27 February 2023

River restoration project

As part of the Bedminster Green regeneration project, Bristol City Council has submitted a planning application to restore a section of the River Malago, which includes proposals to bring a section of the river back above ground and restore it to a more natural form.

If approved, the restoration of the river will benefit local biodiversity and reduce the risk of flooding in the area.

The proposals also include restoring dilapidated heritage features, creating a seating area on the existing green that overlooks the newly emerged river, and installing an accessible path and boardwalk to improve access to the river’s edge.

Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience and Floods, said: “This project is a fantastic opportunity to work collaboratively with partners on a whole systems approach to increase biodiversity and tackle flood risk management.

“By working together, we can restore the river and heritage features, reduce flood risk for the area, and create high quality green space for existing and future residents of the proposed homes in the surrounding Bedminster Green and Whitehouse Street developments to enjoy for years to come.”

Since 1970, 60 per cent of wild invertebrates and up to 76 per cent of insects have been lost globally. When the council announced an ecological emergency in Bristol in 2020, it committed to doing as much as it could to bring back this lost wildlife to communities in Bristol.

The river restoration will enhance the channel and banks of the River Malago, restoring more natural conditions and delivering improvements for key biodiversity indicators.

Further ecological enhancement measures that are being delivered or explored as part of the works include:

  • Altering the flow speed of the river to allow a greater diversity of in-channel vegetation to develop.
  • Widening the river corridor which will support access to the Malago for local wildlife.
  • Removing and/or treating invasive non-native species to allow native species to thrive.

The river restoration project will also help to reduce flooding for the immediate and local area by creating an extra 2,226m3 of flood storage. This will be done by:

  • Lowering some ground levels in the green to create a submergible area that would fill with water in the event of heavy rainfall, reducing flooding to surrounding properties.
  • Installing a metal grid of bars, called a trash screen, across the entrance to where the river goes back underground under East Street to trap debris, prevent blockage and backing up of water in this pipe.
  • Making the channel narrower to improve the speed of flows to prevent stagnation.

The character of the area will also be preserved and enhanced by restoring the penstock structure, which is a metal sluice gate that is part of Bedminster’s industrial heritage and supporting improvements to the rivers historic channel walls.

Feedback from community consultation and engagement in 2020 and 2021 has been used to inform the design of the river restoration project. Read the Bedminster Green consultation report.

The council has worked closely with the Environment Agency and Watkin Jones and Dandara (developers of the adjacent Bedminster Green development plots 1, 3 and 5), to develop designs for the planning application. This has included collaborative working practices to address comments provided by the Environment Agency regarding flood risk. Design solutions were agreed between Dandara and the council in summer 2022 and have been incorporated into both development’s applications.

Discussions with relevant stakeholders have included developing solutions to make sure the risk of flooding is appropriately managed and mitigated on site.

If the planning application is approved, construction work will take place in phases from 2023 and will be coordinated with the other Bedminster Green development works.

The river restoration site will run along Dalby Avenue/Malago Road, Hereford Street, Whitehouse Lane and Clarke Street.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “The proposals to open up the River Malago through the heart of Bedminster are really exciting, as not only will the project boost wildlife and prevent flooding, it will also enhance the area for everyone to enjoy.

“Restoring the river is one of the many benefits the wider regeneration of Bedminster Green will bring, along with building much needed homes in our growing city, making it easier to travel and heat homes more sustainably, and helping to revive Bedminster’s high street, East Street.

“If approved, the river restoration will bring us one step closer to making the vision for Bedminster Green a reality. It’s an example of how urban development can work on many levels to regenerate an area and improve public spaces.”

The planning application can be viewed on the council’s website using the reference number 23/00611/FB.

Bedminster Green river restoration - artist's impression

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