Natural Resources Wales responsibilities to the Tennant Canal

Natural Resources Wales has a duty to protect the environment, so why are NRW excluding the Tennant canal from that responsibility.

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

18 May 2021

NRW – Natural Resources Wales to Mr. Stephen Kinnock MP, Member of Parliament for Aberavon.

Dear Stephen,

Re: Tennant Canal, Aberdulais, Neath Port Talbot

Thank you for your enquiry 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 him 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. 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.

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