LETTER: We must fight to save weir

Most people in the Ribble Valley are aware of the weir between Waddow Hall and Boy Bank wood and so are the tourists who visit the area, as it is situated on the Ribble Way.

But most are probably unaware the Environment Agency has a mandate and finances from this government to spend millions removing weirs and other obstructions from rivers and water-courses, without a mandate from the people.

I have an interest in the weir and was unaware of the Environment Agency’s intentions until I attended a site meeting with a proposal to use the weir and former mill race to provide carbon-free electricity, over one megawatts per annum, for new homes in the area of Low Moor, and Waddow Hall. The community in Low Moor would also be offered shares and use of the free electricity under the new feed-in tariff scheme. We would lease the proposed development of the hydro scheme to the community, who would then own the hydro scheme for the life of the lease, which would be renewable every 25 years.

So imagine my surprise, at this meeting, which included Daniel Ingham (RVBC), Cathy Hopley (Forest of Bowland AONB Advisory Committee), representatives for Inter-Hydro Technology, and of course representatives from the Environment Agency and other interested parties, as the first question from the enrironment agency was to think seriously about having the weir removed for the benefit of the river.

What these benefits were are still unkown to me, as there is an existing salmon ladder and the weir provides oxygenisation of the water below it.

Could it be the benefits mentioned, but unexplained, are the benefits the Environment Agency would receive from such removal projects, actually benefiting the agency financially, as there was no mention of the public who enjoy the weir, or concern for other users, such as the Girl Guides’ Association, local fishing clubs and no mention of landowners’ water interests for livestock, plus the lifeforms in the old existing mill race or the renewable energy and future value of the site.

But this is nothing new for the Environment Agency, the weir gates were sealed years ago without our consent and what do you know ... they wiped out a thriving rare species, the water vole, as they provided an inlet too high above the river for continuous flow.

I would ask the people of Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley, the Ramblers’ Association and of course let’s not forget the fishermen, to support our planned scheme for hydro power, with a new fish pass and visiting centre for the public and schools.

Without your support the Environment Agency will remove the weir by stealth as we will not contemplate having to spend hundreds-of-thousands of pounds which would eventually be forced upon us to keep the weir safe by the Environment Agency and would have to take up their offer to remove it at the taxpayers’ expense while funding is available, reluctantly we would have no choice.

But, you have the choice, so let’s hear the voice of the Ribble Valley and keep a bit of our history alive and well for future generations to enjoy and hopefully we can re-introduce the water vole.

I would like to offer my thanks to David (RVBC) and to Cathy (Forest of Bowland ANOB) for their time and support of this renewable energy project and look forward to our next meeting, hopefully with the support of the people of Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley.

By the way, surely our MP Nigel Evans should have informed the public of this mandate issued by the coalition, as we did not vote for it and if he wants to pursue and support other mandates without our consent he shall be retiring sooner than he thinks, with our consent.

A question Mr Evans; how many local attractions in the Ribble Valley are we going to lose (these include weirs, lodges and other man-made obstructions as the Environment Agency would interpret this ambiguously, especially when there is £150m. plus in the pot to plunder at their disrecction)?

The people of the Ribble Valley deserve more transparency from you and this government, this policy could ruin the tourist industry in this area, especially if historic. They do not come to see demolition and scars on the landscape.

DAVID ASHWORTH,

Low Moor Farm, Clitheroe