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New contract secures Walthamstow Wetlands future for five years

Thursday 3rd December 2020 12:42

television screens at walthamstow wetlands visitor centre

The future of Thames Water’s Walthamstow Wetlands as a public nature reserve has been secured for at least another five years after Waltham Forest Council today awarded the management services contract for the site to London Wildlife Trust.

The new contract will begin on February 1 and will see LWT’s role expanded to oversee operation of the on-site visitor centre and café, in addition to its current work delivering outdoor and educational activities and managing the nature reserve.

Walthamstow Wetlands is also a fully operational Thames Water facility supplying clean water to 3.5 million Londoners. A wide variety of wildlife calls the site home, including birds such as kingfishers, swifts and peregrine falcons alongside rare bats and insects.

Walthamstow Wetlands has played an important role during lockdown. Between March and July 2020 over 330,000 visits were recorded, an increase of over 140 per cent compared to the same period the previous year, as people exercised and enjoyed the fresh air to help them live safe and healthy lives.

Sarah Bentley, Thames Water CEO, said: “Since Walthamstow Wetlands opened in 2017, it has been great to see our site become such an important part of the community and people’s lives. During the two lockdowns this year more people than ever have visited this very special local green space. 

“They have been supported by the dedicated on-site team and volunteers, who have done a brilliant job of managing the extra numbers and have also been taking time to talk to visitors who may have been feeling down in these difficult times. 

“We’re looking forward to continuing to work in partnership with London Borough of Waltham Forest and London Wildlife Trust to provide a safe haven for nature and also for all visitors."

The LWT contract will secure the future of Walthamstow Wetlands as an attraction for visitors for at least the next five years, with an option to extend for a further five years as part of the contract. The council has committed £2.86million to support Walthamstow Wetlands over this period, ensuring residents can easily access this incredible nature reserve on their doorstep to help fulfil a healthy life locally. 

Walthamstow Wetlands opened to the public for the first time in October 2017 thanks to a partnership between Waltham Forest Council, LWT and Thames Water with support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). A total of £10.8million was invested in the restoration of the site, with £4.47million from the lottery, £1.8million from Thames Water, £1.8million from Waltham Forest Council and a further £750,000 from the Greater London Assembly.

Gordon Scorer, chief executive at London Wildlife Trust said: “It is fantastic to be able to take up a new and expanded role at Walthamstow Wetlands and continue our partnership with Waltham Forest Council and Thames Water. 

“London Wildlife Trust has already delivered over 4,000 volunteering days, welcomed over 5000 schoolchildren and over 18,000 people in our education, conservation, ecology and visitor engagement activities.

“This new contract will allow us to continue our work engaging with the local community and providing a way for people to engage meaningfully with this unique operational and ecologically important green space.

“Alongside the council’s commitment to provide £2.86 million of support over ten years to Walthamstow Wetlands, London Wildlife Trust will be raising the funds to cover the remaining operating costs of £600,000 per year. Our new expanded role on site overseeing the operation of the visitor centre and café is an important addition which will us develop a sustainable revenue towards these costs, as well as increased fundraising activity within the community.”

Cllr Paul Douglas, cabinet member for culture, said: “Opening up this spectacular site for the public to enjoy is one of our proudest achievements in Waltham Forest. We’ve been able to work with some fantastic partners on this project and I’d like to thank everyone who’s been involved for their effort.

“Seeing the delight on the faces of young visitors as they learn about our natural world and the environment at the wetlands is a real pleasure. We must do all we can to protect this vital site and its wildlife for future generations to enjoy, and I know that the London Wildlife Trust are the ideal group to succeed.”