Friends of Bradford Beck make progress with work on historic waterway

Bradford NeckConservationists says signs are good for Bradford Beck as they continue a campaign to cover up outdated danger warnings that tell people to keep away from the dirty water.

Volunteers with Friends of Bradford Beck are determined to expose the beck with their new ‘This Is Bradford Beck’ signs as a pleasant place to meander and enjoy.

Once deemed the filthiest river in England, they say with a little help from them and funding agencies, it could become attractive and healthy again.

This Sunday, the Friends of Bradford Beck are throwing a ‘Becknic’ party from 2pm to 3pm under The Crag in Valley Road, Shipley, to raise awareness of the waterway as something to celebrate.

People can just go along and join in – all they need to do is bring their own food.

The Friends and partner groups have come up with ambitious plans to clean up and improve the river, allowing wildlife to thrive and making it an asset to the city.

The beck’s water quality has been tested and come out “better than first expected”, said Steve Bland, of The Friends group.

The Friends have also been through the city to identify how and where the cleanliness and attractiveness of the watercourse for people and wildlife could be improved.

To make a start, volunteers have been holding action days clearing the areas of the beck and came up with the signing project.

They have been out and about covering up the old red warning signs dating back to the 1980s, if not earlier.

Mr Bland said: “When I was growing up those signs scared my mum. She always told us to stay away because we could catch something from the water but of course we didn’t stay away and we didn’t get ill from it either.

“The beck has pretty much been forgotten over the years. We want to reveal it again so it can be enjoyed and become an important part of the city again.”

Of the 11km of the beck which flows through the city, the majority is either hidden underground or forced to run through deep artificial culverts.

Many of these date back to the 19th century, when Bradford Beck was so polluted it was deemed the filthiest river in England, despite the city being at the time the country’s richest.

The culverts were built to hide the sight and smells of it. It runs beneath the Alhambra, City Hall, under the Westfield site and out on Canal Road to Shipley. The Friends are looking for funding to put up information boards, direction signs showing the way to the beck and possible marker flagstones or a painted line through the city centre charting its underground flow.

Thanks to the Telegraph and Argus for the publicity.

Aire Fish Passage Schemes (June 2013)

Aire Fish Passage Schemes (as at June 2013)

Some progress in improving fish passage on the Aire has been made over the last few years. The Environment Agency fish passes at Fleet and Lemonroyd were both finally opened in 2004. Castleford fish pass was opened in 2007 and Rodley in 2012. There is a strong possibility that a further five or more will be opened in 2014 / 2015. If these go ahead, the biggest remaining barrier will be at Knottingley. Other major weirs in Leeds and downstream which will still require fish passes are at Chapel Haddlesey, Armley, Kirkstall Abbey and Newlay.

Chapel Haddlesey Weir

The Canal and River Trust is still progressing its hydro / fish pass scheme on the tidal weir at Chapel Haddlesey (near Eggborough Power Station). The scheme, first proposed in 2008, is still in the planning / discussion stage.

Knottingley Weir

Knottingley Weir remains one of the biggest barriers to fish passage on the Aire and Calder river system. The weir does flood out in periods of heavy rainfall and migratory fish do ascend it at those times. Unfortunately, upstream progress can be delayed for a number of months in dry summers.

The Canal and River Trust (CRT) has withdrawn its expressed interest in a hydro on the weir which means that public funding can now be used to obtain a fish pass. Discussions are ongoing between CRT, the Environment Agency and Wakefield Council to explore the possibility of including a fish pass in a wider regeneration scheme within the Knottingley area.

Knostrop and Crown Point Weirs (Leeds)

Leeds Council obtained funding for the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) in early 2013. The FAS envisages removal of the weirs at Knostrop and Crown Point and their replacement with moveable weirs which can be opened when the river is in flood.

Leeds Council expects to commence work on the two fish passes in January 2014 and completion by December 2014. Knostrop Weir has long been the biggest impediment to fish passage on the River Aire and it is believed that fish cannot ascend the present weir. The planned fish pass there will allow migratory fish to progress through the centre of Leeds as far as Armley, if not further.

Armley Mills Weir (Leeds)

Although discussions are continuing between Leeds Council and the Environment Agency regarding a joint fish pass / hydro scheme at Armley, progress has more or less come to a halt.

St Ann’s Mills and Burley Mills Weirs (Kirkstall, Leeds)

The Aire Rivers Trust and Leeds Council have been successful in their bid for Catchment Restoration Funding to improve fish passage at these two weirs. Preliminary work is already in progress and the fish passage work is scheduled to be completed by March 2015.

Rodley Nature Reserve Weir

Yorkshire Water’s fish pass at Rodley Nature Reserve opened in late 2012. Minor alterations and improvements have been carried out since that time and work is now complete although the fish pass has not been officially opened as yet. There will be restricted access to the fish pass but the public will be allowed to visit the fish pass on conducted tours by prior arrangement with Rodley Nature Reserve.

Salts Mill Weir (Bradford)

Bradford Council’s proposed hydro / fish pass is still under consultation. The Council’s proposals can be seen by looking at Hydro Power Scheme – Saltaire on the internet.
Other searches:Hydropower
Documents: Feasibility Report (PDF 15.35 MB, 142 A4 pages). ((Searches on the http://www.bradford.gov.uk/ itself are singularly useless – a BMDC website problem, searches from the google home page, your browser search bar or a search results page work fine.))

The Aire Rivers Trust (ART) is neither supporting nor opposing the hydro / fish pass scheme as it believes that the decision should be left to local people. ART has made some constructive comments as regards the design of the proposed fish pass. Whether the hydro goes ahead or not, ART would hope that the Council can find funding for a fish pass on this major barrier to fish passage.

Hirst Mill Weir (Saltaire, Bradford)

During the high river levels in summer 2012, the weir at Hirst Mill became unstable and Bradford Amateur Rowing Club had to carry out emergency repairs. The repairs involved the placement of a large amount of stone in the river below the weir. The Rowing Club is looking at a long term solution which may well consist of a rock ramp fish pass which will also support the structure of the weir.

Systagenix Weir (Gargrave)

With the intention of putting a fish pass on this weir, the Aire Rivers Trust commissioned a feasibility study for a fish pass and received the results of the study in autumn 2012. Since that time the management at Systagenix (formerly known as Johnson & Johnson) has been obliged to cease taking water from the weir goit and the weir is now effectively redundant.

As far as is known, to date no decision has been made as to whether weir removal is an option or how fish passage can be improved for the long term.

BHS and CIWEM meetings

BHS – British Hydrological society
CIWEM – Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

Upcoming meetings

The British Hydrological Society (BHS) and CIWEM have a joint meeting at Sheffield University on 3 July. (Hydro-Power for Hydrologists.)

Lancaster University are hosting a British Hydrological Society meeting and workshop on 11th/ 12th July 2013 entitled ‘Data-based mechanistic methods for hydrological modelling, forecasting and emulation: research and water sector applications’.

Past meetings, streaming Audio and PowerPoint slides

The 3 BHS meetings held in Leeds (Jan, Feb, Mar 2013) are available online. Streaming Audio with .PPT

I intend to update these as more meetings com up or media from past meetings come available.