For the last two days we’ve been trying to establish exactly what is going on at the Queen’s Viaduct in the lower Irvine. This week work commenced in the tidal waters just upstream of the viaduct carrying the main Stranraer to Glasgow Central rail line. It seems difficult to believe that we and every angling Club on the river Irvine were unaware of the planned works but that’s exactly the case.

The temporary structure (road ) across the Irvine that has appeared since the start of the week.

The temporary structure (road ) across the Irvine that has appeared and grown since the start of the week.

After a couple of days phoning around and waiting for return calls, this afternoon  I managed to speak with Marine Scotland’s Licensing Department for Marine Construction works. Normally I speak to SEPA over matters affecting works in stream but when I called them in Ayr on Monday, no one knew anything about this work. I called again on Tuesday morning to see if anyone had found out who was dealing with this and was informed that it’s a Marine Scotland issue as it is in tidal waters. Muir called several numbers looking for information and finally this morning he received a call back from the department in Aberdeen that issued the licence for the work. When I returned, I immediately called to get the information I needed.

Here are the facts that I obtained from the phone call and in an email sent from Marine Scotland following our discussion:
1. As no DSFB is in place, Marine Scotland were required to advertise the proposed works in a formal notice published in a local paper (Irvine Times 17/06/15). This is the bare minimum for compliance with consultation requirements.

2. No objections were received following the advert and therefore the licence was issued with 24 conditions.

3. The licence was issued for scour protection and refurbishment works.

4. 24 conditions are attached to the licence, 10 of which appear to relate to navigation and other maritime lighting issues. Of the remaining 14, only 6 relate in any way to environmental protection (with limited detail) and just 1 of them relates to living marine resources. There’s no mention of migrating salmonids, resident trout, eels, lampreys, or any fish species that may reasonably be expected to live in the tidal waters of the river and estuary.

5. No provision was stipulated for migratory species.

6. The works and method statement have been approved and issued with a Licence for Marine Construction Works to take place by Marine Scotland licensing department, Aberdeen.

7. The main contractor applied for the licence on or around the 12th May this year to allow works to take place between the 1st June and the 31st July 2015.

8. The licence was issued on the 24th July.

9. The duration of the works was expected to be 2 months.

10. 810T of stone will be added to the river to protect the bridge foundations. A further 190 T of stone will be added but on a temporary basis.

11. The work is to reinforce a pillar foundation where scouring has been severe. Masonry restoration will take place at the same time

12. No attempt was made to contact ART, The River Irvine Improvement Association and angling clubs as the department were unaware of the existence of any of these bodies.

Low tide and the incomplete road is a complete barrier across the river except for 6 small and inadequate pipes near the inside of the bend.

Shortly after low tide low tide and the incomplete road is a complete barrier across the river except for 6 small and inadequate pipes near the inside of the bend. Did I mention oil….. that’s the least of our worries at the moment but it is just another issue that’s obvious in this photograph.

At least the pipes aren't perched except at low tide.

At least the pipes aren’t perched except at low tide.

Frankly, I was shocked to hear that no effort was made nor required, to contact any of the angling interests or the Trust and that a Government department within Marine Scotland was unaware of ourselves or the Trust network that exists (any member of  which would have pointed them in our direction from a simple phone call). ART are unhappy with this level of consultation on an important salmon and sea trout river. The work is taking place at a notorious poaching back spot and I’m sure there will be many migrating salmon lost as we have just entered the peak months for migration in Ayrshire Rivers.

We have already notified the River Irvine Improvement Association of the works and the bailiffs and will continue to seek assurances that adequate provision for salmonid migration will be provided. Atlantic Salmon are a protected species after all. I will be on the phone tomorrow once again with Marine Scotland and this time I’ll also be calling Marine Scotland Science at the Lab. I have many more points to raise over this issue. We expect better than this from all Government departments.


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3 Responses to River Irvine fish passage impeded/blocked!

  1. bob brown says:

    what a total and utter joke of a job this is. Marine Scotland the great protector of fish and seas claim they dont know there are angling clubs or trusts in existence INCREDIBLE i just do not believe this has actually happened and as ive said before this lot are taking to do with the WFR . i wonder if they know anything about Salmon or Trout. I am aghast at this nonsense heads should roll big time.

  2. richard bellamy (Urr DSFB) says:

    This situation encapsulates all that is worryingly wrong, and flawed, with the current Govt’s mindset on anything to do with fish, fisheries and the “fishy” environment. The fact that the works are in the tidal stretch of the river should not of course make the slightest difference – DSFBs already are supposed to have the whole river, from headwaters to the outside of the estuarial limit, as their area of responsibility, so absolutely no excuse for Marine Scotland not to realise a need to inform the Irvine DSFB. I suspect that if MS is looking for somewhere to hide, it may well come up with an explanation along the lines of “DSFBs are not statutory consultees, so strictly speaking we had no duty to inform Irvine DSFB”. Neither should we be surprised to be told the new all-singing, all-dancing FMOs (to replace DSFB and Fishery trusts) will be statutory consultees, so don’t worry!
    None of us should take any comfort in the fact that this disaster is not on our own river – for “Irvine” simply read “any river in Ayrshire”, and the effect upon the fish migrating upstream would be the same – I cannot imagine that even a herling could squeeze through one of those pipes, let alone anything bigger. The only crumb of comfort here is that Stuart and his team are on the case – past evidence shows clearly that ART is like a terrier with a rat on incidents and issues, but this one, even for Stuart and Co, is going to be a tough nut to crack.
    Are there any Irvine proprietors upstream from the dam who might throw their weight into the ring (Scot Gov doesn’t like the threat of legal action, but surely a proprietor could honestly claim that the action of the contractor/MS is detrimental to the value of his/her fishery??

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      Richard, thanks for the vote of confidence and yes we are persistent so will put everything we have into finding an adequate solution.
      The main problem that led to this was that Marine Scotland’s licensing department didn’t investigate who they should contact in the absence of a DSFB (the Irvine and Garnock are rivers without this tier of management). When asked why they didn’t contact ART, I was informed that the department ‘weren’t aware of us’ which is a complete nonsense so I asked weren’t they aware of the Trust network around the Country? I received the same answer! Very worrying indeed.
      Moving forwards, I will be attending a site meeting on Monday and the main contractor appears to be very willing to work with us to find a solution. More on this in a later post.