Luton Lea

The Luton Lea is the section of the River Lea running from Houghton Regis, Lewsey and Leagrave Park, to Luton Hoo Lakes. This section of the Lea is a major source of water for the London area. The river runs along the edge of Fallowfield, a County Wildlife Site, with urban Luton on one side and Riddy Lane Community Garden on the other. Fallowfield is noted for providing a habitat for nesting birds such as the song thrush.

Problems faced by the Luton Lea

The Luton Lea suffers from a range of problems. Parts of the channel are heavily over shaded, blocking the natural light needed to sustain the plants and wildlife of a chalk river. Much of the channel has been heavily modified and artificially straightened, and suffers from high levels of pollution due to the surrounding urban areas. In many locations, accessibility to the river is limited, prohibiting the surrounding communities ability to engage with the river.

Case Study: Manor Park Road

The River Lea flows along the eastern edge of Manor Road Park in a deep, restricted channel. The riverbed is concrete and the river runs between concrete walls or steps with metal railings.

The flow of the river causes a build-up of silt on the natural gravels, making it harder for fish and other creatures to thrive. The river is also separated from its floodplain by high walls, which increases the risk of flooding in other areas of the town. Above all, the river is unwelcoming and hidden from the local communities who could be enjoying a rich natural environment.

How we improved the river

Affinity Water, the Environment Agency and Luton Borough Council worked together to agree on a proposal to improve the habitat and flow of the river. This included:

  • Improving the biodiversity value of the river to support a better variety of plants and creatures in the water and on the river banks.
  • Helping the river stay healthy when flows are low, and reduce the risk of flooding when flows are high.
  • Making the river safer for everyone.
  • Providing a pleasant and usable space for local people.

What we’ve done

  • Removed the concrete river bed and concrete steps, tarmac path, concrete wall and metal railings;
  • Made the river narrower and more winding
  • Improved the riverbanks to give a stable slope to encourage a greater variety of plants on the bank and in the river which is not at risk from erosion or collapse.
  • Removed some overhanging branches from the larger trees to allow more light to reach the river and encourage plant growth in the river and at the water’s edge.
  • Re-connected the river to the surrounding environment by removing the concrete channel that confines the river along the edge of the park behind iron railings.
  • Re-located the children’s playground to create the space to meander the river through the park.

If you’d like to find out even more, follow the link to the Catchment Partnership website for the River Lea Catchment or view the management plan for the Luton Lea.

Luton Lee After 360

Manor Road after completionManor Road after completion

Design by LTD Design Consultants and build by Garganey Consulting.