A UNIVERSITY team working to restore North-East brownfield sites using natural means has been recognised by the European Union and the British Government.

The University of Teesside's Clean Environment Management Centre (Clemance) has been working on ways of using plants to break down contaminated soils.

Team members say that the plants, including willow, could also be burnt as part of efforts to create energy through biomass power generators.

Clemance's Bioremediation Programme has been running a test project at a patch of wasteland next to the Romanway Industrial Estate, in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, which has proved that the plants can break down contaminants, a project previously featured in Business Echo.

Now, the European Union has made the Bioremediation Programme one of 89 European projects - ten in the UK - to be awarded a share of £36m from its Life-Environment programme, which supports research projects.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also backs Life and Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: "Businesses, universities and local councils can make an important contribution to developing new technology and methods to boost the amount of material we recycle and improve our local environment."

Dr Richard Lord, of the Bioremediation Programme, said: "This is a great opportunity for the North-East to demonstrate the feasibility of using contaminated brownfield sites to grow crops that can be used as fuel."

Published: 15/11/2005