Weir working to prevent flooding
WORK to remove a troublesome century-old concrete weir has begun to restore the tributary of the River Chess and reduce the flood risk in Chesham Old Town.
Buckinghamshire County Council’s Flood Management Team began work on the scheme on Monday (January 22), working with the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project, the Hundridge Estate and Chesham 1879 Lawn Tennis and Squash Club through whose land the river flows.
By removing the weir and restoring the river to its original course, the council aims to create more capacity, achieve a steadier flow, and stop water backing up to cause flooding.
The plan is to replace a shallow 100 metre channel with a deeper winding channel using pre-planted coir rolls and chestnut clefts backfilled with river sediment and wood chippings.
The weirs are thought to have been built around 100 years ago to support Chesham’s famous watercress production, and the council hopes that demolishing one will allow gentle regrading of the river bed, and prevent localised flooding.
A belt of trees along the whole 200 metre reach are also being prune to increase the amount of light to the new channel and dead wood is being removed where it endangers people or property.
The £20,000 project follows an investigation by the Flood Management Team after the 2014 floods, which waterlogged neighbours’ homes that back on to the river.
Around 100 properties in the area are currently at risk of flooding.
The project uses local suppliers and is expected to be complete by the beginning of February.
Chalk Streams Project Officer Allen Beechey said the 10-mile long Chess is one of several chalk streams that rise in the Chilterns.
Chalk streams, which flow only when ground water levels rise, are a globally rare habitat, and England has the majority of them.
Bill Chapple OBE, County Council Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, said: “By restoring this section of the River Chess, we’ll be returning it to a more natural state, which will allow the natural chalk stream processes to recreate habitat.
“I’m very pleased our team have thought so carefully and creatively. They’re not only reducing a flooding risk to residents and businesses in the old town, but also working with local experts to re-create a habitat lost long ago, and which will be good for restoring flora and fauna to this reach of the Chess, and enhancing our local environment.”
The River Chess flowing through Amersham. Above, workers harvesting watercress on the Chess in Amersham
Standing on the concrete weir with Bill Chapple (centre) are (from left) Chilterns chalk streams project officer Allen Beechey, strategic flood management officer Alex Back, county councillor Noel Brown and Tennis Club chairman David Clark