Fringe Box



National Trust Accepts Sole Control of Weir Towpath Restoration But Warns of Further Delay

Published on: 15 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 18 Nov, 2023

After four years of closure, vegetation has taken over the towpath by Tumbling Bay Weir. Photo Fiona Giles

By Martin Giles

Four years on from the dramatic collapse of the footbridge over Tumbling Bay Weir in Millmead, the National Trust, which owns the River Wey navigation, has accepted sole responsibility for the restoration of the towpath but it cautions that it will happen over an “extended timeframe”.

The trust now accepts that Guildford Borough Council cannot help, although the GBC lead councillor responsible says he “remains committed to working with the National Trust.”

See: Dragon Interview: Lead Councillor Explains Council Policy on Tumbling Bay Weir

The borough council, despite being once involved in maintenance of the weir and giving the NT £400,000 for the repair following the weir’s collapse, effectively washed its hands of financial responsibility earlier this year in the absence of documentation showing which organisation is liable. A major concern at GBC is avoiding further costs at a time of its severe financial predicament.

It is understood that the temporary repair, carried out in 2020 after an initial failed attempt, has a longer life expectancy than first thought. But the repair did not include a footbridge over the weir, which has left those who used the towpath route into Guildford and walkers frustrated.

The towpath was a well-used route into the town from the south as well as a popular amenity for walkers. Photo Fiona Giles

There have been several calls for a temporary bridge to be constructed as an interim solution but the NT has claimed this would be too difficult or impossible because of instability of the riverbanks. But in a change of position, the trust says “studies and surveys throughout 2024” will look “at potential options for a temporary solution”.

See: Tumbling Bay Weir ‘Not Our Responsibility’ Says GBC and Choose ‘Do Nothing’ Option

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “The talks we have been having since 2019 with Guildford Borough Council to work towards a shared approach for the Millbrook Weir bridge repairs have concluded with the National Trust now being the sole organisation taking the project forward.

“As recently reported, like many other local councils, Guildford Borough Council is experiencing financial challenges and has stated that they are unable to partner with us on replacing the bridge at Millbrook Weir.

“We understand the importance of finding a resolution to this issue and will be commissioning feasibility studies and surveys throughout 2024. The outcomes of this work will inform design proposals, as well as looking at potential options for a temporary solution.

“The results of the feasibility work will help us form a plan, including the timing of the project, which we expect to be an extended timeframe given various complexities, the consents needed and the significant cost in charitable funds.

“We will continue to keep the local community informed.”

Because of its restricted access, owner GBC has been unable to maintain Millmead Island, previously a popular picnic and recreation spot.

But Cllr Tom Hunt the, deputy leader at GBC and Lead Councillor for Regeneration, seemed unaware that the NT had given up on a “shared approach”. He said: “We’ve been in touch with the National Trust over the summer and have been seeking to arrange a discussion about their strategy and delivery of projects within the borough.

“I remain committed to working with the National Trust and look forward to the opportunity of meeting with their senior leadership soon.”

The closed-off towpath, viewed from the town direction. Photo Fiona Giles

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Responses to National Trust Accepts Sole Control of Weir Towpath Restoration But Warns of Further Delay

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    November 15, 2023 at 6:29 pm

    Another mess as GBC abandons the National Trust. The community is certainly getting what it voted for with the Lib Dems: decay and dilapidation. Let’s hope that the National Trust do now move forward and forget any further assistance from GBC. Sad.

    Paul Spooner is a former Conservative borough councillor and leader of GBC.

    • Malcolm Stanier Reply

      November 16, 2023 at 3:40 pm

      Why would GBC fund repairs to something that it does not own or have responsibility for? It has been a National Trust problem from the start.

    • Jon Marshall Reply

      November 17, 2023 at 8:20 am

      What an absolutely pathetic comment from the former local Tory leader. Exactly the sort of cheap point-scoring attempt that got Guildford into the state it’s in when his mob were in charge. Time to grow up and work for the good of the town and its residents perhaps?

      • Paul Spooner Reply

        November 20, 2023 at 9:07 am

        We did work for the good of the town by maintaining the weir site for many years. It was precisely because of the delays in decision making at National Trust that GBC previously undertook work at this site and the surrounding area. The decision by the coalition to take no further action has certainly not helped the community has it?

        Paul Spooner is a former Conservative borough councillor and council leader.

        • Mark Stamp Reply

          November 20, 2023 at 2:15 pm

          I’d like to know where Paul Spooner proposes that GBC gets the money to fulfill other organisations’ responsibilities in addition to its own. The Conservative government of the last 13 years has drastically cut local government spending power and choices have had to be made.

