Walking routes and woodlands along the River Wear could soon be blooming with new species of wildflowers and trees, thanks to ambitious plans to improve the area’s biodiversity.

Planners at Sunderland City Council have tasked a team of woodland management experts with improving biodiversity and retaining and protecting high quality trees along the city’s riverside.

Spanning 13.7 hectares and a water space of 5.3 hectares, the project will be the first stage of establishing Riverside Park, an area of high-quality green space, woodland and nature walks at the heart of the Riverside Sunderland.

Wrapping around the proposed new urban communities of Vaux, Farringdon Row, Ayres Quay, Sheepfolds and Bonnersfield, Galleys Gill will sit at the heart of the park and will be home to a range of facilities, including proposals for a children’s playground and skate park, enhanced natural habitat including woodland and wildflower meadows.

Moreover, the reintroduction of native tree species, wildlife and selective thinning of trees will also enable tree species of higher quality to achieve their full maturity and help create a more diverse ground flora, which will be key to ensuring the area thrives as a natural habitat for generations to come.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Improving biodiversity in Britain’s urban towns and cities will play a key role in helping the nation reach its target of achieving Net Zero by 2050 and we are delighted that Riverside Park will be helping reconnect the people of Sunderland with their natural environment.

“From wildflowers to native tree species and wildlife, conserving and improving our natural environment will not only help tackle climate change but also improve health and wellbeing, reverse biodiversity loss and stimulate the economy by supporting nature-based enterprises, production and employment opportunities.”

Vegetation clearance is scheduled to take place over the next two months as part of the first steps on the journey of delivering Riverside Park, with council chiefs aiming to complete the work outside of bird nesting season.

The first steps will be to remove areas of scrub, self-seeded saplings, invasive species and any trees that are deemed to be dangerous.

The second stage will be to remove larger trees where necessary to make the improvements.

The work also aims to make the landscape more attractive, inviting residents and visitors to the city and reducing anti-social behaviour, while helping to facilitate future development of the site in line with the Riverside Masterplan.

Cllr Miller added: “Riverside Sunderland will create over 1,000 smart, eco-friendly homes across a number of new neighbourhoods surrounding Riverside Park and, alongside the community orchards and gardens being established on the estates, will see the project become one of the UK’s largest sustainable urban regeneration projects.

“As a council, we made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 and the scores of ongoing developments across the city, such as Riverside Sunderland, will play a key role in helping us realise our ambitions.

“From heating commercial and residential developments using renewable energy generated from the former Wearmouth Colliery site to establishing a multi-million-pound renewable Microgrid to power the gigafactory being developed at the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), Sunderland is a city at the forefront of the fight against climate change and we are delighted to be leading on so many world-leading projects.”

The Riverside Sunderland Masterplan – unveiled in 2020 – supports the delivery of 1,000 new homes and 1 million square feet of employment space on land spanning both sides of the River Wear and Riverside Park will play a pivotal role in ensuring the site lives up to its green aspirations and helps the city achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

For more information on Riverside Sunderland, visit: https://www.riversidesunderland.com/ or follow @RiversideSund