River expert calls for weed clearance from Great Ouse at Godmanchester

A RIVER expert is calling on the Environment Agency to clear the River Great Ouse of weeds, claiming they are a danger to anyone who falls in the water. William Brown, 85, led a team responsible for weeding and dredging the river for 36 years. He believes

A RIVER expert is calling on the Environment Agency to clear the River Great Ouse of weeds, claiming they are a danger to anyone who falls in the water.

William Brown, 85, led a team responsible for weeding and dredging the river for 36 years. He believes that if a child fell in the river at Godmanchester they would have difficulty getting out.

He says the level of weeds and algae in the river near the Causeway has been allowed to get out of control.

"The weeds have built up since the Environment Agency took responsibility for the river," he said. "The agency is allowed to keep the river clear but it has no duty to do so.


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"People who have lived here a long time know that years ago we kept the river flowing and we kept it clean. It is still possible to do so."

Mr Brown, from Rectory Gardens, Godmanchester, was in charge of a team of four river controllers responsible for monitoring water levels as far away as Newport Pagnell to work out where and when there was likely to be a flood.

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"When I was in charge of maintenance, we would go down with weed cutters once a month," he said. "The Environment Agency is not obliged to do that. If a child fell into the river - or even a dog - they would have a terrible job getting out."

He has written to the EA asking for the weeds to be tackled, but was told dredging and weed-cutting "caused significant damage to habitat and wildlife".

Mr Brown has sent a copy of a letter from Dr Geoff Brighty, area manager at the Environment Agency, to Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly.

Mr Brown added: "I just can't see where they are coming from. Our job was to keep the river maintained in a good condition. It appears to me that all our work was done for nothing."

Mr Djanogly told The Hunts Post: "I have spoken to probably six experts with long experience on the river and heard about four different opinions.

"Some people believe that by weed-cutting and dredging you clear the water. Some people believe it makes very little difference: when a certain amount of water comes down, it will flood. My own view is that there has to be a balance."

Dr Brighty said the EA's duty was to spend money on flood defence schemes rather than on "localised bits of dredging that have an aesthetic purpose but no flood or navigation benefit".

"In the 1950s and 1960s dredging was done then every five years whether it was needed or not. We dredge now on the basis of need. We do have weed boats and we use them to keep the river clear for navigation and for fishing.

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