Monday, 6 February 2012


The Environment Agency currently has a project to replace all five of the remaining old paddle and rymer weirs on the River Thames, three of which are Grade II listed structures. The EA justifies this by saying:
As owners and operators of the weirs on the River Thames, we are responsible for keeping them in good working order and safe for our staff to operate and maintain. We regularly carry out engineering surveys to identify areas on each weir that may need repair or replacement. 
We are replacing the paddle and rymer weirs because they can cause inherent long-term health problems. They can also have operational issues, be time consuming and potentially dangerous to operate. 
The new weirs will be operated more rapidly, safely and effectively. They will preserve the existing biodiversity and appearance of the river.
The proposed work has been controversial and very unpopular - much criticism levelled at the expense of replacing weirs that have worked for over a hundred years:
Villagers in Appleton and Eaton claim motorising the weir would be a waste of money and would removed a much-loved element of local history. “It will be a tragedy when they are replaced.

“Apart from the initial installation cost of an automated weir the annual running costs to provide power to the electrical systems and maintenance costs will be a small fortune.
“But now the Environment Agency seems bent on spending unnecessary millions to achieve the same result.
“It doesn’t make any commercial sense whatsoever.”
And, with work soon to start on replacing the Northmoor Weir, we witnessed on this evening's local news - BBC South today - Tory MP Nicola Blackwood echoing similar views; arguing that she couldn't justify the expense to her constituents at a time of austerity, and complaining that no proper cost/ benefit analysis had been done.

Now, as anyone who follows the EU closely knows, anything to do with the environment, rivers etc will ring EU alarm bells - of the gigantic brass variety - particularly when "preserving the existing biodiversity and appearance of the river". And so it proves. Not only does river management come under EU Directive 2007/60/EC which: requires Member States to assess if all water courses and coast lines are at risk from flooding, to map the flood extent and assets and humans at risk in these areas and to take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this flood risk
But more specifically, as this Paddle & Rymer Weirs Replacement Programme Scoping Consultation Document makes clear the weirs fall foul of this EU required regulation (my emphasis):
The need for the project
The operation of paddle and rymer weirs is labour intensive. The Environment Agency has recognised that there are long-term health and operational issues associated with the operation of these paddle and rymer weirs, despite measures having been taken over the years to reduce the risks. A manual handling assessment (Williams 2009) concluded that there is a high risk of injury when operating these nine weirs because the guideline operational weights to be lifted/lowered as detailed in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 are significantly surpassed. The issues were highlighted during the 2007 floods, and could mean that the weirs cannot be operated effectively during periods of flooding.

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 which is based on European Directive 90/269/EEC.

Unsurprisingly all of this goes unmentioned by the various local media outlets and not least also by Ms Blackwood. As a Tory A-lister - her eye is on promotion within the Cameron set - it simply wouldn't do to point out inconvenient EU truths.


  1. Bloody good post TBF and well picked up!

    I think I'll nick it and cross post - hope you don't mind.......?

  2. @WfW Thanks very much, no problem at all.

    Sorry for the slight delay in your comment being published - your comment for some unknown reason was logged as spam :-(

  3. It is a shame that the ergonomics reports underpinning this activity are unpublished and therefore not open to peer review.
    I note that Human Applications (the company responsible for one of them) does not claim on its website to be a registered consultancy with the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors.

  4. Since the "paddles" can weigh as much as 80lbs each and there are lots of them, of different sizes, perhaps instead of blaming the EU directive ( enacted as the manual handling regulations) you should consider not only the workers needed, and their possible injury, but also the cost of them ?
    You could also look at the current cost to the UK from musculo-skeletal injuries ?

  5. @Anon I'm blaming the EU because it's precisely due to EU legislation that they're being replaced.

    And regardless if your points are valid or not, they are irrelevant. Neither you, nor I nor the local residents have a say in the matter. The weirs will be replaced because of legislation enacted by a Government we can't vote for and our MPs won't admit that.

    That was the material point.

  6. They are grossly inefficient, incapable of being "operated" in a short time period such as nightime, and are also incapable of being part of the flood control system that exists. The agency has replaced many others. If those who favour it being kept would like to maintain and operate it (which includes inserting the posts and paddles) then ok. Except they will not. We had heavy lifting regulations prior to the EU. Part of the old factories acts which became the Health and Safety at Work act. Nothing new at all.

  7. inherent long-term health problems

    Strange how these have just sprung up.

  8. @James Higham :-) Indeed, how strange... after such a long time

  9. iDay

    Independence Day - What happens when we leave the EU?

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