Talks over collapse of Newlay Weir continue – amid calls for independent investigation

Damaged: Newlay Weir in February. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Discussions on the future of historic Newlay Weir – which was partly destroyed in recent storms – are under way between the Environment Agency and Leeds City Council.

The Grade II listed weir, which dates back to the 17th century, partially collapsed over the weekend of the 6 February following high river levels caused by Storm Christoph.

A fish pass is currently being built at Newlay Weir. Photo: Mark Stevenson

A recent Environment Agency (EA) newsletter told local residents that a number of contributory factors had led to the damage.

It said that concerns by residents that damage had been caused due to the construction of a fish pass next to the weir had ‘not been established’. The newsletter added:

“The extreme high flows encountered during Storm Christoph were ultimately responsible for the damage to the weir. There are a number of contributory factors, including the age of the weir, damage caused by debris striking the weir as part of the storm, existing damage identified below the water line and ageing of the internal wooden structure.

“A modern weir has the design life of 50 to 200 years when being maintained. The weir at Newlay is more than 300 years old.

“Whether construction of the fish pass had any impact has not been established.

“A single underlying reason is unlikely to be determined and the flooding experienced at the end of January and early February remains the primary cause. We will work to stabilise the weir to prevent further damage. Discussions are under way with Leeds City Council around the future of the structure.”

Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew and Horsforth councillor Jonathan Taylor (Cons) met online with the Environment Agency on Friday. Cllr Taylor said that they wanted to get to the bottom of why the damage happened and who would take responsibility for it:

“In the strongest terms we asked that a third party, with no connection to EA or their contractors working on site, be commissioned to conduct their own investigation and produce their own report on the collapse. They committed to taking this request back to their senior leadership team.

“A third party report is necessary, we feel, as the EA are only liable for repairs for damage they have caused. There has been a comment previously that they are ‘marking their own homework’ and – by relying on reports absolving projects by themselves and their contractor – it certainly feels like this is the case.

“Stuart has discussed this with the Minister responsible already and will be updating them again following this meeting.”

Cllr Taylor added:

“Liability for the weir hasn’t been established, however they did say they were in discussions with Leeds City Council and landowners who have some ownership.”

As previously reported, work has started on creating a fish pass at the side of the weir, as part of a £2.7 million project taking place at four different parts of the Aire to allow salmon to swim up the river for the first time in 150 years. Some of the equipment to build the fish pass was also washed into the river during the floods.

The weir sits on the boundary between Bramley & Stanningley and Horsforth council wards. Cllr Kevin Ritchie (Lab, Bramley and Stanningley) said:

“Bramley & Stanningley ward members brought [the damage] to the attention of our risk management team, who were quickly in touch with the Environment Agency. They have promised a solution and are still working out what impact it will have on work on stage two of the Flood Alleviation Scheme, which is due to be carried out in that area in 2022.

“The Environment Agency are producing regular updates for members and local residents, which is welcome.”

Damage to the weir was first reported on Monday 1 February, when Environment Agency contractors, working on the installation of a new fish pass, reported a 2m slump in the weir. River flows were very high at this time, making it difficult for engineers to assess the amount of damage.

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  1. Absolutely unbelievable comments form the environment agency. They must think that local people are morons, when in reality they are the dimwitted ones.

    That lovely old weir is 300 years old. It has survived 2 world wars and every bit of the worst flooding Leeds has ever seen. And then it just so happens to be destroyed very shortly after they begin unbelievably invasive work, drilling right into it?! What a coincidence!

    They certainly do need a third party investigator to look at this, as simply looking at a huge mess you have caused and then saying “it wasn’t me” rarely even works for naughty 3-year olds, so I don’t see why we should allow the Environment Agency to get away with it.

  2. Good to see at least someone is willing to hold Environment Agency and council to account over this. The EA must think we’re daft.

  3. Great to see that local MP and councillors are listening to their constituents and holding the Environmental Agency to account. An impartial investigation needs to take place ASAP because of course the contractors involved in this work and the Environmental Agency cannot be impartial. It seems quite obvious that this level of water, even if it was caused by recent heavy storms, going over a much smaller concentrated section of this weir has caused this as well as heavy drilling into the structure of the weir to produce a fish pass that may or may not result in salmon coming up the river again. Please clean up your act Environment Agency and look after what is already there and stop trying to cover your tracks when you have directly damaged this area due to your invasive work. It’s your fault, you are responsible for this piece of history being damaged and destroying the area for wildlife that already make their homes there.


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