          Meanwhile I believe Paul Spooner’s party opposed increasing parking charges, one of the few levers GBC has, to try and plug the gap. I could point to a number of decisions of Paul Spooner’s administration that have also not helped the community whether that is a failed Local Plan or white elephant shopping village.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    November 16, 2023 at 1:02 am

    Simply use a scaffold based temporary bridge to solve the problem in the short term.

    They could have used the Walnut Tree wey footbridge. It was perfectly servicable, the one they dropped into the river and now cut up for scrap.

    No lateral thinking!

  3. Jonathan Neil-Smith Reply

    November 16, 2023 at 10:30 am

    I submitted a question about this at the National Trust’s AGM last Saturday. Unfortunately, there was not time to take it, but I am awaiting an online answer.

    I did, however, speak to the Trust’s director of operations, Andy Beer, who is across this issue. I stressed the frustration at the bureaucratic black hole the issue seems to have become stuck, preventing resolution and restoring the towpath across the weir.

    In other business the Trust indicated an improved financial position following the loss of income during the lockdown, so let’s hope that there is now some cause for cautious optimism that there might be some action on this.

  4. Roger Kendall Reply

    November 16, 2023 at 10:40 am

    This should have been a shared cost between the government , GBC and the National Trust.

    It is a major public facility for the town and the council’s failure, to organise, support and sort this for so long is a disgrace. The council should have acted quickly to bring the three bodies together so as to ensure that it was quickly repaired.

    Our local democracy has failed again.

  5. Keith Reeves Reply

    November 16, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t understand why this is a mess, and that the ‘delay and dilapidation’ is GBC’s fault. Mr Spooner should go easy on political point scoring, and turn his attention to the National Trust’s behaviour.

    You don’t have to be a property lawyer to understand that the National Trust own an asset which has failed and needs replacing. It is they, and not GBC, who appear to have avoided their responsibilities, hoping that GBC would pick up the bill.

    I can see why, as a charity, they have sought to do this, but it’s not GBC’s role to bail them out.

  6. Anthony Mallard Reply

    November 16, 2023 at 2:50 pm

    Oh dear! The National Trust (NT) has agreed to fund feasibility studies as a route to the possible restoration of a footpath over the Tumbling Bay Weir in what is described by the NT as an “extended timeframe.”

    This does not, to my mind, bode well for an early and successful outcome.

    My reservation is based on the devastating fire at the nearby Clandon House, a National Trust Property. The fire occurred on April 29, 2015. Now, eight years on, it is still swathed in scaffolding and plastic sheeting with no apparent work being undertaken to ameliorate the situation.

  7. Ian Tomes Reply

    November 17, 2023 at 7:04 pm

    Where’s Guildford’s MP in all of this? There must be national grants to support recreation that could be used to restore this important route and access to the once very well used picnic area?

    Feasibility study followed by securing the funding, tendering the work and completing construction would make 2026 a good bet. Such a shame for Guildford.

    Editor’s comment: Angela Richardson MP has responded to The Dragon: “I have a date in the diary to meet with National Trust.”

    • S Callanan Reply

      January 5, 2024 at 6:34 pm

      Has the editor heard from Ms Richardson since she made it known that as at November 17, 2023 she had “a date in the diary to meet with the National Trust”?

      Editor’s response: Please see – There is Now Some Movement on Tumbling Bay Weir.

  8. James Steel Reply

    November 18, 2023 at 12:26 pm

    Its good to see that the National Trust has accepted responsibility for the weir, given the state it’s in. It’s a good step towards its repair.

    James Steel is a former Lib Dem borough councillor.

  9. Stuart Taylor Reply

    November 19, 2023 at 9:56 am

    Aren’t Surrey Country Council the authority who look after rights of way, what do they say on this?

    Editor’s comment: Most towpaths are not public rights of way. The majority are “permissive paths” allowing public use but occasionally owners’ need to close them to carry out maintenance work, although a four-year closure is very unusual.

  10. Nick Bale Reply

    November 20, 2023 at 9:25 am

    The Guildford Town Guides will be delighted when there is a footpath across the weir again. Our new guided walk “Messing About on the Wey” has to go along the rather dreary pavement of Shalford Road from the Town Bridge to the footbridge at present. It will far more pleasant when we can walk along the river bank.

  11. Jonathan Sharpe Reply

    January 5, 2024 at 2:55 pm

    This is a time when we expect to see many people canvasing for local and national elections. There is an opportunity to extract and hopefully record promises from candidates to exert pressure to get things done.

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