‘Worrying’ new evidence over riverbank safety in Saltford


Flashback to the stabilisation scheme

Bath & North East Somerset Council has been handed an independent engineering report into the stability and condition of the riverbank at Mead Lane in Saltford which reveals “worrying evidence” that it is being weakened by the mooring of boats.

In 2019 Saltford Environment Group (SEG) flagged up concerns that the riverbank could collapse after documents came to light showing that stabilisation work by engineering firm Halcrow some 14 years previously was not designed for moorings. But those fears were eased by specialist engineers from Atkins Global who were commissioned by B&NES Council to investigate. They found no immediate concern, with the rock protection appearing mainly intact.

Part of the riverbank at Mead Lane has since been designated as a space for nature and no mooring is allowed. Moorings remain available along part of the riverbank at Mead Lane. These are 14-day moorings only and the council has an ambition to remove moorings by the end of 2022.

However, concerned that Atkins’ mooring assessment in 2020 omitted to cover key issues, in particular the condition of the stabilisation scheme’s rock armour below the waterline, Saltford residents have since commissioned an independent report from Bristol firm Jubb Consulting Engineers Ltd.

Residents were concerned that the mooring of heavy boats permitted and encouraged by B&NES Council during and since its 2016/17 mooring trial in Mead Lane had damaged and potentially de-stabilised the riverbank.

SEG have now published the findings of Jubb’s report on their website and say it has revealed “worrying evidence”.

The report found it unlikely that ad-hoc moorings would have been anticipated during the stabilisation design, particularly so in the geotextile and rock armour, which as evidenced by the findings of their report, has degraded. Jubb also said that continued mooring of narrow and other boats could result in loss of habitat and exacerbation of the scarp/scour feature which appears to have formed since the works.

Reviewing Atkins’ report, Jubb noted that “no river side, or bathymetry surveys were undertaken, which are important considerations”. They added: “We do not agree with Atkins where they conclude that the rock armour has promoted sediment accumulation and horizontal vegetation growth. Our findings are that except in the area protected by a large willow and the farthest downstream section (approaching the sailing club), the original 2004/5 remedial works have been degraded somewhat….”

On their website, SEG say they have always recognised the need to improve facilities for the mooring of boats on the river that provide safe and appropriate moorings for the live-aboard community and other boat users whilst protecting the natural environment. “However, when B&NES Cabinet took the decision in September 2020 to end moorings in Mead Lane by 31st December 2022, SEG was concerned that the 2+ year timescale meant a prolonged period of risk to the riverbank’s rock armour and stability when its condition below the waterline was not known.

“The rock armour could clearly be seen to be displaced or missing from most stretches of the area used for moorings and this new report confirms that the ‘original 2004/5 remedial works have been degraded’.”

SEG say that the full extent of the structural damage could not be measured by Jubb during their assessment last September due to the large number of moored boats. “As soon as the mooring ban is implemented by B&NES Council, a full structural survey and the implementation of repairs is therefore necessary before even further repairs are required to protect the adjacent highway, the original objective of the rock armour stabilisation scheme.

“It is reasonable to surmise that the longer moorings are permitted to continue, the bigger the bill for repairs is likely to be for council taxpayers.”

Last month residents sought a meeting with B&NES Council’s chief executive to discuss the report.

And this week a B&NES Council spokesperson told The Week In: “The council is aware of the independent survey and has recently received a copy. We will be assessing the information over the coming weeks.”

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