Implementing the Eels Regulations

Eels being returned to a riverThe Environment Agency have just circulated briefing note describing how they are going about implementing the 2009 (YES!) Eels Regulations.

You can access it by clicking on the photo.

We know no more than is in this briefing, but see that there is an EA contact listed at the bottom of the briefing.


Sometimes the cost is too high – refusing a grant

Refusing money
Sometimes the cost is too high

I have just done something rather unusual for a charity. I have turned down the offer of a £23,766 grant.

Why would I do that? Firstly because the grant awarding body was not prepared to pay the cost of the work required. Secondly because they would not contribute to our corporate overheads (Full Cost Recovery). Thirdly because the contractual conditions were such as to expose a small charity to unacceptable risk.

For months now we have been working in partnership with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and The Wild Trout Trust to develop a bid to the Water Environment Grant (I won’t link there because you really do not want to know about it!). We have spent days, probably weeks, working out the finest detail of the scheme in order to satisfy the somewhat onerous requirements of the submission. Anyone familiar with the Rural PaymentsAgency (who ultimately ‘own’ this fund), or who has heard tales from farmers of the inefficiency, nitpicking and intransigence of RPA, may know how difficult a process it has been. Anyway, we put together our partnership project valued at ca. £170,000 and sent it off. Detailed queries were responded to and we waited, then waited, then waited some more. Indeed, we waited over three months after the decisions were expected and were delighted when we got an offer. Until we opened the letter that is, when we found that we had been offered only £100,000 between us. One partner, us, were offered only 35% of our bid with a requirement to deliver 75% of the required outputs!

To say that I am outraged, annoyed and frustrated is being polite. VERY polite!

So why am I upset?

Part, £250, of our bid was rejected because we did not have competitive quotations for refreshments for volunteers.

Part, £8,500, was intended to provide for social media and other advertising, promotion to aid volunteer recruitment and recognise the contribution of the funder. ZIP. We don’t need to do this apparently ,even though volunteers were core to our bid and they WERE prepared to pay for brand development (but where would we then use the brand?)!

Some of the contractual terms were outrageous:

  1. You will accept unlimited liability in perpetuity for your work
  2. If we run out of money we do not have to pay you
  3. You must do exactly what you said you would and any variation, even in an emergency, needs approval in advance.

Would you accept such an offer? Do these people have any understanding of the impact of their decisions on small charities? Who hold them to account for the consequences of their action?

I would like to pay tribute to the several colleagues in YWT, WTT and the EA who helped us through a challenging time. I won’t name them because this is my rant not theirs, they know who they are and they know how much I value their help.

The only upside – we now have some well developed projects in respect of which we can apply for funding elsewhere.

Coniston Cold weir is no more

Coniston Cold Weir before demolition
Coniston Cold Weir – 2004
Coniston Cold Weir - gone!
Coniston Cold Weir – gone!

With support from the owners of the weir, then months in the planning, demolishing the redundant weir at Coniston took  2 days over 18/19th June 2018. The work was done by Jon Grey of the Wild Trout Trust and his contractors. The Environment Agency and ART also took part in the planning process.

The photos show the weir before and after removal. It was most encouraging to know that a shoal of minnows went through as the demolition was actually taking place.

The short time-lapse video below, courtesy of Prof Jon Grey and The Wild Trout Trust, shows the transformation of the river as the weir comes down. Enjoy!

Good News for our DNAire project as this will allow migratory and other fish to move even further upstream to spawn

2017 – An important year for River Aire fish passage


2017 – An important year for River Aire fish passage

Work has been going on for a number of years to improve fish passage for migratory fish in the Aire below Leeds. This work has provided fish passes at Castleford, Lemonroyd, Fleet, Rothwell Country Park and Thwaite Mills.

Fish passes are required on a further four weirs downstream of Leeds. All the four weirs are owned by the Canal and River Trust and are used for navigational purposes. Three of the four weirs are major ones and are situated at Chapel Haddlesey, Knottingley and Knostrop. The other weir, which is not quite as big a barrier to fish as the others, is at Crown Point in the centre of Leeds.

