A multi-million-pound water-quality project is set to help residents in and around Bishop Auckland after plans for the work were revealed.

Water quality in two County Durham watercourses will benefit from a partnership project, led by the Wear Rivers Trust and supported by Northumbrian Water’s Bluespaces programme.

The Hummer Beck and Lower Gaunless Project, near Bishop Auckland, aims to support ecological improvements in the two watercourses.

The project’s work is complemented by Northumbrian Water’s £4.3m upgrades to New Moors Sewage Treatment Works, near Evenwood Gate, which will improve the quality of treated water returned to the environment via the Hummer Beck.

The work, which will be delivered by the water company’s partner, Galliford Try, is part of its Water Industry National Environmental Programme (WINEP), improving the treatment processes that remove phosphorous from the wastewater.

As part of that investment in the area, the project has donated £14,190 of match funding to the Wear Rivers Trust initiative, via the water company’s Bluespaces water environment improvement initiative, which aims to go above and beyond regulatory requirements to improve accessible areas around water.

This funding will support improvements to 4.3km of accessible environments along and by the watercourses.

Ruby Merriman, Bluespaces Delivery Manager, said: “Our BlueSpaces initiative sees us work with partners to go above and beyond, in terms of supporting improvements to the water environment – accessible spaces where people can enjoy being around water.

“The Hummer Beck and Lower Gaunless Project’s ambition and the benefits being delivered by our upgrades at New Moors STW really complement each other, so it’s great to be able to use this funding to support Wear Rivers Trust and its other partners in this way.”

The £44,000 Wear Rivers Trust advisors and project team staff are working with local landowners and other stakeholders to tackle a range of issues that have a detrimental effect on water quality, including fly tipping, over-grazing and bankside management.

There will also be educational outreach work, as well as opportunities for local volunteers, improvement of waymarking on access links to the National Cycle Network, and invasive non-native species (INNS) surveys.

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The project is also supported by Let’s Clean Up Bishop Auckland, Gaunless Gateway – Big Local, Bishop Auckland Area Action Partnership, Catchment Sensitive Farming (part of Natural England) and the Environment Agency.

Daniel Rutland, Volunteer and Engagement Officer at the Wear Rivers Trust, said: "The Wear Rivers Trust is committed to working directly with local people to protect and improve waterbodies in their own neighbourhoods, and the Hummer Beck and Lower Gaunless Project is no exception.

“Educational work with local schools has already been successfully undertaken, and further initiatives are planned this year to engage landowners and volunteers in practical activities that will not only boost water quality but raise the public profile of the Gaunless and Hummer Beck; helping to make them valued, healthy and accessible blue spaces for the benefit and enjoyment of all. We look forward to working with our partners to make this a reality.