A wildlife project on the River Severn has secured almost £20 million of funding, £10.8 million of it from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £6 million from the European Union LIFE programme.

The largest project of its kind ever attempted in Europe will reopen the UK’s longest river to all fish species, many of which became extinct in the upper reaches following the installation of weirs required to power the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

The work will remove blockages and increase access to important spawning grounds for species such as the now threatened twaite and allis shad, a species favoured in the court of Henry III.

It will also benefit other critically declining species such as salmon and the European eel – all species on which the communities along the banks of the River Severn were historically built.

The project was developed as part of a three-year long collaborative partnership between the Severn Rivers Trust, the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Tony Bostock, chief executive officer of the Severn Rivers Trust, said: “This exciting project meets the aims of the Severn Rivers Trust and our partners in protecting and enhancing the Severn catchment. It will deliver multiple benefits to fisheries interests, anglers and a great many local communities along the Severn and Teme.”

Work to install the first of seven fish passes happens this year and the project will take approximately five years to complete.