Dam removal no longer an option

Humford Dam on the River Blyth in Bedlington. Picture by Tony Rugman-Jones.

Campaigners have spoken of their delight after it was announced that an option to remove a key structure at Humford Country Park in Bedlington is now off the table.

Approximately 2,500 people signed a petition opposing any move to demolish Humford Dam after a document from the Northumberland Rivers Trust (NRT) was leaked to a group of local residents.

It mentioned Environment Agency funding being allocated for potential works to remove the significant concrete weir.

The two organisations say there is evidence that shows Humford Dam is having a negative impact on a number of fish in the river.

But the group of residents leading the campaign believe that demolishing what is described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the park is unnecessary and would damage the natural environment in the area.

They argue that one of the three options discussed in a meeting last summer – improving the existing fish pass, building a new fish pass and providing a fish by-pass – should be progressed instead.

A statement by residents Ann Pattison, Keith Miller, Bill Marley, Phil Temple and Tony Rugman-Jones said: “We are delighted with the outcome of what has been a lengthy rearguard campaign to save this important and historic feature set deep within the Humford Woods Country Park and Nature Reserve.

“We are extremely grateful for the efforts of a small band of volunteers who have rallied support for this cause and ceaselessly taken the agencies involved to task about their unpopular and unnecessary scheme, and also to our local MP (Ian Lavery) and any others who have contributed.

“Most of all, we thank the many people of Bedlington and district, not forgetting those from wider afield, who took the time and trouble to find out about this issue and who signed the online and written petitions opposing demolition.”

Pete Kerr, NRT director, said: “We have worked with the local community to discuss the option of weir removal at Humford because of the huge improvements this would bring to the River Blyth, the River Pont and the myriad of side streams further upstream.

“The weir presents a huge obstruction to the natural migration of brown trout, eels, lamprey and grayling, although larger sea trout are sometimes able to get through the existing fish pass at the site if flow conditions are right.

“The dam also stops the natural movement of sediment and pollutants and creates an un-natural, still stretch of river for nearly two miles upstream.

“However, the local community is very attached to the structure, which forms an important part of the local heritage.

“The ‘waterfall’ it creates is a popular visitor site and also a turning point in the riverside walk along the Blyth.

“Therefore, although local angling clubs are supportive of the idea, many local people want to see the weir kept in place.

“We respect these views and as we said at the start of this consultation process, we would not want to progress with a project to remove the weir if the majority of local people did not want it to happen.

“Therefore, we can confirm that we have no plans to progress with the Humford weir removal project at this time.”

Robbie Stevenson, fisheries technical officer for the Environment Agency in the North East, said: “We have listened to local residents and recognise the importance of the dam to the community.

“I can confirm there are currently no plans for funds administered by the agency to be used to remove Humford Dam and no third party has indicated an intention to apply.

“We are no longer investigating dam removal, and haven’t since our meeting with residents in August last year.

“We are investigating alternative options and if any viable options are identified, we will ensure residents are updated so they can express their views.”

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