A HIGHWAYS chief has said the people of Worcester will not be taken 'for fools' over the removal of a weir which he blames for driftwood battering a medieval bridge.

Powick Old Bridge suffered a partial collapse at the end of January after several storms brought driftwood down the River Teme as some critics blame the removal of a weir for heaping pressure on the structure.

However, the Environment Agency has denied the removal, done to assist migrating fish, was to blame for the extra debris before the partial collapse of the wing wall. The bridge remains closed to pedestrians and cyclists.

Worcester News: RESPONSE: Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways & TransportRESPONSE: Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways & Transport (Image: Worcestershire County Council Highways)

Councillor Mike Rouse, cabinet member for Highways and Transport at Worcestershire County Council said: “The focus of our investigations is to establish exactly how the partial collapse occurred. We believe the likely cause was scour to the foundations, caused by the huge amount of debris that had built up against the bridge. We have had to remove far larger quantities of the debris in recent years since the Environment Agency messed with the weir.

"The public will simply not believe that removal or alteration of a weir that previously diverted some of the river’s flow to a water wheel at Powick Mills is going to do nothing. It is absurd of the Environment Agency to try and take the council and the public for fools like this. We demand honest answers from them, and I too want to see what Risk Assessment was carried out at the time, and what consultation took place.

“Regardless of how it happened, however, our priority right now is safeguarding this historic bridge, which is very difficult under the current conditions with more rain expected. The flow is too fast for a barge to gain access and the ground next to the bridge is a flood plain. This is an extremely complex and delicate situation, so I thank the public for their patience and understanding.”

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A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said last week: “The weir was removed by the Unlocking the Severn project to allow the easier migration of the shad fish along the River Teme.

“Removal of the weir will not have increased the amount of debris against Powick Bridge or the rate is was flowing. That is dictated by the amount of debris washed into the river and the velocity of the watercourse at times of flood. This will vary from flood to flood and is a natural occurrence.    

“Riparian owners have rights and responsibilities when it comes to keeping rivers clear, including maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse and keeping the banks clear of anything that could cause an obstruction and increase flood risk, either on their land or downstream if it is washed away.

“The Environment Agency does carry out some annual maintenance and clearance work using its permissive powers to keep water flowing. In some cases this includes removal of debris that may pose a flood risk to people and property.”