Plans in for long-awaited Haugh Head ford overhaul on Wooler Water in Northumberland

Plans have been lodged as part of a long-awaited project to overhaul a river crossing in Northumberland.

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 3:18 pm
Haugh Head ford and fish pass on Wooler Water.

The application, which has been submitted to Northumberland County Council by the Environment Agency, relates to the Haugh Head ford on Wooler Water, a tributary of the River Till.

The scheme, which is part of the River Till Restoration Strategy, comprises the removal of the existing ford crossing to be replaced with a new gravel ford, the regrading of 400 metres of canalised section of river, the removal of the fish pass, the creation of an inset floodplain, the construction of a new replacement pedestrian footbridge, the removal of upstream check weirs and minor widening of the approach to the Coldgate Mill ford crossing.

A planning statement explains that the entire Tweed catchment, of which this is part, is subject to regulations which require all structures to have suitable fish passes to allow the free movement of salmon.

‘At present, Haugh Head ford is the only structure on the entire Tweed system that is impassable to salmon and largely impassable to sea trout and lamprey, despite the presence of a fish pass’, it notes.

The current ford at Haugh Head was constructed in 1971, after the previous structure was destroyed, and a fish pass was added in 2005 by the county council, but this ‘has suffered blockage problems from silt build-up and no longer provides adequate passage for salmon and other fish’.

It adds: ‘Without improvements to Haugh Head ford, the lower Wooler Water will continue to fail to reach good ecological potential set by the Water Framework Directive.

‘There is also a public safety risk associated with the ford due to an unrestricted two-metre drop directly into Wooler Water from the downstream edge of the ford.’

A summary of the environmental effects suggests that ‘the proposals will not adversely impact flood risk’ as the inset floodplain ‘will provide additional capacity to the local channel and reduce the risk of further bank erosion resulting in breaching of the bank during flood events. This will reduce localised flooding of the adjacent fields’.

Ahead of a public drop-in event about the scheme back in February, Alastair Laverty, a geomorphology technical officer at the Environment Agency, said: “Over the past few years we’ve considered numerous options for Haugh Head ford.

“It has been a very challenging problem to resolve and we believe that this current set of proposals are sustainable, they restore the Wooler Water through working with natural processes, they maintain and improve local access and they provide value for money.”

He added: “The culmination of the Haugh Head ford project will finally remediate the damage, caused by historic gravel extraction, reconnect the River Tweed to its upper catchment, creating new and varied fluvial habitat, benefiting species such as otter, salmon, lamprey and sea trout.”

The proposals will now be considered by planning officers at Northumberland County Council, with both experts and the public given the chance to comment before a recommendation is made and a decision made.

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