Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Plans to demolish historic aqueduct to reduce flood risk dubbed ‘lazy’

28 Feb 2024 6 minute read
Aberdulais Aqueduct in Neath Port Talbot Credit: Inland Waterways Association

Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter

Proposals put forward by Natural Resources Wales, that could see the demolition of a 200-year-old aqueduct, have been dubbed as “lazy” by the Inland Waterways Association.

The criticism came after a consultation was carried out by the Welsh Government department which listed five potential options to reduce the flood risk for 27 properties based alongside the river Neath.

The area is said to have a long history of flooding, though two of the options Inland Waterways Association say they believe are favoured by Natural Resources Wales involve the complete or partial demolition of Aberdulais Aqueduct.

False impression

However, Natural Resources Wales say they believe the IWA have given “a false impression of the intent” reflecting “a misunderstanding of the purpose of the consultation”.

The Aberdulais Aqueduct, which was first opened in 1824, is recognised as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It spans the River Neath immediately south of the A465 in Aberdulais, and carries the Tennant Canal over the River Neath.

It is located approximately 2 miles north-east of Neath, and consists of a 104-metre-long structure made up of ten arches bridging over the river. It is of masonry construction, though the condition of the structure is said to have “deteriorated significantly over the years.”

Obstruction

A spokesperson for the IWA said: “In times of flooding, the Aberdulais Aqueduct is perceived as an obstruction to the flow of the river. Flooding of the adjacent land and properties has occurred on several occasions. The properties in Canal Side have a long history of flooding, with damaging events in December 1979 and October 1998.

“In recent years, climate change has worsened the situation and floods have become more regular, with damage to the aqueduct. A structural inspection report commissioned by IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group in December 2021 showed that urgent works were required to prevent further damage to the Ancient Monument, but nothing has been done so far.

“In its consultation, Natural Resources Wales admits that demolition of the aqueduct would have relatively little impact in reducing floods, but the local view is that NRW would like to demolish the aqueduct so it can be seen to be doing something.”

Speaking shortly before the closure of the consultation, they added that the demolition of the the structure would “forever frustrate restoration proposals to bring the Neath and Tennant canals back to life as well as impacting the wellbeing, environmental and heritage benefits provided by the Canal.”

Sympathy

IWA deputy chair Sue O’Hare said: “Whilst the Inland Waterways Association has every sympathy with the residents of Canal Side, demolishing one of Wales’s renowned historic structures would be nothing short of bureaucratic vandalism while not achieving the aim of significantly reducing the flood risk.

“Over the years a great deal of voluntary effort and public money has gone into bringing the Neath Canal back to life for the benefit of the community. IWA calls upon the owners of the Neath and Tennant Canals (St Modwen and Port Tennant Canal Company), Neath Port Talbot Council and the government agencies concerned to work together to rescue this precious piece of heritage and amenity for the benefit of future Welsh generations.”

Aberdulais Aqueduct Credit: Inland Waterways Association

Natural Resources Wales said they are disappointed with some of the comments made, which “appear to reflect a misunderstanding of the purpose of the consultation.”

Merrissa Fallas, projects and programmes delivery officer, for Natural Resources Wales said: “The Aberdulais Flood Risk Management (FRM) project seeks to improve the knowledge and understanding of how flood events impact the whole community and determine if there are viable options to reduce the flood risk.

“Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is proud of the extensive industrial heritage of the area and understands that each asset is intrinsically linked to the community, as well as being of international importance.

“Climate change increases the risk to all of these assets and this is why NRW is working closely with all agencies, including Cadw and Neath Port Talbot Council to ensure that we treat every feature equally and with respect.

“In order to assess the flood risk impact of structural features positioned within and adjacent to the river channel, which includes the aqueduct, NRW has recently commissioned a new hydraulic model which clearly illustrates the passage of high water during a flood event.

“This model will help all agencies to develop the most appropriate and cost-efficient response to the frequent risk faced by the community, helping to improve resilience to flooding.

“Since November 2023, NRW has hosted a number of workshops, including an open invitation drop-in discussion event, which allowed everyone to meet with NRW representatives.

“The online consultation is an extension of this discussion, allowing users to study the findings of the new hydraulic model at their leisure and enabling people to contact the project team directly for further discussion.

“The purpose of the online consultation was to demonstrate the findings of the new hydraulic model and with it we tested the risk management scenarios which had been initially proposed by our consultants and the community.

“The consultation demonstrates that alterations to the aqueduct are of small consequence during larger flood events and the model indicates that significant changes to the structure result in detriment.

“NRW does not have a preferred option at this stage. All constructive discussion is welcomed as it will help to develop a sustainable, realistic and resilient response to the effects of climate change for the community, if there is one.

“The current consultation is intended to collate feedback on the effect of the options previously identified with the knowledge that the model indicates high risk flood events will continue to present a risk for this community.

“We are disappointed to read the critical comments issued by IWG. These appear to reflect a misunderstanding of the purpose of the consultation and gives a false impression of the intent.

“NRW are looking to reinforce existing relationships within the community and to build new links with interested stakeholders, helping to support the Aberdulais community.

“By sharing information, we can work together to hopefully develop a positive, sustainable improvement. We would welcome an opportunity to discuss the flood risk impacts on the wider community with IWA.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Joni Mitchel sang “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”…Big Yellow Taxi 1970

Graham Hall
Graham Hall
1 month ago

From the photograph of the aqueduct, it seems that the flood risk would best be reduced by removing gravel from the river on the upstream side of the structure. This would allow a greater volume of water to flow through the arches.

William
William
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Hall

Not a good idea, suggest engage brain before engaging Peter pointer.
All that would do is create a deep pool. The whole river bedmate down stream needs to be lowered or flood plains created like on the Tawe between Ynysforgan and Morriston, excuse spelling

Pete N
Pete N
1 month ago
Reply to  Graham Hall

The ultimate and by far the best soloution is get rid of tbe buildings all 27 of them stupid oafs building on areas likely to flood

Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

What is the problem with repairing if it is a scheduled ancient monument, organisations exist to protect these structures for future generations, how can this even be considered??

William
William
1 month ago

Is it not a listed structure . Who are the vandals here, Inland waterways or Neath Port Talbot

David Parry
David Parry
1 month ago

Find it hard to believe there’s not an engineer that can work this out without the destruction of a great piece of history.

Pjames
Pjames
1 month ago
Reply to  David Parry

You can clearly see in the picture the trees and other debris obstructing the flow through the arches, if these were cleared it would help massively but hey that’s to simple bit like the council clearing culverts after the events . Useless people wasting the publics money .

Karl
Karl
1 month ago

How is removing what we did ,to disturb nature lazy. What do they expect, endless dreding disturbing the content of the water. Time we worked with nature more. If it means removing issued rubble, then that’s life

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  Karl

So let’s demolish everything great idea, not

David
David
1 month ago

Someone put brains together, they like most councils don’t listen to anyone we live in a make believe democracy

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.