A BARRAGE across one of the Tyne’s main tributaries is set to cost almost £1m more than expected. The final bill for the Ouseburn barrage, due to be officially opened in September, is now expected to be £4.7m.
The aim of the barrage, with its lock and weir, is to prevent the low tide exposure in the lower reaches of the Ouseburn of mud, silt, debris and odour.
It is expected that by impounding the river and keeping the water level at around 2.6 metres, a more attractive waterside environment will be created.
It is hoped that this will help in the regeneration of the Lower Ouseburn Valley by encouraging more leisure uses and attracting developers to take on quality projects.
The river will be impounded from near its mouth next to the Tyne pub upstream to the Cluny pub.
Excess water will cascade over the steel and concrete barrage, which has been stepped to allow the passage of otters and other wildlife. One of the problems was that it was expected that companies which benefited from the barrage would contribute funds as sites were developed.
But, as a result of the economic downturn and the reducing value of land, this prospect is now rated as extremely remote.
There has been opposition to the barrage based on claims that the Ouseburn should have been left to its natural tidal pattern and that the move is “gentrifying” the area.
One long-term Ouseburn resident, who did not want to be named, said: “People have been asking why it couldn’t remain a tidal estuary.
“They are wondering how much attention was paid to alternatives such as cleaning up the river or environmental solutions like planting reed beds.”
The Ouseburn Trust broadly supports the barrage. Chairman Sheila Spencer said: “A lot of people like the tidal nature of the Ouseburn but at low tide the river can look very unappealing.
“The hope is that a more attractive area will enthuse developers who would take on projects which add to the quality of the environment.
“The barrage is a massive undertaking and I am not surprised it is costing more. They have faced some astonishing challenges.”
The main funders of the barrage are the European Regional development Fund, Bridging Newcastle Gateshead, Tyne and Wear Partnership, One North East and Newcastle City Council.
CITY council barrage project manager Alan Spriggs described the challenges presented by the venture.
The silt and shale bed of the Ouseburn meant that 308 concrete piles have had to be sunk to a depth of 17 metres to support the 2,500-tonne weight of the barrage.
Another 100 steel piles have been sunk to 11 metres to support the lock coffer dam.
While excavating the river bed, boulders and collapsed sections of quay wall have had to be dug out at a cost of £29,000. In heavy rain last June and September, a length of quay wall collapsed and had to be rebuilt, costing £63,000.
The barrage also features two arches to turn it into a “gateway” installation.
The Port of Tyne and the Environment Agency also insisted on the use of a silt curtain around the construction works which added £86,000 to the bill.