Reopening the river Wye through High Wycombe town centre is not a “quick fix” to improve the dwindling High Street, the councillor leading the ambitious project has insisted – as it is revealed it could cost £3 million.

Cllr Hugh McCarthy, the district councillor who has tirelessly worked to make the idea come to life, said reopening the river will have long-lasting benefits for the town centre and its economy.

But an EU pot of cash which could have offered millions of pounds towards getting the project off the ground will have to be ruled out – because Brexit will have happened before bidding for the money can get underway.

The “radical” idea to reopen up the important waterway through the town centre was originally tipped to cost around £2 million – but latest estimates put the cost closer to £3 million.

In a report to the improvement and review commission on Wednesday night, it was revealed that only a “small number” of funding options are available for the project – with most of the money having to come from the council’s capital funds or through community infrastructure levy (CIL) contributions.

And the report suggests that a crowdfunding campaign could provide small amounts of extra cash.

Cllr McCarthy said if the river improvements are made, the local economy could see £7 in return for every £1 spent on the project – a “significant statistic”.

He said: “At the moment, people do not go into the town to experience it, they go there for shopping and then they drive home again.”

The river 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.

The plan to reopen the river has been given the thumbs up by the High Wycombe society.

And other district councillors have also supported the idea.

Cllr Ray Farmer said WDC should not get “hung up” on the financial implications of the project.

He said: “All people seem to care about is the money but no-one is thinking about how much it will make the town more pleasant.

“It will be a lot nicer and the financial gain will come, even if it takes a few years.”

Former mayor Cllr Brian Pearce added: “I think it is an absolutely marvellous idea.

“In the 1960s, concrete was king - we concreted over everything. Luckily, we have now come to our senses.”

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