Grange Paddocks weir removal to kickstart River Stort restoration project
The much-loved weir on the River Stort at Grange Paddocks is controversially set to be removed as part of a conservation plan.
The crossing point has been a favourite place for Bishop’s Stortford children to fish for minnows and dogs to enjoy a splash for generations – but Herts County Council and the Environment Agency say it is damaging the river’s ecology.
The Stort is a rare example of a chalk stream and, because it is mostly fed from groundwater, should be clear. Such rivers should provide a diverse habitat for lots of different insects and aquatic plants, including water crowfoot and types of watercress.
However, experts say the section of the river at Grange Paddocks, close to where Roman road Stane Street crosses the waterway, is being damaged by the weir.
It is preventing sediment from being carried downstream, which clogs important gravel habitats in the riverbed, it is stopping fish, eels and other river life from freely moving up the channel and it is reducing the variety of habitat upstream.
The council has concluded: “Fortunately, the weir is the last structure on the River Stort causing such negative environmental impacts.
“The weir is currently in a poor condition and doesn’t provide any flood risk benefit. As the weir is limiting the health of wildlife populations, any costs to repair and maintain it in the future are not justifiable.”
Removing the weir will let the river upstream return to its natural state with clear, flowing water and could see the reintroduction of species like water voles.
After the weir is removed, the height of the riverbank upstream will be adjusted to create a smooth gradient and bundles of brushwood and rolls of natural fibres will promote restoration and protect the river banks.
The council and the Environment Agency are also planning new planting on the banks and margins.
The council says: “Projects at other locations along the Stort Navigation and River Stort have seen the successful reintroduction of water voles and habitat enhancements creating a more attractive environment for wildlife and visitors.
“The Grange Paddocks project will contribute to catchment-wide efforts to restore the Stort to a more natural state and, along with the Waterside Stortford project, enable people to have greater access to the unique wildlife of chalk rivers.”
The plans are already provoking dissent.
One critic told the Indie: “To remove the weir to allow fish migration is certainly a good ecological move, however by taking the superb shallow water area away from locals to allow their children a safe area to explore our local river and its environment is another local planning disaster.
"Many families allow their dogs access during our ever increasingly hot summers to cool off and get a drink here. With this gone, it will be a huge loss.”
Herts County Council is planning a series of updates for residents as the scheme is designed. Those with comments should contact email@example.com.