Wooler river project gets go-ahead

A major river restoration project for Northumberland has been given the green light, despite some lingering concerns about possible flooding.

The existing concrete crossing at Haugh Head.
The existing concrete crossing at Haugh Head.

The decision means the Environment Agency a regulator, will be able to replace the ford at Haugh Head, south of Wooler, believed to be the only structure on the whole of the River Tweed system impassable to fish.

But despite wide support, the plans still left some unanswered questions for members of Northumberland County Council, who queried how the replacement of the existing concrete crossing with a gravel alternative would be sustained in the long term.

Cllr Trevor Thorne said: “We’re in an age where we think nature is best, we’re getting rid of concrete weirs, the Environment Agency is promoting flooding across farmland and letting rivers take their natural course.

“I think this will really improve this part of the river, but I do worry about the consequences of removing this blockage.

“My main concern is the riverbed will wash away and I think this is probably why the concrete ford was put in in the first place - as a hard base and a safe crossing place.”

Cllr Thorne was speaking at a meeting of the county council’s North Northumberland Local Area Council on Thursday (June 24).

As well as replacing the ford, plans also include restoration works and new floodplains along a 400m stretch of Wooler Water, part of the River Twill, in the River Tweed system, between Coldgate Mill and Haugh Head.

Concerns raised by Wooler Parish Council were largely addressed by the time the application went before the panel, although questions remained about future maintenance of the structure, particularly what would happen as gravel used to construct the new ford was washed away.

Council planning officer James Bellis said: “I've spoken to the Environment Agency about this issue, and they're maintaining it is a very low impact proposal and it will be topped up with new sediment as it passes downstream.

“So in terms of maintenance, their argument is that they will monitor what happens with this scheme in the initial period post-permission, but thereafter that will be the responsibility of the landowners.”

The application was approved by the panel unanimously.