A new urban wetland, created as part of a £10 million flood protection scheme, is now open to the public.
The Castle Irwell site at the site of the old Manchester Racecourse off Littleton Road will provide a new home for birds, wildlife and nature as well as new space for runners, cyclists and walkers.
Ironically its opening was delayed by wet weather – with contractors unable to finish surfacing the paths due to the long, cold, wet winter. It meant the area had to stay closed to the public on safety grounds.
Councillor Derek Antrobus, lead member for planning and sustainable development, said: “We are all very glad to see the new wetland area finally open – and the bank holiday weather looks set fair to help people enjoy it.
“Birds such as herons, lapwings, geese, gulls, swans, great crested grebe and even rare visitors like the little egret and the little ringed plover are already using the site and we hope to see many more in future.
“Wetlands provide many benefits to society and help us to be more resilient to the effects of our changing climate. They provide multiple benefits such as slowing the flow of water, reducing flood risk, filtering water and capturing carbon. Their importance is increasing as a result of climate and land use change.”
A local community steering group, consisting of representatives of The Broughton Trust, Salford Friendly Anglers, Kersal Vale Allotment and Horticultural Society and the University of Salford, was involved in designing the wetland and named a mound Harry’s Hill in honour of the late Councillor Harry Davies who represented the ward. The two kiosks on site were decorated by renowned Manchester graffiti artist, kELzO, who observed the wildlife on site to create the vibrant designs.
Space for seven new flood resilient multi-use sports pitches has also been created.
Salford City Council and the Environment Agency joined forces to create the 28 hectare second flood water storage basin which took three years to build and will work in tandem with the flood basin at Littleton Road completed in 2005. It will capture up to 650 million litres of water (260 Olympic swimming pools) when the River Irwell rises and release it slowly when the river levels drop.
The two flood basins reduce the risk of flooding for 1,400 nearby homes and 500 local businesses and open up potential development of further land around the area. Around 750 properties were flooded in lower Broughton in the Boxing Day floods of 2015. The second basin, although not fully operational at the time, helped reduce the extent of flooding.
To create the storage capacity, ground was excavated from the site and then reused to build a raised embankment around the periphery to form part of the defence system. The flood embankments have been planted with 10ha of wildflower habitat, to attract pollinating species such as lady birds, moths, butterflies and bees – whose population has dramatically declined across the county in recent years.
Andy Cameron, Flood Risk Engineer at the Environment Agency, said: “The £10 million Salford flood scheme delivers on a long-held vision to reduce flood risk to almost 2,000 homes and businesses, as well as providing a serene and tranquil spot right in the centre of Salford that people and wildlife can enjoy.
“The urban wetland is surrounded by a new 2.5 km footpath which links to an existing footpath to Kersal Vale and the River Irwell and provides a green route to and from the centre of Manchester.
“This excellent partnership project is a fine example of the multiple benefits our work brings to local communities.”
Funding for the scheme came from a number of sources. £5m came from Government Grant-in-Aid, £4.1m came from a Government growth fund and the remaining £1.2m came from Salford City Council.
Attached photo shows Councillor Derek Antrobus (in white t-shirt) with (left to right) Diane Crowcroft, Roger Baldry and Sam Smith from the steering committee.
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