Naturalisation of the River Ribble at Long Preston Deeps
The River Ribble SSSI at Long Preston is presently failing Water Framework Directive condition limits with specific issues focussed around fisheries and hydromorphology. Natural England and the Environment Agency wished to adopt a minimum intervention river and floodplain naturalisation approach to improving the SSSI and commissioned a catchment baseline assessment and targeted fluvial audit to determine the appropriate local morphology and sustainable channel dynamics that would function under the present flow and sediment regime.
Four phases of restoration have been delivered by the Environment Agency over the last 5 years involving landowners and other river users in a coordinated plan of action based around the original restoration proposals. Compromise was necessary to account for the current usage pressures on the river and floodplain, however, significant process and form alteration has been achieved demonstrating the advantages of working to restore river and floodplain processes to facilitate naturalisation rather than adopting a soft engineering approach towards river stabilisation. Wetter than average conditions in the catchment have activated the floodplain reconnection sites along the river impacting on in-channel sediment transport and overbank sedimentation regimes and an overall slowing of erosion of the bed and banks has been observed.