St Albans’ River Ver revitalisation project “will make problems worse”

PUBLISHED: 10:43 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:44 05 June 2018

The River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

The River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2018

An environmentalist has dismissed the River Ver revitalisation project as doomed to fail.

The River Ver. Picture: Danny LooThe River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

Gordon Grieg, an 80-year-old who has worked on numerous environmental projects throughout his life, has said the initiative will make the water dirtier in the long run.

The project, which aims to reroute 2.5km of the River Ver back onto its natural course, is being delivered by the district and county councils, the Environment Agency (EA) and Affinity Water.

The River Ver is currently shallow, dirty, and often stagnant. This feeds into Verulamium Lake and exacerbates cleanliness problems there.

By once again exposing groundwater aquifers, it is hoped the river will return to its natural state as a rare chalk stream.

The River Ver. Picture: Danny LooThe River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

There are only 200 of these crystal clear, meandering, babbling brooks in the world.

But Gordon, who is also a plot holder at Cottonmill Allotments, believes speeding up the river will cause the soil to erode more rapidly, moving the displaced silt into the water and shifting it further upstream.

Cottonmill Allotments are being uprooted in the scheme, with the 120 plots repurposed into a wetland nature reserve.

Gordon says removing the greenery planted by allotment holders will see a degradation of the soil quality and a decreasing of animals which survive on it.

The River Ver. Picture: Danny LooThe River Ver. Picture: Danny Loo

He said: “I expect that those of you who see our allotments as untidy and not the squeaky-clean image of St Albans miss the point. Nature loves something untidy. A place to hide, rear young and stalk food.

“Now they are proposing to drown all of this.”

Gordon described the scheme as “madness”: “What a staggering level of ignorance of life. What irony that they prefer this course rather than face the time problems of land erosion into the river. It is political cowardice as facing the truth exposes them to liability and threatens their safe lives?”

The EA spokesperson said he acknowledges Gordon’s points, but stressed the “environmental and community benefits” the restoration project will bring.

Cottonmill Area Guide. Picture: Danny LooCottonmill Area Guide. Picture: Danny Loo

Simon Hawkins, Environment Agency area director for Herts and North London, said: “We are confident that the combination of measures we propose will improve Verulamium Park and create a better place for people and wildlife.”

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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