Case study:River Don Restoration project

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Location: 54° 57' 0", -1° 30' 16"
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Project overview

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Status In progress
Project web site
Themes Economic aspects, Fisheries, Flood risk management, Habitat and biodiversity, Hydromorphology, Land use management - agriculture, Monitoring, Social benefits, Spatial planning, Water quality, Urban
Country England
Main contact forename Shonah
Main contact surname Holland
Main contact user ID User:Sjholland
Contact organisation Environment Agency
Contact organisation web site http://
Partner organisations Tyne Rivers Trust, Wild Trout Trust, Northumbrian Water, Sunderland City Council, Gateshead Council, South Tyneside Council, NEEEP, Durham Wildlife Trust
Parent multi-site project
This is a parent project
encompassing the following
File:Map showing Don Catchment
Map showing River Don catchment

Project summary

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The River Don restoration project was initiated after the River Don was identified as a priority area for work by the Tyne Catchment Partnership. The waterbody is failing for Water Framework Directive and there are a number of large scale developments planned within the catchment which offered and opportunity for restoration.

The Don Catchment Partnership was set up in 2016, when a partnership vision for the Don was prepared. In 2016 when a need for a vision was identified there were 3 main areas of focus which were ‘water quality’, ‘flood risk’ and ‘Geomorphology/Ecology’. The need for a river restoration project which could encompass all 3 of these elements provided the basis of the vision.

In 2017 the River Restoration Centre were commissioned via a partnership project to develop a proposed River Restoration design for the Don. In addition to the Wild Trout Trust developed a report to identify issues relating to fish passage.

The River Restoration proposals have since been used to influence Highways England and the Planning Inspectorate for a major upgrade to the A19. As a result of this Highways England have allocated £950,000 to river restoration, which is due to be delivered.

The proposals have been used to influence a major development known as the ‘Follingsby Enterprise Zone’ which has the focus of developing economic growth. The project team worked closely with 3 Local Authorities to develop policies in the local plan which was used to safeguard a 50m strip either side of the River for river restoration purposes. This has now been embedded as a condition within the planning application for this site, thus delivering 11km of River Restoration.

The proposals have also been used to influence a major development known as the ‘International Advanced Manufacturing Park’ (IAMP). This is a nationally significant infrastructure project which is located in a greenbelt. The project team worked with Local Authorities and the planning inspector to embed river restoration into the Development Consent Order successfully.

In addition to the above the Environment Agency has been working with the Don Catchment Partnership to deliver land management campaigns, improving fish passage and reducing misconnections within the catchment to address WFD failures for Fish Passage, Phosphate, and Heavily Modified Status.

The holistic approach to River Restoration has been used as an example in the Catchment Based Approach (CABA) urban water management workshop as well as in the ‘Water Hub’ which is looking at innovative approaches to river restoration working with Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s).

Monitoring surveys and results

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At the inception of the River Don Restoration project a need to improve confidence in the baseline data was identified. Whilst there was a significant amount of data associated with the Don we wanted to increase confidence levels in the data. In order to achieve this a baseline ecology study was carried out, as well as a baseline geomorphology report. SONDES (constant water monitoring equipment were installed) to gather baseline data in 2016. This gave a more in depth analysis of the condition of the river.

Since the baseline monitoring was carried out a number of river restoration interventions have been delivered. This has mainly included re-naturalisation of the river, improving fish passage and working with landowners to improve nutrient management in the catchment. Further river restoration will be delivered over the next 12 months, with significant levels of restoration to be delivered via opportunities presented though development.

Following on from this in 2020/21 further monitoring requirements have been identified through the Environment Agency’s Strategic Monitoring Review (SMR) which sets out localised monitoring requirements. In addition to the water quality monitoring an ecological and geomorphological assessment will be carried out to assess improvements and benefit realisation.

Lessons learnt

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• Planning process – Getting in at early enough stage in order to help developer understand how River Restoration could benefit them & their site. Setting up early meetings with dev & work with Local Authorities assisted with this. • Permitting process - understanding this complex process was a challenge and helping developers to apply. Engaging the appropriate people helped with this. • Watervoles – Concern over temporary damage to WaterVole habitat. Short term loss/long term gain • Land ownership – challenges leading to restriction in where River Restoration could take place. Overcame this issue by presenting case studies from River Restoration Centre website & talking with developers consultants who were designing development sites.

Image gallery


Catchment and subcatchment


Name River Don
WFD water body codes GB103023075690
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name River Don from source to tidal limit
Pre-project morphology HMWB Poor status
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology HMWB Good potential
Heavily modified water body Yes
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present Yes
Invasive species present Yes
Species of interest Water Vole
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started 2016/04/01
Works started 2017/04/01
Works completed
Project completed
Total cost category 100 - 500 k€
Total cost (k€)
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources WEIF, Highways England, Developer contributions, ENGO in knd

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design 50 - 100 k€ River Restoration Centre
Stakeholder engagement and communication 50 - 100 k€ Tyne Rivers Trust
Works and works supervision 50 - 100 k€ Tyne Rivers Trust
Post-project management and maintenance
Monitoring 10 - 50 k€ Environement Agency

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure Urban, Land Management, HMWB, Water Company
Hydromorphology HMWB
Biology Fish
Physico-chemical Phosphate
Other reasons for the project


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications Bank reprofiling
Floodplain / River corridor Fish passage improvements
Planform / Channel pattern
Non-structural measures
Management interventions Misconnections campaign, Highways England drainage, agricultural land managment, river restoration via development
Social measures (incl. engagement)


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Channel pattern/planform Yes Yes Yes Yes No No change
Continuity of sediment transport Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Improvement
Quantity & dynamics of flow Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Structure & condition of riparian/lake shore zones Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Improvement
Width & depth variation Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Improvement
Substrate conditions Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Improvement

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Fish Yes Yes No Yes Yes Awaiting results
Invertebrates Yes Yes No Yes Yes Awaiting results
Macrophytes Yes Yes No Yes No Awaiting results

Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Nutrient concentrations Yes Yes No Yes Yes Awaiting results
PH Yes Yes No Yes No Awaiting results
Temperature Yes Yes No Yes No Awaiting results
Oxygen balance Yes Yes No Yes No Awaiting results

Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Channel bed morphology. Yes Yes No Yes Yes Improvement
European otter Yes Yes No Yes Yes Awaiting results
Flood risk management Yes Yes No Yes Yes Awaiting results
Public Accessibility Yes Yes Yes Yes No Awaiting results
No No No No No

Monitoring documents

Additional documents and videos

Additional links and references

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Supplementary Information

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