Emergency Closure Notice for Welches Dam Lock published 11 years late10 May 2017
11 years ago the Environment Agency piled across sufficient of the entrance to Welches Dam Lock between Chatteris and Manea in Cambridgeshire to prevent access through the lock by boats. EA recently explained in a Parliamentary briefing that this was because the top gates were leaking.
Chris Howes, who has recently been appointed as the new chairman of IWA Peterborough Branch, had been challenging the loss of Statutory Navigation in correspondence with the Waterway Minister, and had asked why EA had never published the necessary Closure Notice. In the last few days an Emergency Closure Notice has appeared on EA’s Team-Up Waterways Calendar. This appears to have been retrospectively issued. The notice has been entered on the calendar dating back to 1st July 2006 (even though no such calendar existed at that date). It is scheduled to “repeat daily” and appears on the calendar seemingly perpetually (at least as far ahead as 2030). No such notice has appeared, either now or in the past, on the main Government website page which lists closures and restrictions on EA navigations.
There is no provision in the Anglian Water Authority Act 1977 to allow EA to close a recreational waterway other than for “the construction, maintenance or alteration of any lock or other work in or adjoining the waterway”. In any case, Section 15 (1) allows them, in those circumstances, only to “temporarily prohibit, restrict or regulate navigation”.
Chris observed "This appears to IWA Peterborough Branch as a clear attempt to rewrite history and retrospectively justify the unjustifiable. The reason given by Mr Forbes in his Parliamentary briefing to the Minister, seriously leaking gates, is no more valid today than it was 11 years ago. The piling doesn't extend across the entire opening and so the gates are still holding back a considerable head of water."
Although Welches Dam and the Horseway Arm are not listed in Schedule 1 of the Anglian Water Authority Act 1977, it is a navigation managed by EA and was previously the main route through the Middle Level Navigations. IWA Peterborough Branch and other local groups have been campaigning for the lock to be reinstated ever since the closure in 2006. To date no agreement has been reached with EA either for them to restore the lock or to allow the voluntary sector to restore it.
Find out more about IWA's campaign to save Anglian waterways from closure and to transfer Environment Agency navigations to Canal & River Trust.