Natural Resources Wales holds all the cards?

No application has been received to construct or reconstruct the Aberdulais Weir and return freshwater supply to the Tennant Canal.

In 2018, large water pumps were installed which fed into the canal to improve water flow then in early July 2021
In 2018, large water pumps were installed that fed into the canal to improve water flow and were removed in early July 2021.

May 18, 2021

Natural Resource Wales Head of Operations, Martyn Evans in a reply to Stephen Kinnock MP on behalf of a constituent says “no application has been received to construct or reconstruct the Aberdulais Weir” which he admits is vital in providing water to the Tennant Canal or has Mr. Evans puts it “historically, one of the mechanisms to ensure there was water in the canal”. By historically, I’m sure Mr. Evans meant to say is the River Neath has been supplying water to the canal for nearly 200 YEARS!.

Tennant Canal at Jersey Marine in May 2021 and then July 2021.
Tennant Canal at Jersey Marine in May 2021 and then July 2021.

He also added that “any application to repair or re-build the Weir would need to be accompanied by a flood consequences assessment” but the Weir has been supplying the canal with water since 2008? This quango NRW is causing environmental problems all over Wales acting with authoritarian control over organisations and individuals. Many who have experienced this behavior think the NRW is not fit for purpose.

The Tennant Canal
The Tennant Canal at Jersey Marine on 17th June 2021

What is certain is that Natural Resource Wales seems to hold all the cards when it comes to any negotiations or permissions, despite repeated warnings the damaged Weir at Aberdulais is causing serious low water conditions on the Tennant Canal. It’s unforgivable that NRW is just giving excuses and not in urgent talks with the current owners on an emergency plan to get the Weir (the Tennant canals’ vital source of water) within the river at Aberdulais in Neath – FIXED!

Stephen Kinnock
Member of Parliament for Aberavon

From Natural Resource Wales to Mr. Stephen Kinnock MP, Member of Parliament for Aberavon.
18 May 2021

Dear Stephen,
Re: Tennant Canal, Aberdulais, Neath Port Talbot

Thank you for your inquiry about the Tennant canal on behalf of your constituent.

Your constituent recently contacted us directly to express his concerns about the water level in the Tennant Canal. As a result, one of our officers contacted your constituent to explain what we are doing in response to his concerns. We have carried out visual monitoring of the water level within the canal and whilst the level had dropped, we did not assess this to be significant and saw no evidence of fish or other wildlife in distress. Water levels have subsequently increased as a result of a wetter period of weather following a prolonged dry spell.

It may be helpful to explain that the situation at Aberdulais where the Tennant canal begins is complex. The Tennant canal is in private ownership. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) does not have any direct involvement in managing the water levels within the canal. Historically, one of the mechanisms to ensure there was water in the canal, was a weir within the river Neath at Aberdulais. This helped direct water to the canal via sluice gates.

Water is being pumped from the River Neath to improve water flow in the Tennant canal via sluice gates.
Water is being pumped from the River Neath to improve flow in the Tennant canal via sluice gates. Pictured 2020.

However, the weir partially collapsed, and it is no longer effective in directing water to the canal, so this method of managing the water level in the canal is not used.

We understand that the owners of the canal, the Port Tennant (Canal) Company Ltd, in conjunction with industrial abstraction users, were looking into having the weir rebuilt so that the water level in the canal could once again be topped up using water from the River Neath using the sluice gates. In the interim, the company has used pumps to transfer water from the river to the canal when needed.

In 2018, large water pumps were installed which fed into the canal to improve water flow.
In 2018, large water pumps were installed which fed into the canal to improve water flow.

It is important to note that the Aberdulais area suffers from significant periodic fluvial flooding. Any application to construct (or reconstruct) a structure would need to be accompanied by a flood consequences assessment. We have not received an application, or pre-application consultation, for such proposals. We have therefore not had any involvement in the decision-making process of the private landowners, or other interested parties, in deciding whether to rebuild the weir or not. NRW does not own or hold responsibility for assets in the area, including the sluice gates associated with the weir, which remain in private ownership.

There have been some significant changes to the management of the canal recently and we are aware of the concern this is causing. We are currently looking to understand the role we could play in advising the private landowners and other interested parties. We continue to respond to residents’ concerns, and we will periodically conduct visual monitoring to assess any impact that these changes may be having on the water level within the canal and of course, respond to any further incident reports in this regard.

I hope this helps to explain our position on the matter. Should your constituent wish to discuss any of his concerns further, he can contact Selby Le Roux within our Neath Port Talbot Environment Team at Selby.LeRoux@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk.

Yours sincerely
Martyn Evans
Head of Operations
South West Wales Pennaeth Gweithrediadau De Orllewin Cymru
Natural Resource Wales