Improving the river in Luton

We’re working in Manor Road Park to improve the environment of the River Lea 

The challenge

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 way the river flows means that silt covers the natural gravels, making it harder for fish and other creatures to thrive. The high walls separate the river from the floodplain which can put other areas of the town at risk of flooding. Above all, the river is unwelcoming and hidden from the local communities who could be enjoying a rich natural environment.


How we are improving the river

We worked with the Environment Agency and Luton Borough Council to agree on a proposal to improve the habitat and flow of the river. It will help to:

  • Improve the biodiversity value of the river, that is, it will support a better variety of plants and creatures in the water and on the river banks.

  • Help the river to stay healthy when water flows are low and it will reduce the local risk of flooding when flows are stronger.

  • Make the river safer for everyone.

  • Provide a pleasant and usable space for local people


What we've done:

  • Removed the concrete river bed and the concrete steps, tarmac path, concrete wall and metal railings;

  • Make 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 and will not be at risk from erosion or collapse.

  • Removed some overhanging branches from the large trees, this will allow more light to reach the river and encourage more plant growth in the river and at the water's edge.


Afterwards we will re-connect the river to the surrounding environment by removing the existing concrete channel that confines the river along the edge of the park behind iron railings.

To enable these works we will be re-locating the children’s playground to create the space to meander the river through the park.

The project is nearly finished and can already see the benefits of this work, see the before and after photos below.

Manor Road Park Before Works Started Manor Road Park Construction Works May 2018

The works will remain fenced off for a further 3 weeks after completion to enable the vegetation to establish.

We hope to have an opening ceremony during the ‘Love your River’ week (date to be confirmed). If you have any queries concerning this project please contact Jane Everett the Project Manager on