Fringe Box



Two Years On From Collapse, Still No Significant Progress On Weir Replacement

Published on: 30 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 2 Dec, 2021

The bridge that carried the towpath over the Tumbling Bay weir at Millmead was washed away when the weir collapsed in 2019. The path has remained blocked and impassable since. All photos – Fiona Giles

By Martin Giles

Two years on from the dramatic and near-tragic collapse of the Tumbling Bay Weir at Millmead there is still no agreement between the Guildford Borough Council, the National Trust and other involved parties on the way forward.

See also: ‘I Was On the Bridge When It Collapsed’ – Dramatic Witness Account With Video

The major obstacle to progress is agreement on who is liable to bear the financial costs. A new weir might cost as much as £5 million, it has been estimated. However, that rough estimate comes before a design has been agreed.

The National Trust owns the Wey Navigation, including the towpath that passed over the weir, but Guildford Borough Council is believed, by some parties at least, to own the weir because it is essential to manage the level of water in the mill stream that leads to the Town Mill purchased by the forerunner of Guildford Borough Council in the 1930s. Ownership of the bridge over the weir seems to remain the point of contention.

Stone filled gabions secure the banks by the temporary weir. Local historian Mary Alexander believes that before Millmead Lock was constructed as it is today, boats were manhandled or “tumbled” up the weir to the higher water level of the navigation upstream towards Godalming.

Other agencies with an interest in the repair are the Environment Agency with its responsibility for overseeing the management of rivers and flood control and Thames Water which draws water from the River Wey. Budgets everywhere are particularly stretched at GBC and the National Trust because of the impact of the Covid pandemic.

Since the collapse of the weir, in early November 2019, it has not been possible to use the towpath route from the south, popular with walkers and cyclists, into the town centre. An alternative route across the bridge by Guildford Rowing Club is less direct and awkward for those with bikes.

A temporary weir was installed in the spring of 2020 which allowed the navigation to be “re-watered” and the water levels brought back to levels that allowed the passage of rivercraft.

The Dragon has been told that a temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclists was considered but involved parties were reluctant to accept any risk of public liability claims in the event of an incident.

A temporary bridge is said to have been considered but the various parties were not prepared to accept public liability.

Lead councillor for Regeneration, John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity) said: “Although GBC did not own the weir bridge at Millmead, we are working hard to find a long-term solution. We are working towards bringing the National Trust, Thames Water and the Environment Agency together to agree a plan, discuss how it should be implemented, and to fully understand the costs.

“We understand that the bridge over the weir was well-used, but we believe the towpath is not a public right of way. The National Trust, as owners of the land, have closed the towpath until a permanent solution is put in place. At present, we don’t know when that will be.

“We really want to open up the bridge and restore the route as soon as we can but we need to find a resolution to move forward.”

Tristan Brown, National Trust general manager for the River Wey Navigations said: “We can confirm that the weir has been repaired and river levels are restored, so the waterway is once again navigable. The bridge is part of the next phase of works and as soon as we have an update we will share this. We appreciate it is an inconvenience for walkers and cyclists. Together with Guildford Borough Council we are finding a way forward.”

See also: Dragon Interview: Weir Repair Will Take Two Years

Other related stories here.

At Guildford Rowing Club work is underway to restore the riverbanks which suffered extensive collapse when the water level dropped for several months. Concrete blocks, possibly part of the temporary dam installed to allow construction of the temporary weir, are being removed.

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Responses to Two Years On From Collapse, Still No Significant Progress On Weir Replacement

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    December 1, 2021 at 8:49 am

    This is all very sad for the residents of, and visitors to, Guildford. The leadership should step up and lead for the benefit of the residents they serve, or move aside and let others turn this around.

    I accept that there are legal issues involved but there has now been more than enough time for resolution. Perhaps Cllr Rigg could in an open and transparent way publish all the minutes of the meetings he has had with other stakeholders to demonstrate that he is on top of this Guildford problem?

    Paul Spooner is the Conservative borough councillor for ash South & Tongham

    • Lucy Connor Reply

      December 4, 2021 at 11:07 am

      Cllr Spooner seems to have selective memory if he believes his administration did a better job of “lead[ing] for the benefit of the residents they serve, or mov[ing] aside and let[ting] others turn this around.” Particularly with reference to his handling, as council leader, of the despised Local Plan of 2019. Would Cllr Spooner be anticipating undermining his own Local Plan in order to seek the benefit of residents?

      Perhaps he could consider being open and transparent about how he has put aside his own political ambitions while seeking to serve the members of the public who have elected him? From what I can see from his engagement with The Dragon and other aspects of his public conduct his behaviour is self-serving: he is in the position (due to his elected position on our borough council) to have conversations directly with those he seeks to undermine and criticise in order to come to a resolution. Unless perhaps Cllr Spooner has burned his own bridges with fellow councillors by his chosen method of communication?

  2. Simon Mason Reply

    December 2, 2021 at 8:53 am

    Unfunded infrastructure?

    Perhaps Cllr Spooner can explain why his administration did not adopt the proposed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) when his party adopted the Local Plan in 2019. This would have raised millions by now to pay for projects like this.

  3. William Dewey Reply

    December 2, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Too many “I believes” and far too much, “Blah, blah, blah.”

  4. D Holland Reply

    December 6, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    Just another manifest failure in the governance of Guildford. Think “White Elephant” [Walnut] Bridge, The Villages, The famous [Cllr] Furniss setts fiasco, on and on and on it goes. The people of this town (and they want to make it a city, yet can’t, for years, mend a path) deserve so much better.

  5. Barry C Williams Reply

    January 24, 2022 at 9:37 am

    So we are two months on from this news report. What is the situation, status quo or anything positive to report? Could The Dragon invite GBC to give an update?

    Editor’s response: An update has been requested from GBC.

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