Campaigners celebrate as weir plan is postponed
CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after Environment Agency bosses “postponed” plans for a new weir on the Thames near Appleton costing more than £2.5m.
The structure is one of the last hand-operated paddle and rymer weirs left on the river and a fierce campaign was mounted to save it.
The agency originally stated the work, due to start this month, was needed for health and safety and flood defence reasons and last month protesters took the debate to Parliament.
Chairman of Northmoor Weir campaign team Mike Hill said: “This is an indefinite postponement but we hope that becomes permanent because we want the paddle and rymer weir to remain – we don’t want our local heritage destroyed.
“This is a great example of what happens when a group of local people pull together around an issue that is important.
“We have constantly campaigned on the basis that this expenditure is difficult to justify when it provides so little return on the investment of about £3m, both from a flood protection and a health and safety point of view.
“I hope the Environment Agency will continue to work with us as we explore the possibilities for the future and, as this may be the last paddle and rymer weir left in the UK, it is well worth protecting and preserving.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood had urged Defra Minister Richard Benyon to suspend the project for a further cost-benefit analysis.
Last night she said: “When other flood defence schemes are being turned down, it is difficult to justify spending over £2.5m on a health and safety project.”
The campaign against the upgrade was also backed by Dr Peter Rawcliffe, of Oxford Flood Alliance, who said the money should be invested instead in protecting homes from flooding.
Environment Agency spokesman Dave Ferguson said: “We have decided to postpone these works to further discuss all aspects of the scheme with residents over the coming months.
“We want to spend more time to seek a mutually agreed way forward.”
Mr Ferguson added that the weir had been assessed by English Heritage and was not considered worthy of listing. The weir was extensively refurbished in 1995.