Avon Severn Eel Pass Project

Closes 1 Dec 2022

Opened 12 Feb 2021


Work to improve eel passage

Please note this is a project information page. Recent update November 2021.

The Environment Agency is working to deliver improved eel passage at the confluence between the River Avon and the River Severn. This page explains the background to the project and work planned.

Update (see below): the eel pass at Stanchard Pit has been renewed (October 2021). 


The Environment Agency is addressing eel passage at two locations: Abbey Mill Sluice and Stanchard Pit Weir, on adjacent channels of the River Avon. The Environment Agency is responsible for these structures, maintaining them for navigation and river level management purposes.

The Agency has a legal obligation to provide improved eel passage at Abbey Mill Sluice in order to comply with the Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009. The project is also replacing a damaged eel pass at Stanchard Pit.

As these two structures are the first obstructions to fish passage on the River Avon, this project will make a 26.7km reach of the River Avon and its tributary Carrant Brook accessible to eel species.

The River Severn, the Mill Avon and River Avon are migratory routes for European eel which is a protected species. Over the last 30 years, the number of juvenile eels returning to rivers has fallen by around 95% across Europe and, consequently, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advises that ‘the stock of European eel is outside safe biological limits and current fisheries are not sustainable’. The amount of available habitat has decreased as a result of the construction of river barriers such as Stanchard Pit Weir and Abbey Mill Sluice. This project will positively impact on this issue by delivering effective eel passage at both sites to allow the safe migration of eels in and out of the river systems in order to complete their life cycle.

Increasing connectivity for fish also supports the 2015 Severn River Basin Management Plan’s (RBMP) aim for waterbodies to achieve good ecological status or potential by 2027.

The image below shows the River Avon and River Severn confluence area at Tewkesbury (both rivers flow north to south in this figure) (Map courtesy of Google Earth / Infoterra Ltd and Bluesky).

River Avon and River Severn confluence area at Tewkesbury (both rivers flow north to south in this figure) (Map courtesy of Google Earth / Infoterra Ltd and Bluesky).

Work planned

During 2021 and 2022, the Environment Agency and its contractors will be installing improved eel passes near Abbey Mill Sluice and near Stanchard Pit Weir as the current eel passes are no longer functional.

The redundant eel pass at Abbey Mill was a pumped system within the building, whereas the new design works using gravity (a ‘passive’ system). It will require far less maintenance and will be more effective.

At Stanchard Pit the previous pass no longer functioned due to significant damage caused during high flood flows. In October 2021 it was replaced with an improved and more robust design which is also easier to maintain:

New eel pass at Stanchard Pit Weir

See below for more detail on the eel passes.

Construction considerations

Start dates for work at Abbey Mill sluice are depending on final design agreement, consents and flood risk considerations. An update will be provided in November 2021.

As Abbey Mill Sluice is located close to the Grade II* listed Abbey Mill and a Scheduled Ancient Monument (Tewkesbury Abbey (St. Mary’s Abbey Church)), the proposed gravity-fed eel pass has been carefully considered and will minimise any potential visual impact by flushing the top of the structure with the ground. We will be liaising with the local authority conservation officer and Historic England on matters including visual impact and will be considerate of the location when developing construction plans.

The Environment Agency is carrying out the works as permitted development. 

Common Land access

Proposed construction access at Abbey Mill will be via the bridge opposite Quay Street and across the Severn Ham (shown by the red dotted line on the map below).

On behalf of the Environment Agency, our land agents Fisher German contacted several individuals and organisations regarding consent for works on the common land area of the Severn Ham (for the Abbey Mill eel pass).

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Amenity considerations

The Environment Agency fully understands community concerns about visual and access disruption during any construction works.

We are legally obliged to undertake these works but appreciate the areas are popular locations for visitors and residents. We are working with our contractors to plan the works and will be able to provide more information later this spring on the precise working area, working arrangements (including any possible footpath diversion) and timings.

The area is close to the Severn Ham Site of Special Scientific Interest. We can reassure residents that we are liaising closely with Natural England.

No trees are envisaged to be cut or removed for the installation of the proposed eel passes. Should this be needed we will consult with local authorities.

Community engagement and enquiries

In Sprng 2021 we engaged with stakeholders  including local authorities and others involved in the Common Land access to Abbey Mill, followed by a Common Land Consent application. Our land agent also began engaging with the owner of The Boat House near Stanchard Pit.

Notices regarding the works at Abbey Mill will be displayed locally when work details are confirmed. 

For enquiries about the work planned please see our contact details below (in the Get In Touch box).

The eel passes

Our preferred option is a gravity fed channel at Stanchard Pit and a gravity fed technical bypass with box eel channel at Abbey Mill.

Stanchard Pit: The eel pass comprises an aluminium channel that is lined with eel crawling media (eel tiles) fixed to the wall and over the weir structure. It is located on the left bank and provides an effective means of eel passage across the weir where flow conditions are most attractive. 

Abbey Mill: The weir here is mechanised and moves during flooding so a standard channel like the one above will not work. To overcome this the upper portion of the pass is a bypass channel behind the weir wall. To minimise excavation, the lower part of the pass is formed of an aluminium box channel, similar to Stanchard Pit.  

The channel will not interfere with the Abbey Mill Sluice. It will be lined with a crawling media (eel tiles) fixed to the base of the channel. There will be a debris deflector at the upstream end. This diagram can also be downloaded via the related documents section below.

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Get in touch

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  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Fishing clubs and representative associations
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