The River Improvement Fund Programme, in partnership with Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) and in collaboration with the Environment Agency, has been delivered in three phases over the past four years. The Programme has been managed centrally by The Rivers Trust and actioned and delivered by 28 community river trusts throughout England. More than 200 river improvement projects, ranging from weir removal to habitat enhancement, have been completed, tackling long term fisheries and environmental problems with a focus on removing barriers to fish migration.


There are many historic in-river structures remaining from the industrial revolution and before, where watercourses were modified to Rivers Trustprovide water for industry. These barriers frequently prevent fish and other aquatic wildlife from moving up and downstream. This can be very detrimental to migratory species such as salmon and sea trout that need to spawn in the clean gravels found in the upper reaches of streams.  Eels also need access to freshwater systems to mature before returning to sea to breed. Even coarse fish, that spend all their lives in the river, need to be able to move around the system to access different feeding and breeding areas and to colonise.

Local rivers trusts used their unique catchment knowledge, community contacts, professional and volunteer base and social capital, attracting co-finance and in-kind contribution valued over £2.3m, complementing a £6.0m grant from Defra to deliver the programme of work.

This has achieved:

146    Multi fish species barriers eased, passed or removed

87      Eel barriers eased, passed or tidal flaps installed

88      Complementary riparian habitat improvements

44      Feasibility studies for further improvement work

The Rivers Trust has managed works progress and financial information from rivers trust partners, together with providing administration, audit, financial guidance, training and technical support and liaison at national level with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Wildlife Trusts.

These works have made a major contribution to delivering Eel Management Plans, Salmon Action Plans and meeting commitments under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) and North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO)

Arlin Rickard, The Rivers Trust CEO said:

“Many migratory fish are fighting for survival as a result of their migration routes being blocked. The Rivers Trust’s River Improvement Programme, in partnership with Defra has been an outstanding example of how government, rivers trusts and community volunteers can tackle even technically challenging obstructions and deliver massive improvements benefiting people, fish and wildlife”.

A full summary document of The River Improvement Fund Programme and an interactive map can be found on The Rivers Trust website HERE