AN environment Agency project to return salmon to the River Aire and create safe walking and cycling routes has been rubber-stamped by Craven District Council’s policy committee.

The Developing the Natural Aire project (DNAire) was brought to committee members on Tuesday who agreed it would benefit communities and ‘tie-in-’ with work already carried out on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

Members agreed to make available £125,000 from the council’s New Homes Bonus Infrastructure Reserve and £25,000 from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Public Art and Interpretation Project to support the development of the project.

It is one of five schemes which are being processed that relate to the development of canoe, walking and cycling along the canal and River Aire. These include work on the canal towpath, a towpath art and interpretation project, developing the Pennine Bridleway/Pennine Way corridor, the DNAire project and a canal canoe trail.

The council has worked for many months with partners and funders to develop these schemes and secure funding. The projects will cost £6,270,000.

Craven District Council’s total contribution - including the DNAire scheme - amounts to £450,000 which is seven per cent of the total investment in the area.

The DNAire project seeks to reintroduce salmon to the river by building four fish passes from Leeds to Gargrave where they will spawn in the gravel beds.

It is estimated that within the next decade, 8,000 adult salmon will be in the river.

Craven is expected to be the greatest beneficiary of this investment.

The scheme will see 10 focus points created connected by the Airedale Way. The points will become attractions and the development of a river stewardship scheme.

Councillor Simon Myers said: “This is a really exciting project of the Environment Agency to reintroduce salmon to the upper end of the River Aire.”

He said it was 200 years since salmon spawned in the river, having been driven out by pollution from industry.

“It is testament to how things have come on and that this seems to be achievable.”

The project is already creating further improvement on the river. The Wild Trout Trust and Aire River Trust have removed the Coniston Cold and Bell Busk weirs, opening up a further four-and-a-half miles of river to salmon. This is stimulating initiatives to restores and reconnect the upper Aire tributaries.

It is expected to attract revenue from anglers, who contribute £1.46 billion to the economy in England annually.