Information about the proposal to remove the damaged Bongate Weir in Appleby in 2020

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.

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About the weir

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.

damaged weir in Appleby

Middle of the weir washed away and broken pieces of the fish pass scattered downstream.

One of the underwater voids showing water being sucked in.

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.

The case for removal of the weir

Full removal of the weir is the only option that offers a long-term solution to:

  • The significant safety concerns,
  • Fully deal with issues of maintenance, repair and liability,
  • Improve the ability of fish and eels to move up the river, and
  • Remove fishing restrictions.

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:

  • Undertake archaeological surveys to discover the hidden history of the weir, and
  • Involve members of the community in a project to record stories about the weir and help create permanent interpretation marking the existence of the weir.

What about the landscape?

  • The river’s appearance will be changed, but the river will quickly look more natural,
  • The bulk of the concrete, metal and stone would be taken off-site for recycling where possible,
  • Depending on the design, some large, rounded boulders may be used in the river channel to
    create small rapids and riffles.

What happens if you just leave it alone?

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:

  • Safety will remain a major concern: the weir will continue to deteriorate and could collapse potentially causing serious accidents,
  • If it collapses, it will remain a safety hazard as sharp pieces of broken concrete and protruding metal bars will be left both at the site of the weir and downstream in the river,
  • The historic structure will remain in its damaged form … until it collapses, and
  • Public frustration will grow as nobody is doing anything about the safety concerns.

Why can’t it be fixed instead?

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.

  • Doesn’t guarantee that future accidents won’t occur,
  • The weir may still fall into disrepair over time,
  • The initial repair bill will be significantly more than the cost of full removal,
  • Repair might mean that the whole structure has to be taken down and re-built – which will be costly and may/may not be historically accurate,
  • Even with a new fish pass installed, the weir would still be a barrier to fish movement and fishing restrictions would remain in place.

What happens next?

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.

  • Talk to members of the Bongate Weir Group about the proposal to remove the weir,
  • Find out how you can get involved with helping us to create materials to mark the existence of the weir, and
  • Share your weir stories and photos.
  • Hear a short presentation and take part in a Q&A session at 12.15 pm and 6 pm.

If you are unable to attend the event on the 29th January, you can also comment from the 20th January via:

  • A Surveymonkey response form that will be live on this page from 20th January until 21st February, or
  • By completing the form in the information leaflet (download below) and either posting it to us or putting it into a Bongate Weir response form box in Appleby Library and Appleby Tourist Information Centre.

You can comment on the proposal to remove Bongate weir in the following ways:

Bongate weir information leaflet

Complete the response form in the leaflet that will also delivered to households in the Appleby area w/c 20th January

Download PDF of leaflet

Come along to the public information event

29th January 12-7pm, Appleby Public Hall

This survey has now closed

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