Major developments are currently taking place which will provide fish passes on all four of the weirs mentioned above. Two of the weirs will be furnished with fish passes as a result of hydro electricity schemes whereas the other two are included as part of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (Leeds FAS) and will receive fish passes as the weirs are rebuilt. The time scale for completion and brief background notes are shown below. The result of these developments will be that migratory fish such as salmon, sea trout and eels should be able to reach the centre of Leeds with relative ease by September 2017.

Chapel Haddlesey

This weir is at the tidal limit and was first constructed in 1702. UK Hydro Ltd started work in August 2016 on two Archimedes Screws, a fish pass and a by-wash channel. The screws are already installed and work has begun on the fish pass. The fish pass is expected to be in use by fish at some point in March 2017.


This is the biggest weir on the River Aire being some ten feet high. The weir was reconstructed in the 1970s.

In the summer of 2016, Barn Energy commenced construction of a Kaplan Turbo and fish pass on the weir. Power generation is expected to start in the late summer of 2017 and the fish pass should be in use by the end of September 2017.

Knostrop (Leeds)

Knostrop Weir, substantially rebuilt in 1905, has already been removed and replaced by a temporary weir. The weir is being rebuilt as a moveable weir as part of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme and the new weir will include a fish pass. The work is expected to be complete by May 2017.

Crown Point (Leeds)

The weir at Crown Point has already been substantially demolished under the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. The weir is being rebuilt as a moveable weir and will include a fish pass. Work should be complete by July 2017.

In the longer term we continue to develop and seek funds for our DNAire project to remove all barriers to passage on the main spine of the river and enable a sustainable population of migratory fish.

Thanks to Kevin Sunderland for writing this article and his undying enthusiasm and passion for getting salmon back to Skipton and beyond – his dream is beginning to look real,


Chapel Haddlesey update

Chapel Haddlesey at low tide, August 2003

Work on the weir at Chapel Haddlesey continues apace with some serious excavations adjacent to the weir.

At the bottom of this post is an update from UK Hydro, the company which is building the hydro and fish pass on Chapel Haddlesey (CH) Weir. The weir is the bottom weir on the River Aire and is the tidal limit. Chapel Haddlesey is a mile or so from Eggborough Power Station which can be seen from the M62.

CH Weir was originally constructed in 1702. Although boat traffic can no longer ascend or descend the weir, the weir is still in use to retain the water level for boat traffic using the Selby Canal which joins the Aire and the Ouse.


6.8.2016 CH House and channelFor over 300 years CH Weir has acted as a barrier to migratory fish on the Aire. Under certain conditions salmon do ascend the weir and head upstream to the next barrier at Knottingley. It is hoped and expected that the fish pass will enable migratory fish to ascend the weir. “Salmon to Skipton” edges closer to reality.

(Thanks to Kevin Sunderland and UK Hydro for the update.)


UK Hydro updates – September 2016



DNAire bid submitted

DNAire - Developing the Natural AireLast week, the Environment Agency submitted our DNAire bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is a very important step in our desire to restore salmon to the river and re-engage the community through a £4 million river-wide project. The bid summary states:

‘Developing the Natural Aire’ is for 570,000 people in the project area. It will engage communities with the engineering and natural heritage of the River Aire and Leeds-Liverpool Canal through restoration of the iconic Atlantic salmon.
At a series of ‘Kissing Points’, where the river, canal and heritage come together, we will work with communities using digital technologies to:
1) increase heritage learning and improve access
2) empower and enable communities and people to develop their own stories and informally ‘adopt’ local heritage
3) create a digital trail from Leeds to the Yorkshire Dales.
Building fish passes will reconnect the natural river system for salmon and other fish and animal species.
Through training placements and apprenticeships, we will use the design and delivery of the fish passes to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and the engineering principles used to build the canal, weirs and fish passes.

Note that this is a bid for development funds to work up the detail of the proposal and we hope to hear whether we have been successful by November 2016.

Eastburn Beck improvements

Wild Trout TrustEastburn Beck is to be made better for fish and wildlife in general as a result of a joint project between The Aire Rivers Trust, The Wild Trout Trust, The Environment Agency and ABP Green Port Hull.

