The Welsh Canal being ‘Hung out to Dry’ by Natural Resources Wales

NRW refuses to give one drop of water to Save the Tennant Canal.

Tennant Canal at Jersey Marine
Tennant Canal at Jersey Marine was originally seven feet deep. July 13, 2022. Pictured by Save the Tennant Canal

18 July 2022

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) flatly refuses the Chairman of the newly formed Tennant Canal Association (TCA) formal request for a temporary ‘emergency’ use of a culvert to get water into the Tennant Canal despite the waterway only inches deep in places.

For nearly 200 years since 1824, the Tennant canal’s main water supply came from a Weir within the River Neath at Aberdulais but it was damaged in 2015 cutting off the canal’s supply. Natural Resources Wales has refused to licence any attempts to repair the Weir or approve other temporary solutions to restore water supply into the Tennant Canal.

Tennant Canal at Neath Abbey 2013 – 2022. Part of this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) was created by the Welsh Government on the 1st April 2013 (paid for by the taxpayer) to radically change the approach to managing the environment. The primary objective was to improve the delivery of natural resource management in Wales including better outcomes for the environment, people, and business.

In a statement made on the Save the Tennant Canal Facebook page, TCA’s Rick Hughes proposed using a permanent culvert to route water into the Canal at Aberdulais. The Tennant Canal Association has been working to try and have this culvert which was purposely designed, installed & approved to route water into the canal currently turned off via control valves. Mr. Hughes also said, “it is a simple matter of clearing small stone build-up in River Dulais (a couple of hours work at most) and then opening the control valves”. He also asked NRW to show some environmental compassion but NRW responded with a clear ‘NO’.

NRW’s reply below to the TCA contains a plethora of rules and imaginary regulations which are both contradictory and confusing. NRW continues to use excessive and unnecessary red tape to stop any attempt to restore freshwater supply to the Tennant Canal.

NRW reply to Tennant Canal Association 17 July 2022:

Further to your correspondence, we are aware that the prolonged period of dry weather has resulted in public concern about water levels in the Tennant canal. In the past few days, our officers in the area have carried out a visual inspection of the Tennant Canal which found no fish fatalities or fish in distress. We were also able to confirm that the dissolved oxygen levels in the water, which indicates how well the water can support life, was 95% which is very good. Should levels drop further, we advise that incidents at privately held assets, such as privately owned fisheries and canals, are the responsibility of the land owners to respond to.

The approach you describe as “an emergency infusion” to the canal would be the proposal from Tennant Canal Association to abstract water from the Afon Dulais into the Tennant Canal. As in currently demonstrated, the times we understand parties wish to draw water into the canal are also likely to be at times when the river levels are so low that to do so would cause harm and impact the river and so could not take place until flows recovered. This is precisely the situation as I write during a very dry spell of weather and summer low flow. The impact of abstraction on the River Dulais must therefore be assessed to determine whether it would be appropriate. To abstract in the absence of any assessment would risk breaking the hydrological connectivity of the Afon Dulais, essentially deliberately harming one ecosystem and environment to mitigate the potential impact on a privately owned asset.

Fish in the Tennant Canal
Hundreds of Fish at the Tennant Canal were in less than 10 in (25cm) of water. July 11, 2022. Pictured by Save the Tennant Canal

In order to bring Natural Resources Wales’s disgraceful behavior to the attention of local communities, we will be leafleting five thousand homes close to the Tennant Canal in Jersey Marine, Skewen, Neath Abbey, Cwrt Herbet, Roman Way, Cadoxton, and Aberdulais in an effort for constituents to call upon their political leaders to focus their minds on what is happening to our much loved historic waterway. Whoever is responsible for Natural Resources Wales needs to give this matter significant attention.

Tennant canal at Neath Abbey 2013-2022. Part of this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.

Environment and Infrastructure Committee at the Welsh Parliament on June 17, described NRW as “chaotic” and in a “constant state of flux since its creation”. In fact, since NRW was created their environmental record across Wales has been described by many organisations and politicians as dreadful with calls for the Quango to be abolished.

It’s hard to find words to explain why an orginisation set up to improve our environment is knowingly destroying eight beautiful miles of a historic waterway with a stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants, regardless of the consequences. NRW is virtually hanging the Tennant Canal out to dry.

Tennant Canal at Red Jacket.
Tennant Canal at Red Jacket originally seven feet deep is now just a few inches. July 13, 2022. Pictured by Save the Tennant Canal

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