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Tumbling Bay Weir Footbridge to Remain Closed Indefinitely – Council and NT Still Deadlocked

Published on: 2 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 3 Nov, 2022

The well used towpath that crosses Tumbling Bay Weir has been closed since its dramatic collapse in November 2019.

By Martin Giles

The River Wey towpath in Millmead is set to remain closed for the foreseeable future as the impasse between the National Trust and Guildford Borough Council over who is responsible for funding further repair continues.

The previously well-used towpath has already been closed for three years since the weir and footbridge dramatically collapsed in November 2019.

According to a National Trust spokesperson the charity was “surprised” by the position taken by GBC at a meeting in October to discuss the issue and will now: “… carefully consider [its] next steps”.

Chris Shaw giving his talk at St Catherine’s Village Hall on Monday, October 24

The borough council maintains that the National Trust, as owner of the River Wey Navigations, is entirely responsible. But recently a retired engineer has said in public talks that until 1987 he and other officers at GBC inspected and maintained the weir using council funds. And to date GBC is understood to have contributed two-thirds of the funding for the temporary repair.

The National Trust are now openly insisting that they have had nothing to do with maintenance of the weir.

A NT spokesperson said: “Following the meeting of the Strategy and Resources Executive Advisory Board in October, we were surprised by the latest position of Guildford Borough Council regarding  [Tumbling Bay] weir and footbridge.

“Not all of the weirs on the navigation are operated or maintained and repaired by the National Trust, irrespective of ownership, and neither ourselves nor our predecessors have operated, maintained or repaired the Millbrook Weir prior to its collapse in 2019. This is why we don’t believe we have responsibility for its maintenance.

“Despite this, after the structure collapsed in 2019, we worked with the council and co-funded a temporary repair to ensure the water levels were maintained. Since then, we had been encouraged by ongoing conversations with council officers, looking at options for a collaborative project to find a permanent solution.”

Several calls for a temporary bridge to be installed, to allow the towpath to be reopened, until a permanent solution and its funding can be agreed, have been rejected. Both GBC and NT have implied that there could be issues with the stability of the banks near the weir although Chris Shaw, the retired engineer, has said that a temporary bridge could still be built and one was constructed when, in the 1980s,  NT insisted that the towpath route remained open while a repair was carried out.

See: A Temporary Bridge Over Tumbling Bay Weir Is Feasible, Says Leading Engineer

The NT spokesperson continued: “We’re still very willing to work in partnership to find that permanent solution, but as a charity we must ensure that we’re spending our funds wisely; even more so since the pandemic, which had a significant impact on our income. 

“Following this latest news from the council we’ll now carefully consider our next steps.”

The Guildford Dragon NEWS requested an interview with the National Trust in early October but although they said at the time: “We’re not in a position to give an interview currently but we hope to be able to very soon…” they they now say they are not in a position to be interviewed until they have “more concrete information”.

Cllr John Rigg

Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for Regeneration whose portfolio includes the Tumbling Bay Weir issue, said: “We are not in a position to provide further comment about the weir at the moment. It is our intention to meet with the National Trust to discuss the next steps. As soon as we have updated information to share we will do so.”

Unanswered questions

Following the response from NT we sent the following set of questions to GBC:

  • When Mr Shaw retired as principal engineer in 1987 did anyone take on his role?
  • If not, why not?
  • Did GBC relinquish responsibility for maintenance of Tumbling Bay Weir at that time?
  • If so, was the National Trust notified and was a transfer of responsibility agreed?
  • If not, why not?
  • Has GBC carried out any inspection or maintenance or the Tumbling Bay Weir and surrounding banks since 1987?
  • If so, when, until when, who by and who paid for any necessary work?
  • If not in 1987, when was the responsibility to maintain the weir relinquished and what was done to hand those responsibilities on?

But we received the reply: “You will have recently received our latest response on the Tumbling Bay Weir and as such we will not be responding to your latest enquiry.”

See more archived Tumbling Bay weir stories here.

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test 10 Responses to Tumbling Bay Weir Footbridge to Remain Closed Indefinitely – Council and NT Still Deadlocked

  1. Liz Critchfield Reply

    November 3, 2022 at 10:38 am

    The principle of intelligent compromise would appear to be a lost cause.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    November 3, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Enough is enough!

    As this is part of a heritage asset perhaps lottery funding should be requested, or a “go fund me” page, a donation from every employer in the borough, even a grant from the Environment Agency – after all, they were the ones controlling the speed of their weir.

    Or, as I said to Highways England after four years of failing to replace the environmental fence on the A3, give me (ie the locals) the money being wasted on meetings and arguments and we could ask Mr Shaw to supervise local volunteers to rebuild the structure while the paper jockeys ride their chairs to nowhere land.

  3. Janet Moorhouse Reply

    November 3, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Guildford town centre is in decline. Why can’t the Guildford Borough Council get on with some of the important unresolved issues?

  4. Peta Malthouse Reply

    November 4, 2022 at 6:27 am

    GBC may well have maintained this in the past, they had a professional workforce, but legally were they responsible for it? Surely that is the issue? Responsibility for maintenance normally comes with ownership.

    Budgets were not under such pressure and stress before 2010. It takes both parties to agree. Perhaps all that needs to be done is to fix a date by which any issues should be resolved so they can move on to actually maintain it.

  5. Craig Ellis Reply

    November 4, 2022 at 9:27 am

    In the interests of compromise, GBC really needs to step up here and perhaps show some initiative.

    Why not make building a new bridge the remit of any of the developers who are looking to undertake major redevelopments elsewhere in the town, for example; a “you can build here” only if you agree to “build this” kind of deal?

  6. Harry Elson Reply

    November 4, 2022 at 11:29 am

    How simple it would be to build a wooden bridge. I am sure that the volunteers would flock to the project but alas we cannot contemplate any sort of fix – it’s called bureaucracy.

    We now live in a society that lacks leadership and drive. If we can’t fix the bridge what hope for the town centre?

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      November 6, 2022 at 5:31 pm

      As I understand the superficial technical speak on the bridge, one problem, after the weir collapse, is the strength and width of abutments.

      Having said that, there is a ‘redundant’ bridge, due to be removed two years ago, over Ladymead at Stoke Crossroads.

      That is probably ‘owned’ by SCC, but could be used rather than all going to scrap.

  7. D Sheppard Reply

    November 5, 2022 at 8:39 am

    If ever there was something emblematic of the sheer uselessness and totally unfit-for-purpose nature of GBC, this is an absolutely shining example. I wonder if there is anywhere in the nation that even comes close to being so poorly served by it’s local authority.

  8. Mike Smith Reply

    November 6, 2022 at 7:28 am

    If nobody is admitting to owning the weir cannot it just be taken into public ownership by GBC for the benefit of the community?

    Editor’s comment: The National Trust and GBC seem to agree that the National Trust owns the weir, as part of the whole Wey Navigation. The dispute is over who is responsible for it maintenance.

  9. Brian Holt Reply

    November 6, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    If nobody is admitting to owning the weir, why can’t they get together and share the cost? Who controls the operation of the weir sluice gate when the river is high at times of local flooding? Whoever that is surely they must be responsible.

    Editor’s comment: All parties appear to agree that the ownership of the weir belongs to the National Trust which owns the entire Wey Navigation. It is the maintenance responsibility that is in question. We understand that GBC accepts it is responsible for a number of sluice gates but not for the maintenance of the Tumbling Bay Weir.

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