New Water Environment Grant scheme

A new grants scheme is being developed by Defra.  Full details are yet to be revealed, but we received the attached briefing note in early December 2017.

We will of course keep in close contacts with our Catchment Coordinator at the Environment Agency, Rob Carr, to ensure that Tyne Catchment Partnership is in the best position to bid for funds for the Tyne when the scheme goes live in 2018.

Defra briefing note November 2017

Ouseburn Co-ordination meeting

We held a co-ordination meeting on the 16th March 2015.  Like a mini-conference, the aim was to bring together many of the existing projects operating in this area, towards a joint shared understanding.

Ouseburn Co-ordination Meeting notes

We had presentations on the following topics:

  • The Sustainable Sewerage Strategy by Martin Kennedy of Northumbrian Water
  • Developments, Proposals and Opportunities to influence / SUDS and new developments by Andrew Holmes of North Tyneside Council
  • The Integrated Plan by John Robinson and Kelly Graham of Newcastle City Council
  • The Water Framework Directive ‘reasons for not attaining good status’ and the Waterbody Action Plan by Rob Carr of the Environment Agency
  • The Evidence & Measures initiative by Abi Mansley of the Tyne Rivers Trust
  • The Rivers Restoration recommendations by Maria Hardy of the Environment Agency
  • The Living Waterways project by Steve Lowe of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust

Ouseburn Evidence and Measures Project

The Ouseburn Evidence and Measures project is an initiative to improve a complex urban waterbody. The Ouseburn is a major tributary of the Tyne.  It rises on agricultural land near Newcastle Airport before flowing through urban Newcastle and North Tyneside, before it reaches the River Tyne some 15km later.  Nearly 166,000 people live in the catchment in over 70,000 households.

The river is classified as at Moderate Status under the EU Water Framework Directive due to high Phosphate levels.  These have a measured impact on the river’s ecological health (invertebrates, fish and diatoms).  The river has many and complicated or suspected causes behind this status, including sewage discharge, agricultural sources, drainage from housing and other industrial or urban areas.  Because of these varied potential sources, and the diffuse nature of many of them, it has been challenging to identify appropriate actions to address the phosphate issues.

The Evidence and Measures approach

The method interrogates existing data rather than commissioning new surveys.  It is designed for ‘difficult’ catchments – where the actions needed are unclear, and there is no or little consensus on what action or location to tackle first.  Tyne Rivers Trust identified this as a useful approach to the Ouseburn, with the added potential benefits of bringing together current Ouseburn initiatives and projects under a co-ordinated umbrella and engaging communities in delivering outcomes.

Stakeholders at the Measures workshop
Stakeholders at the Measures workshop
Stakeholders at the Measures workshop
Stakeholders at the Measures workshop

The project covered the whole of the Ouseburn catchment with a focus on phosphate.  Over a 10 month period all the existing datasets and information about phosphate inputs were gathered and analysed to give as complete and detailed picture as possible.  This included pollution data, river flow data and information about consented discharges into the river.  In May 2015 this information was scrutinised by the partners at an ‘Evidence’ workshop, with the data broken down into six manageable reaches.  Building on the shared understanding and impetus gained, the ‘Measures’ workshop (involving the same partners and held a few weeks later) a series of actions was agreed, including:

  • Engagement with rural land managers and follow-up investigations / joint-agency work around manure and nutrient management, together with assessments of stream bed sediments and adjacent field soil in specific rural locations and priority tributaries
  • A joined-up approach between Local Authorities, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water Group towards development sites in the Ouseburn catchment
  • Investigations at specific locations for housing and sewer misconnections, together with increased monitoring and new logger locations.

Next steps

The partners wish to see the actions identified for the Ouseburn through to delivery.  For many actions this is just ‘business as usual’ with a more Ouseburn focus, though other larger actions will require funding, investment or a change of policy.

We’d also like to build on our learning from this project.  Some funding has already been identified in the Environment Agency’s Medium Term Plan for delivery of Ouseburn-specific measures and applying this forensic approach to the River Team and the River Don.  Thinking even bigger, the same approach could work in the wider north-east region on similar ‘difficult’ rivers.  We already know how we could be more efficient and effective, plus the stakeholders already have a shared understanding of the process.  We’d like to bring and retain the evidence analysis knowledge and skills within the region, which would reduce costs as well as developing local ownership and synergies.


The Ouseburn Evidence & Masures project was funded from multiple sources, which speaks volumes about the joint commitment to see agreement and focused action on the ground.  Funding came from Defra, Northumbrian Water Group, the Environment Agency, the Community Foundation, and from Defra’s Catchment Based Approach (CaBA) mentoring fund.  Significant in-kind contributions, by way of staff time, were given by Tyne Rivers Trust, pjHYDRO and rUKhydro.  All partners donated time through staff attendance at both workshops.

Past meetings of the Tyne Catchment Partnership

We thought it would be useful to have all in one place the details of the past Tyne Catchment Partnership meetings.

The notes taken are here to download as well as a brief summary below.

