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The Harnham Water Meadows Framework Management Plan - Annexes

Annex III. The Living River Project: Executive Summary.

Supplied by Martin Gilchrist

The Living River Project will involve people throughout the River Avon catchment with the conservation of its natural heritage. The project will tell the story of the River Avon system and how its exceptional natural heritage has developed alongside the world famous cultural heritage of the area. It will invest resources from a range of partners in long-lasting improvements to biodiversity and access to the heritage, and will use innovative methods to engage audiences across the catchment and secure their support for its conservation.

The River Avon system lies in Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire. It comprises the River Avon, its tributaries and the river valleys that surround them. It flows through a region of outstanding natural and cultural heritage, with the Wiltshire tributaries converging in Salisbury, and meeting the sea at Christchurch. It supports habitats and species listed in UK and local BAPs, and is of national and international importance, with SSSI, SAC and SPA designations.

However, this natural heritage is threatened by many factors, such as pollution from agricultural and other sources, low flows, and abstraction. These impacts are directly or indirectly the result of people’s actions and demands on the river system, and securing long-term solutions will require a widespread increase in understanding. At present very little information is available to the target audiences except as relates directly to the nature conservation designations, or from localised projects.

A Conservation Strategy for the River Avon SAC (published 2003) identified measures in place to address the impacts, and gaps where new action is needed. It has generated two major partnership projects: a LIFE-Nature bid focussing on restoration of the SAC (confirmed successful in September 2005) and this Living River Project which focuses on wider biodiversity of the River Avon system and engaging communities with its conservation.

The Living River Project is based on Audience Development, Access and Conservation Plans produced under an HLF Project Planning Grant and addresses a widely recognised need to engage people living in the catchment with the River Avon system. It has been developed by a strong partnership that is capable of and committed to delivering the ambitious programmes.

It will target four audiences: river managers, users, influencers and the wider public, and will involve them throughout the project in restoring, monitoring and making decisions about the natural heritage. The project development process has engaged stakeholders throughout, and has already forged new relationships: implementing the project itself will strengthen these relationships and develop new interactions between the different audiences, especially at community level

Through an innovative suite of actions the Living River Project will complete 3 programmes:

Biodiversity restoration - at sites the public can access and enjoy

Access and Interpretation – creating and enhancing physical and intellectual access to the natural heritage across the river

system

Education and Training – providing education events and resources, and offering training opportunities to help people

understand their relationship with the river system and take responsibility for it

Communities will be involved in all the activities carried out in their area, and volunteers participation will be encourages

wherever possible.

The Project will demonstrate how a complex and largely privately owned natural heritage asset can be made widely accessible to a range of audience

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