Bongate weir (also known as Jubilee weir) on the River Eden currently poses a significant risk to the safety of river users.
An independent structural assessment of the weir carried out in 2019 found it to be in poor condition.
Parts of it are unstable and in danger of collapse. There are also large holes in the weir and dangerous currents in the pool below.
Since 2001, there have been two serious accidents involving children getting stuck in the weir.
Weirs are unsafe places and the structures change how the water flows. Read more about weirs and their impact on the river.
Concerns have been raised by the public for something to be done to make it safe. Several local organisations, also concerned at the risk to public safety posed by the weir, have formed a group, called the Bongate Weir Group to identify a permanent solution.
Members of this group include Cumbria County Council, Eden District Council, Eden Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England. They have been working with Appleby Town Council and others to understand the issue and find a solution.
The group analysed all possible options and concluded that only full removal of the weir would remove any possibility of future accidents involving the weir’s structure.
None of the Bongate Weir Group partners has statutory responsibility for looking after the weir, so if the general feeling of the local community is to keep the weir, then it will be left to continue to deteriorate and eventually collapse.
Bongate weir (also known as Appleby and Jubilee weir) on the River Eden in Appleby is located near to Jubilee bridge. It is 81.6m long, 7m wide and has a maximum height of 1.4m.
The visible parts of the weir probably date from the 18th/19th century, with modern repairs.
Who owns the weir?
The liabilities for the weir, including those relating to health and safety, sit with the owner of the weir and are not changed due to a change of use of the weir (legal advice given to EA, Jan 2020). The weir ownership is split between two landowners. Only one owner is known but the Group is searching for the other one.
None of the organisations that make up the Bongate Weir Group has statutory responsibility for the weir or its ongoing maintenance.
Background and current state of the weir
To help understand the historical context, the impact on flooding and the structural integrity of the weir, the Environment Agency commissioned three reports. Below is a summary of the findings.
Copies of the full reports are available upon request, please contact Alasdair Brock at Eden Rivers Trust on 01768 866788.
Structural (Bridgeway Consulting Ltd.) 2019
The left-hand bank (Castle side) is in relatively good order though water overtops in some locations.
In the centre, the weir is being undermined by the pressure of water channelling around and below the broken fish pass. As a result, a large amount of stone is washing out, creating large, dangerous voids.
The broken pieces of the concrete fish pass are now scattered around the riverbed.
On the right-hand bank (Bongate Mill side) of the weir, the concrete on the weir crest (from previous repair works) is extensively cracked and sections are missing. Water is seeping through where reinforcing mesh is exposed.
Fast-flowing water is being sucked through a number of small holes in the weir.
Hydromorphic Assessment (Aecom) 2018
Removal or modification of the weir will have no discernible impact on local and downstream flooding.
Heritage assets and their significance (Durham University) 2018
By the 19th century, the weir was recorded with the Grade II listed Bongate Mill.
The weir was connected to a sluice gate at the north end and was used to channel water to power the mill wheels.
The mill (and by association, the weir as it falls within the curtilage of the Grade 11 listed mill) was listed in 1951 but by this time the mill was no longer in use, the wheels removed and the weir redundant.
Full removal of the weir is the only option that offers a long-term solution to:
If there is public support for the removal of the weir, money has been identified by the Environment Agency as part of the Cumbria River Restoration programme for Eden Rivers Trust to undertake its removal in Summer 2020. It is likely to cost £80,000 – £100,000.
What will removal look like?
We appreciate that full removal will mean the loss of an historical structure from the river and town landscape, however, as part of the funding we want to:
What about the landscape?
The members of the Bongate Weir Group came together because each organisation feels it has a duty of care to the safety of the public and wants to see a permanent solution to the safety issue.
The group believes that doing nothing is not a responsible option as:
There isn’t any money available to fix the weir.
Although repairing or partially removing the weir would fix the current damage and keep the feature, it does not address fundamental issues around long-term safety, maintenance and liability.
The Bongate Weir Group would like to find out whether there is public support for the proposal to remove Bongate Weir before submitting a planning application.
If the proposed removal goes ahead, we would like to involve the community in producing interpretation about the weir. If you have a story or information that you would like to share about the weir with us, please sign up at the drop-in event or give us your name and contact details in the online survey form below so that we can contact you at a later stage.
Please come along to our drop-in public information event on 29th January, 12-7 pm at Appleby Public Hall.
If you are unable to attend the event on the 29th January, you can also comment from the 20th January via: