could create a more attractive appearance and improve biodiversity whilst continuing to protect the banks from boat erosion. Given the historic importance of Norwich in a European context, the authorities could investigate the scope for EU funding for such a project which remains available up until the point we leave the EU.”
Changes suggested by Green councillors include:
• A full biodiversity strategy that recognises the ecological importance of the river
• A tree-planting programme to encourage wildlife and reduce flood risk
• A clear plan for renewable energy from the river, particularly from New Mills Pumping Station
• Working with local community groups as equal partners
• More transparency around how projects are chosen and prioritised, with full community participation in the process
The full Green Party group response to the consultation can be found here: https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/localparties/norwich/Norwich-Green-group-response-to-draft-River-Wensum-Strategy.pdf