A “radical” £2 million idea to reopen a historic river through the centre of High Wycombe in a bid to improve tourism will be explored by councillors.

The River Wye flows for around 10 and a half miles from West Wycombe down to the River Thames in Bourne End, but much of the river in High Wycombe town centre is underground, with the likes of the Abbey Way flyover built over the top.

However, a new task and finish group - chaired by Cllr Hugh McCarthy – will be set up to look at the possibility of reopening the river through to town and turning it into a tourist attraction similar to the Berkshire town of Reading as well as improving the environment for wildlife.

Currently, the important chalk stream disappears into a culvert near Brook Street and flows along under Oxford Road and Abbey Way before it emerges again near High Wycombe fire station and the Wycombe Swan.

But Cllr McCarthy, who put the idea forward to Wycombe District Council’s Improvement and Review committee, said something needs to be done to improve the town’s image.

He said: “[The river] is the environmental and economic key to this town. If we don’t do something to this town to raise its image as a destination town rather than a necessity town, we will lose the benefit of all the good work that has already been done.

“This is something I have been living with for 15 years. I am quite passionate about this and it is a legacy project that I want to see in place. The Wye has a tremendous history and the river made the town.”

Cllr Ron Gaffney added that in towns like Reading, the river is a “major feature” of the town and as such, is more of tourist destination.

Mike Overall, chairman of the Revive the Wye group, which has spent ten years improving the river, said the town centre is currently a “massive blot” on the historic river and supported plans to look into reopening it.

He said: “The Wye has been so important to the development of High Wycombe. Reopening the river would be like the cherry on the cake of a much-wider social and community scheme which we have already started.”

Addressing councillors at the meeting, he added: “When I stopped to look at the end of the culvert this evening as I usually do, there were a dozen trout and they all seemed to be queueing there, waiting for your decision.”

Despite the huge cost, a lot of work has been done behind the scenes and Cllr McCarthy said the project is “technically feasible” but the council will need to look at “imaginative” ways of funding it.

Cllr David Johncock, planning chief at the district council, said that while he supported the idea, it had been met with “apathy” from various community groups he had discussed it with.

He said: “We are talking about roughly £2 million and it is only right and proper when we are spending taxpayers’ money to justify how we spend it and trying to justify reopening the river is actually quite difficult. There is a benefit in terms of the environment and a benefit to tourism.

“[But] if you open up the river along Oxford Road by Marks and Spencer, there are not many people who are going to benefit in terms of viewing it or the environmental benefit. It is beyond that, in the town centre, where there will be benefit but you can’t do one without the other.”

Cllr Rafiq Raja said he would prefer to see a “proper” water feature in the town, but added that if the river is reopened, he hoped to see seating added so visitors could “sit and enjoy” the area.

What do you think about the idea of reopening the River Wye through the town centre? Email bfpletters@london.newsquest.co.uk.