Preparation work begins this week in the River Gardens, as the Derby City Council’s Our City, Our River project is due to start this summer.

The Our City, Our River (OCOR) project is a city wide initiative to deliver flood defences to properties, as well helping to rejuvenate, regenerate and improve areas of the city on the banks of the River Derwent.

To prepare the River Gardens for regeneration and flood defence delivery, around 40 trees were removed, including some that are in poor condition will be removed ready for work to begin this summer.

As part of the delivery of the project the planting of new trees will be carried out. Further environmental management works are also to be carried out along the river.

The removal of the trees and the wider scheme delivery were part of the initial OCOR planning application consulted upon and subsequently agreed by the Derby City Planning Committee in October 2015.

The River Gardens works delivered by Project Munio, are funded by an investment of just over £3million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Project Munio will see open space in riverside areas near Pride Park, Exeter Bridge, Full Street Magistrates Court be defended from risk of flooding, as well as protecting and future-proofing the River Gardens.

The Munio works will see the existing River Gardens redeveloped, as well as the installation of substantial flood defences along the west river bank adjacent to the Council House. The flood defences will be integrated into the landscape design of the River Gardens to minimise the impact and maximise this opportunity to revamp the garden area.

Councillor Matthew Holmes, Deputy Leader of the Derby City Council, said:

“Residents will start to see preparations for this exciting transformation of the River Gardens and along the river itself in the coming weeks and months.

Preparation for that means we are now moving forward with the plans agreed back in 2015 and the first stage of that is to carry out the removal of trees as part of Project Munio and the wider Our City, Our River (OCOR) scheme.

However, it’s important to make clear that replanting will occur in various locations in the new River Gardens and across the city to compensate.

This is a really exciting project for the city and will create a fantastic open space next to the river for citizens to enjoy.”

Tree removal needs to be completed now, outside of bird nesting season, to ensure a lack of disruption to wildlife and animal habitats, as well as relocating all bird and bat boxes within the local area. It will also allow this major project to proceed this summer.

Work will commence from the week beginning Tuesday 26th February.

The £95million OCOR project has been developed to reduce flood risk through long-term, and sustainable economic development, creating a high quality riverside, linking the city centre with the river. Landscaping work, which is subject to full planning, will see the space be newly designed and include an outdoor performance space next to the river. There will also be comprehensive habitat creation and replanting scheme. Recent public safety concerns in the River Garden area have been considered and significantly influenced the proposed new layout.

Councillor Alan Grimadell, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said:

“We’re taking this opportunity, whilst the flood defence work is being undertaken. This is a fantastic redevelopment and will rejuvenate the River Gardens to create a more attractive open space within the heart of the city.”

David Jennings, Chair of the Friends of the River Gardens group, said:

“The River Gardens have been neglected over the years and I see that this scheme can only improve the area, as well the incorporation of with lighting, which will help with security. With the investment in the Silk Mill happening too, things are really looking great for the people of Derby.”

The Ram Statue in River Gardens by Malcolm Comley
The Boy and the Ram Statue in River Gardens by Malcolm Comley

The Boy and Ram sculpture, as well as the Pagoda, which were gifted to us from our partner city, Toyota City, in Japan, will be moved into storage for the duration of flood defence installation and River Gardens redevelopment.

The rockery was removed in July 2019 and Heres fencing has been erected around the work site. The river is still accessible via the River Lights, Exeter Bridge and bus station.

More information about the OCOR project is available on the Our City Our River webpage.