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Plan to create wetland reserve at Thrift Wood

Improvements to a large open space in Cox Green could enhance its nature habitats if funding is secured.

A design for changes to Thrift Wood, an 86-acre extension to Ockwells Park, looks to take advantage of the area’s floodplain.

The project – a partnership between the council, the Environment Agency and design consultancy Atkins – could see improved footpaths allowing for access in wet periods, new cycleways, disabled access and wetland and river habitats come to the land.

Provisions for dog walkers, educational opportunities and a screen designed to block out the M4 motorway are all part of the plans.

Jason Mills, of the Royal Borough’s parks and open spaces service, who presented the idea at the Royal Borough’s Local Access Forum on Tuesday, said ‘the site could become a fantastic nature reserve’ if transformed into a wetland.

He believes the plan provides the opportunity to improve both the natural habitats of the area and access for residents.

He said the Cut, which runs through the site from the Thames, ‘is a very straight, narrow and deep channel and when it rains heavily the water flushes out over the side and floods the entire site and it makes access very difficult’.

The Environment Agency-funded technical design for the wetlands, which was presented by Dr David Gasca, a hydrologist at Atkins-SNC Lavalin, will be completed by spring.

“How we would then do the digging of the wetlands, that is another matter, and we are working on that,” Mr Mills said.

Heritage lottery funding is one option, and other avenues are being looked at.

The 86 acres added to Ockwells Park were bought for £725,000 by the council in 2016 to be used as a public open space.

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