This project will make it easier for fish to get past two key weirs along Eastburn Beck at Lumb Mill weir and Allotment weir as well as at the Environment Agency (EA) gauging weir; river & riparian habitat improvements, including low weir notching by the Wild Trout Trust & EA; and livestock exclusion from the true right bank. This combined work affects arguably the most adversely impacted section of Eastburn Beck as it runs adjacent to historic mills at Glusburn and the housing developments in CrossHills and Sutton-in-Craven.

The predominant species that will benefit immediately are trout, grayling, brook lamprey, and eel. There are populations of other coarse fish such as chub and pike which may take advantage. Stone loach, bullhead and minnow are present.

As fish passage improvements continue throughout the lower R Aire, then salmon and sea trout will also benefit in the future.

The combined works will not only improve fish passage but also improve instream and riparian habitats to the benefit all aquatic (and arguably many terrestrial) fauna and flora, including riverfly life, and especially the piscivore populations: kingfisher, heron, otter are all present.Green Port Hull

Once this work is complete, there will be around 20km of tributary network with excellent potential for migratory and resident salmonid spawning and juvenile habitat.

Full details of the project are available here –  Eastburn Beck_Project submission to GPH

Hirst Weir – partnership funding for fish pass


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Hirst Mill marked topo2We are delighted to announce success in being awarded £20,000 towards constructing a fish pass at the same time as Bradford Amateur Rowing Club are repairing Hirst Weir.
The five-way partnership between The Aire Rivers Trust, Bradford Amateur Rowing Club, Green Port Hull, the Environment Agency and Buntons Plant Hire shows the benefits of close working together to deliver a solution in record time and at minimum expense.

The devastating floods of Christmas 2015 left a huge hole in the weir and created this opportunity for an innovative solution in which a carefully constructed rock ramp will reduce the gradient for fish wanting to travel upstream thus allowing both migratory and coarse fish access to a much longer reach of the river than previously. This £45k scheme reduces, and we hope eliminates, the need for a fully engineered concrete structure costing around £450,000 so is great value for money for all concerned.
The fund, provided by Green Port Hull, was set up to improve the chances of migratory fish in the Humber catchment and this grant will help complete one more piece of the jigsaw necessary to restore Salmon to Skipton.


The Aire Rivers Trust is working closely with the Environment Agency to develop a much larger scheme designed to restore a heritage species, salmon, to the headwaters of the river where it once spawned. This scheme, currently known as DNAire (Developing the Natural Aire) brings the canal and the river together at ‘kissing points’, highlighting the heritage assets and drawing communities closer to the river for enjoyment and education. This fish pass creates one link in a long chain of passes needed for fish to be able to reach the headwaters.




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Hirst Weir fish pass

Hirst Mill WeirThe Trust is working closely with Bradford Amateur Rowing Club and the Environment Agency to design and fund a fish pass as additional works to the emergency repair currently underway at Hirst Weir.

The Rowing Club’s plan is to install a rock ramp across the whole width of the weir to fill the existing hole and provide further protection to what is an increasingly fragile 700 year old structure. To create fish passage, the ramp will be extended t the downstream edge of the ramp (bottom left on the picture) and profiled such that there will be flows suitable for fish to swim up even in low flows. It’s also important that the overall work does not increase flood risk by increasing flood levels and this has been modelled already.

We are still waiting for detailed costs and will be seeking funding from various sources including using some money that we already hold as a consequence of our being so cost-efficient on earlier work on other weirs.

Installing these facilities will add to our long-term efforts to return salmon the headwaters of the Aire and contribute to our Developing the Natural Aire (DNAire) project to link the heritage assets of the river and canal and attract many more members of the community to this wonderful river.

Watch this space!

River AIre Fact File

Just found this archive document produced by the Environment Agency “River Aire Fact File”.

It is a little out of date – not quite sure how old – but very interesting all the same as not much has changed since it was produced and the base data about the river and its catchment is still valid. However a LOT has changed over the centuries…

“Until the 17th century, the river was used as a source of drinking water by the people of Leeds. The onset of the industrialisation soon made this a hazardous pursuit.

At the turn of the 19th century, salmon could still be caught in the Aire downstream of Bradford. By 1825 though, the river was nearly devoid of life and remained so for another 100 years.”