Partners discussing the Tyne Catchment Partnership structure proposals
Partners discussing the Tyne Catchment Partnership structure proposals
  • 6th May 2014 in Newton & Bywell Community Hall – The first meeting of the Partnership, we had presentations about the Tyne Catchment Plan as well as a proposed partnership structure. This involved a number of ‘working groups’ on specific themes, as well as an overall partnership ‘steering group’.  The recommendation was not to have a formal structure, but to meet as needed, to avoid duplication with other partnerships.  Minutes 6th May 2014
  • 9th October 2014 in Newton & Bywell Community Hall – The meeting was called because Catchment Partnerships had been asked by the Environment Agency to identify project ideas for potential funding in 2015/16 financial year.  First there was an update since May’s meeting and the emerging ‘Gap Analysis’ of the Tyne Catchment Plan.  The main item was to consider possible projects from the Waterbody Actions Plans with an urban focus that might fit the funding criteria.  The partners steered priorities about projects, should any funding become available.  Minutes 9th Oct 2014
  • 10th December 2014 in Gateshead Civic Centre – The ‘Gap Analysis’ of the Tyne Catchment Plan was considered, by having three groups around the room (Main Tyne, North Tyne, South Tyne) and discussions based around a number of issues base maps / projects and actions overlays.  Two priority themes for the whole catchment emerged : a) mines and minewaters b) complex urban waterbodies with multiple failures.  We also revisited the topic of the partnership’s structure.  Minutes 10th Dec 2014
  • 6th March 2015 at Howdon Sewage Treatment Works – We had presentations from the North Pennines AONB Partnership on the Peatlands Programme, from the Tyne Rivers Trust on the Ouseburn Evidence and Measures project, and from the Environment Agency on the Abandoned Metal Mines Project.  After some ‘pop-up’ news around the room, we had a tour of the Sewage Treatment Works.  Minutes 6th March 2015
  • 16th April 2015 in Gateshead Civic Centre – The meeting was called because Catchment Partnerships had been asked by the Environment Agency to submit project ideas to the Medium Term Plan.  A total of 23 projects were discussed.  Similar projects were co-ordinated together, with a ‘lead’ identified, in order to meet the deadline.  This resulted in a well thought-through submission to the Environment Agency by the end of April.  Minutes 16th April 2015
  • 16th September 2015 in Blaydon Library – Watch this space!


River facts and New Year challenge?

How about swimming the length of the Tyne from your local pool?

The Swimfit website we recently came across allows you to set yourself that very challenge!

Which prompted a rummage around in the office for some Tyne River facts, in case anybody wanted a New Year challenge!

  • The tidal part of the Tyne, the Estuary, is 32km.  So, for example, if you swim in the pool at Hexham (which is 25m lengths) you could do 25 lengths every week for the year and you would achieve that goal!  Brilliant!
  • How about a team of you adding up your joint distances?  There is actually very little difference in taking on a challenge to (virtually!) swim to the source of the South Tyne or to the source of the North Tyne.  The South Tyne source to sea is 120.7km (so as a team you’d need to do nearly 93 lengths a week) and the North Tyne source to sea is 124.9km (or just over 96 lengths a week).
  • But the biggest distance of all would be the equivalent of swimming from the source of the Rede to sea – 131.5km – which means over 101 lengths a week!
  • Don’t even think about the boundary around the whole watershed, 390km; or the total length of all the rivers and streams in the Tyne, 4,408km!

Anyone setting themselves a Tyne swimming challenge, get in touch, we’d like to hear from you!

Co-ordinating a Tyne Catchment Partnership

Greetings from the Tyne Catchment Partnership Co-ordinator!  I have been in the role since April, working 1 day a week on the Tyne Catchment Partnership.

The first task was to get together all the potential partners and test different ideas for a partnership structure.  This meeting happened in early May, held in the modern Newton & Bywell Community Hall with its great views over the Tyne valley.  The suggestion was to have a “steering group” which would meet perhaps 2-3 times a year, with one representative from each sector in the partnership.  There would also be a number of “working groups” or “delivery groups” on specific themes.

However, there was little appetite for a formal structure along those lines, although there were good ideas about various working groups.  Instead the recommendation was for the Tyne Rivers Trust – as Catchment Partnership host – to take a lead.

The next step is therefore to update many of the projects (current and proposed) in the Tyne Catchment Plan and plot these partnerships on a map.  We are planning to assess to what extent various projects address the key issues for the Tyne.  The result will be a clearer picture about where there are geographical gaps in projects and initiatives – where there are issues that need action – and an overview about priorities.  Work has started on this straight away and the aim is to reconvene all the Tyne Catchment Partners in late autumn to have that overview.

An exciting project that has come out of this is the opportunity to look closely at one waterbody – The Ouseburn – with an Evidence & Measures approach.  This approach is a tried and tested way to solve problems on particularly urban waterbodies that have multiple, complex problems.  Rather than commissioning new studies or new data, the approach is to gather together all existing sources of information – including old data going back a few decades where possible – into an evidence pack.  This helps all the organisations involved highlight the most likely causes of failure at an Evidence Workshop – the “most likely culprits” affecting water quality.  Having reached that agreement, a few weeks later, a Measures Workshop works on agreeing actions between all those organisations.  This approach could work well on a number of waterbodies within the catchment, so I am also enthusiastically advocating the idea at every available opportunity.  (If I see you, prepare yourself!)

