BEAVERS are set to be reintroduced to Cumbria as part of an enclosed scientific trial.

An application from landowners at the Lowther Estate, near Penrith, has been approved by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). It is expected the trial will begin in March or April. Another application at an undisclosed south Cumbria location is also pending approval.

Beavers are a native species to Britain but became extinct on these shores in the 16th century.

According to David Bliss, CEO of Lowther Estates, the trial will be a way to assess how the animals can “restore small, modified streams within a farmed landscape” and will be carried out according to Defra’s conditions.

“We are delighted that the Lowther Estate has been granted a licence for this exciting project and look forward to finding out the results from this scientific trial,” he said.

“There have been trials elsewhere in the country, but this trial will look specifically at how beavers fare in an upland environment.”

The Lowther Estate is part of the Cumbria Beaver Group (CBG), which also contains the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Eden Rivers Trust.

CBG chairman David Harpley said it was “great news” that Eurasian beavers - coming from the River Tay catchment in Scotland - would be returning to the county.

“Evidence from trials elsewhere in the UK shows that they offer great benefits, including flood risk alleviation, improved water quality, habitat creation for other wildlife and increased revenue for the local economy through nature-based tourism,” he said.

“We’re looking into the feasibility of setting up a camera to live stream the beaver activity once they’ve been released. This would mean people could watch them close-up from the comfort of their laptop or phone.”

A Cumbria Wildlife Trust spokeswoman said the CBG recognised that, “in some circumstances”, beavers could produce impacts such as “localised flooding and burrowing”, but added the group supported the use of “mitigation and management techniques to prevent these becoming a problem.”

She said any reintroduction of free-living beaver populations should be “well planned, well managed” and have “the support of the local community”.