Beavers are being reintroduced in LONDON

Beavers are to return to an urban part of London for the first time in 400 years.

The rodents were once hunted to near extinction in the UK.

But now they are to return to a built-up area of the London Borough of Ealing in a project led by local community and conservation groups to demonstrate their benefits to people and nature.

Beavers have been reintroduced to the UK since 2008 in a bid to restore natural environments.

Paradise Fields, a 10 hectare (24 acre) area of woodland and wetlands in urban Greenford in the north of Ealing has undergone feasibility studies and a licence application to Natural England supported by Beaver Trust.

The site will be open to the public for 'safaris' after the beavers are brought in from Tayside, Scotland, expected to be this autumn.

The project is a collaboration between Ealing Wildlife Group, Citizen Zoo, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Ealing Council with support from Beaver Trust.

Dr Sean McCormack, vet and chairman of Ealing Wildlife Group says: 'Many people assume beavers to be a wilderness species, in fact we've just forgotten how closely we used to live alongside them.

'We're so excited to study how beavers interact with an urban river catchment and, crucially, with urban communities.'

Beavers are considered 'ecosystem engineers' and in recent years have been recognised as helping to prevent flooding by slowing water flow in times of high rainfall and mitigate drought by holding more water on the land.

The project is hoped to prevent flooding downstream around Greenford Station and surrounding streets.