Fringe Box



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

Published on: 27 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 27 Feb, 2023

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

By Martin Giles

After over three years of inaction and public criticism, Guildford Borough Council has formally agreed to “do nothing” about the broken Tumbling Bay weir bridge: there is no prospect or plan for its reinstatement.

The decision was taken because the council’s legal team has concluded, after extensive research, that “the land and the Tumbling Bay Weir are not owned by the council”.

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

The ownership, it was said in the GBC Executive debate on Wednesday (February 22), belonged to the National Trust as part of the Wey Navigation although a parcel of land in Millbrook is owned by GBC. This was a conclusion many observers thought had been reached and reported in 2022, if not before.

Cllr George Potter (Lib Dem, Burpham) thought that the way the National Trust was behaving over the weir was “quite disgraceful”. He said: “It’s a very unfair situation, but we really need to be directing this to the National Trust because they’re the only ones with the ability to solve this problem.

“Even in the best of times, it’d be egregious but particularly time like this, when they must be fully aware that local authorities are more than ever hard pressed and are struggling to maintain public services.”

But Dawn Hudd, strategic director of place, did not agree. She said: “I think it would be unfair to say [the National Tust] walked away and they’re not recognising their responsibilities. They have engaged well with us, much better than many of the other parties that could have an interest in this.”

Cllr Potter also reminded his fellow councillors that the public might be watching the webcast of the meeting and wondering why, as several parties had suggested, it was not possible to put in a temporary bridge. This was not possible he said because engineers has assessed that the foundations were not stable enough to support the bridge “without reconstructing the entire thing”.

The council officer’s report acknowledged there has been significant public interest in the weir since its collapse in November 2019, with “the council and National Trust facing criticism for a lack of activity to resolve the ongoing land ownership matters and perhaps more crucially, for the continued closure of the towpath“.

Cllr Tim Anderson

Tim Anderson (R4GV,  said that there must be a “constant campaign to clarify our position and make sure that we’re not the villains in it”.

The officer’s report to the Executive made no mention of the fact that a former engineer employed by GBC, Chris Shaw, has said in several public presentations, an account accepted by the lead councillor responsible, John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), that the council used to maintain the weir, at least up until Shaw’s retirement in 1987.

It is understood that GBC has been unable to find any record that they subsequently notified the National Trust of any change in management arrangements.

Having claimed earlier that there had been a huge amount of “information and misinformation” on the subject, without specifying from whom, Cllr Rigg summarised the position.

Cllr John Rigg

He acknowledged that the weir and its bridge were of “huge importance” to the community.  But explaining the council’s position, he continued: “We do not own the weir. We do not own the bridge. It is not a public footpath and the costs of replacing the weir and bridge will be in millions. The council already has a sizable budget shortfall.

“We cannot afford to donate, I’m afraid, such substantial sums to third parties as much as we might wish to. With current cutbacks across the council and with major projects to deliver homes and other benefits.

“We will continue to engage with the National Trust and other parties to seek a solution. We put other proposals to the National Trust for consideration and discussions are ongoing.

“We previously paid 50 per cent of £800,000 costs for temporary works as an emergency-only solution. We will also contribute £60,000 pounds or to a fish pass in Millmead which may incur us in further liability. So we’re not totally walking away.

“The flood authorities are the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council and both of whom benefit from the weir if not the bridge, they have not offered to contribute. Thames Water extracts water from the river and also has not offered to contribute.”

The GBC report said that a report commissioned by the National Trust on behalf of the various organisations, reviewed the expected longevity of the temporary repair. This is now considered to exceed the five-year lifespan originally discussed at the time that the temporary weir was implemented and raises concern that the National Trust will feel this reduces the urgency for action.

Following the debate, the Executive unanimously voted to adopt the recommended option: “Do nothing as the land and the Tumbling Bay Weir are not owned by the council. The council should carry out a public relation exercise to inform residents of the council’s position (as per the Executive Advisory Board recommendation). This will not resolve the ownership and maintenance issues.”

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Responses to Tumbling Bay Weir ‘Not Our Responsibility’ Says GBC and Choose ‘Do Nothing’ Option

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 27, 2023 at 1:01 pm

    A temporary trellis scaffolding bridge would solve the problem: they can stretch to 10-plus metres. This would give time for those concerned with the finances and politics time to get their acts together.

  2. Christopher Jay Reply

    February 27, 2023 at 3:25 pm

    Has the council considered repairing the weir and persuading the National Trust to go to arbitration to decide who is responsible for the costs? Arbitration can be undertaken comparatively cheaply if arguments before the arbitrator are confined to written submissions alone and no expensive oral hearings are required.

  3. Paul Spooner Reply

    February 27, 2023 at 4:58 pm

    This is very disappointing but is very much the norm for the coalition. I find myself in aggreement with Mr Allen. I simply do not believe in 2023 there is no solution for the benefit of the community.

    Paul Spooner is the leader of the Conservative group at GBC

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      February 28, 2023 at 10:23 am

      Perhaps Cllr Spooner could get developers to provide the needed funds. After all, they have made fortunes from his discredited Local Plan.

  4. S Collins Reply

    February 28, 2023 at 10:05 am

    Does anyone have the receipt from whoever built it in the first place?

    • Jim Allen Reply

      February 28, 2023 at 4:20 pm

      What in c1650! Try the Surrey History Centre!

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