It ties in well with the Blue Green Cities project too – combining green infrastructure improvements to river, surface and rain water management for  – Newcastle will be a demonstration city and the focus for 2015.

We are also hoping to hold another annual forum event – in early 2014 we held a joint event with the Northumberland Rivers Trust with over 50 stakeholders – in early 2015 we might also join forces with the Wear and the Tees.

More news will come soon about all these projects – in the meantime check out the useful Catchment Based Approach website.


Abi Mansley

Tyne Catchment Partnership Co-ordinator

Developing a Tyne Catchment Partnership

It has been a while since I updated this site with the latest news on our progress to develop a Tyne Catchment Partnership, but things have been moving on.

Joint Catchment Forum

In January 2014 Tyne Rivers Trust and Northumberland Rivers Trust used the seed funding provided by Defra to run a Catchment Forum, bringing together over 40 organisations and community representatives who have an interest in the Tyne and Northumberland river catchments.

The attendees represented a very wide range of stakeholder interests, and led to a useful analysis of the key problems facing our rivers and, crucially, provided advice to both Rivers Trusts as to how to develop our Catchment Partnerships.  Our independent facilitator, Iain Nixon, has written the findings up into a report, but the key conclusions were:

  • a joint ‘Catchment Forum’ held across river catchments was a useful exercise and would be worth repeating, perhaps on an annual basis, to report to/get feedback from a wider stakeholder group on shared experiences, best practice, achievements, difficulties, future risks etc.
  • each catchment would benefit from a separate steering group to lead its Catchment Partnership, coming together annually (potentially also with other North-East Partnerships)
  • the Catchment steering groups should identify the need for, and convene, working groups (issue or location-based or both) and provide a ‘champion’ for each group.  Where an issue crosses catchment boundaries then the working group should work with neighbouring Catchment Partnerships as appropriate.  Working groups would report back to the steering group as needed.

Further Funding

We have just heard that Defra intends to provide further funding to support Catchment Hosts in the financial year 14/15.  This is great news for Tyne Rivers Trust, as the Tyne Catchment Host, because it gives us the confidence that we can put in place the steps identified in the Catchment Forum and continue to support the development of a Tyne Catchment Partnership.  Tyne Rivers Trust is also very grateful to Northumbrian Water for its offer of financial assistance for the 14/15 year.

Next Steps

I will be looking to bring together key Tyne stakeholders in early April to form a Steering Group and Working Groups to take the Tyne Catchment Partnership forward.  One of the key tasks before then will be to identify the right person to drive this work forward – while I am keen to see the Catchment Partnership develop and build on the hard work that went into the Tyne Catchment Plan, I simply don’t have enough time to give this task the time it needs now that I have changed roles to become the Director of Tyne Rivers Trust.  The Tyne Catchment Partnership has huge potential to drive improvements for our rivers, but it needs the right person and adequate time resource behind it.  Now that next year’s funding situation is clearer, this has become number one priority.

Susan Mackirdy

Director, Tyne Rivers Trust

News from Defra

Late last week Defra announced the next stages of the Catchment Based Approach, the pilot initiative that led to the development of the Tyne Catchment Plan.

Defra has set out its policy framework for future catchment working (see

The key points that we at Tyne Rivers Trust have taken from this document are:

  •  Defra has stated its commitment to planning for river improvements on a catchment basis, and has put aside £1.6m of funding in the coming year to help achieve this.  Guidance on the funding and how to apply will be available soon.
  • Defra views ‘catchment partnerships’ as the main method of delivering river improvements at a manageable scale.  It envisages an independent organisation taking the lead in co‑ordinating that partnership, and only where no such lead exists will the Environment Agency take the lead role.
  • The Environment Agency’s Catchment Co-ordinators will act as the key liaison between the catchment partnerships and the EA’s own activities.
  • Defra envisages the catchment partnerships becoming self-sustaining in the longer term, but has not identified any funding streams to permit this to happen beyond the first year.

We don’t yet know whether the ‘pilot’ catchments, like the Tyne, will be eligible for the funding, and are awaiting a further announcement.  I will of course update this site as soon as we hear more.

Susan Mackirdy, Catchment Pilot Project Manager

Check out our new interactive map!

The Rivers Trust (the umbrella body for all the rivers trusts in England) has helped us develop an interactive mapping tool which shows lots of useful information about the rivers in the Tyne catchment.

The map is a great tool.  It uses up-to-date Geographical Information System tools, which allows you to zoom in and see areas in great detail, or zoom out to see the catchment as a whole.  We have added quite a few layers, including links to the projects in the Tyne Catchment Plan, volunteer groups working throughout the catchment, the current status of rivers (according to the Water Framework Directive) and more.

Check it out here and let us know what you think.

Susan Mackirdy, Project Manager