Removing Weirs in the Eden

Why do weirs cause a problem?

The process of removing weirs


The Cumbria River Resoration Strategy

Eden Rivers Trust has received the green light to remove Carleton Hall weir in the River Eamont at Eamont Bridge and Sheepmount weir in the River Caldew in Carlisle to improve these tributaries of the River Eden for wildlife and people. 

After months of planning, surveys, consultations and obtaining the necessary permissions and consents for the weir removals from all of the appropriate regulatory organisations and the weir owners, the removals can now go ahead.

Local contractors, Waitings will be carrying out the work at Eamont Bridge and Cubby Construction will be removing the weir at the Sheepmount in Carlisle.  Both contractors plan to start work in the week beginning 22 August 2016, weather permitting.

Rivers in the Eden Valley contain numerous old weirs which were built for historic reasons, such as powering mills, raising river bed levels or redirecting water courses.  Many of these are now redundant and can pose a maintenance and liability issue for their owners.


Why do weirs cause a problem?

1. Weirs alter how rivers behave, creating a ponded section upstream of the barrier and changing how gravel moves down the river.  This not only adversely affects the wildlife habitat, but can also change erosion, deposition and flood risk, all of which may be a problem for people and property.

2. Weirs make it difficult for fish to feed and breed. The River Eden and its tributaries support a number of fish species which need to move up and down rivers to feed and breed.  Some fish only migrate a few hundred metres whereas others, such as wild Atlantic salmon and eels, must travel thousands of kilometres.  Their journey within rivers can be impeded by man-made barriers such as weirs, culverts, bridges and dams. 

All reduce the likelihood of fish being able to move freely to find food, hide from predators and successfully breed.  This threatens the continuing survival of these species.

Weirs and other barriers within rivers raise the level of the river bed, alter how gravels move through the river system and make it difficult for fish to move up and down the river.  Removing them allows the river to shift and store gravel more appropriately and creates the range of features such as gravel beds and bars, riffles and pools which river wildlife needs to survive.  It also enables fish to move freely as water levels fall or rise.

Restoring rivers brings many benefits for the environment and communities. More natural rivers have diverse habitats which support a range of insects, fish and other wildlife.  They function in a more sustainable way and are more resilient to climate change.  They can also enhance the landscape and enjoyment of the countryside.

Removing weirs is just one of a wide range of techniques we use throughout the Eden catchment that restore natural processes to rivers or help existing natural processes work more efficiently. We look at the catchment as a whole, not just the immediate area, in order to research, design and implement appropriate techniques that address the local problem without adversely affecting the rest of the river course.


The process of removing weirs

Although the physical removal of the weirs only took a few hours, the planning and consultation involved took months.

We are committed to ensuring that any decision taken to remove or modify a barrier on the river is the right one for both people and wildlife. Depending on the outcomes of surveys and consultation, the appropriate course of action may be to leave the barrier as it is.

To give you an idea of the extensive planning that took place, this is the list of surveys, permit applications and consultations we undertook for this project:  

  • “Weir removal/modification Feasibility Appraisal” by JBA Consulting, covering hydrology, ecology, structure, services, contamination, cultural heritage and concept design.
  • Planning Permission application (16/0459).
  • Impoundment Licence application (NW/076/0006/005).
  • Environmental Permit application (EPR/RB3396JX).
  • Consultation and formal agreement with weir owners.
  • Consultation with local community groups, interest groups and Councillors.
  • Consultation with Local Authorities and other relevant statutory agencies.
  • Appropriate survey and mitigation for otters, bats, trees, crayfish, fish and invasive species.
  • Design and tender of ground works.
  • Health and Safety requirements.
  • Construction Design and Management Regulations.
  • Pollution control measures.
  • Archaeological Watching Brief (Carleton Hall only, before and during works).
  • Monitoring.
  • Publicity – advising people of the planning permission etc.



The County Archaeologist and Historic England were consulted and their recommendations followed. An Archaeological Watching Brief was carried out before and during the removal process at Carlton Hall Weir and a report will be produced shortly.

The Cultural Heritage Assessments by JBA Consulting for both weirs are a fascinating insight into the history of the weirs and the surrounding area – you can download both of these reports by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.


Cumbria River Restoration Strategy

This work forms part of the Cumbria River Restoration Strategy, a partnership project that aims to improve rivers in Cumbria for people and wildlife. This project sits within the Eden catchment and is being led by Eden Rivers Trust.

Partners of the wider project include: the Environment Agency, Natural England, Eden Rivers Trust, West Cumbria Rivers Trust and South Cumbria Rivers Trust.

The partnership has a successful history of delivering river restoration projects across Cumbria and was awarded the UK River Prize in recognition of this in April 2016.