CRITICISMS have been made of the cost and timing of a large construction project on the River Cam to re-introduce eels and fish to the area.

Work on two weirs on the river in Cambridge have been completed and include new fish and eel passes and a bypass channel to improve migration routes.

The opening up of several kilometres of the River Cam by the Environment Agency (EA) will encourage fish and eel migration for the first time since the early 1980s.

But Coaley resident Osman Goring is incredulous the agency is spending £300,000 on the project when it cannot find money for river flood maintenance.

“There was no consultation before planning permission was granted by Stroud District Council, nor is this within stated planning policy of living within our means, or helping communities,” he said.

Julian Jones, spokeswoman for environmental group Water21, said spending large sums of public money without proper consultation was a very serious matter and was taking legal advice on behalf of nearby residents.

She added one of weirs being replaced was 1.25 metres high and so did not need the extensive construction that has taken place.

“This is nothing less than greenwash to waste public funds," she said.

“The works are partly to reverse £5million measures installed only 30 years ago and now yet more good money being thrown away by again ignoring local expert knowledge.”

The term "greenwash" means attempting to deceive people into thinking they are an environmentally responsible group or company.

Ms Jones added, “Ending such daft public spending is an important part of restoring our local economic viability and wildlife; as well as following the law.

“Putting a few meanders back at such a tiny weir simply does not give proper value, help the struggling fishery upstream or local employment.

We hope someone will take responsibility here.”

The environmental group is accusing the EA of breaking its own rules by allowing construction during spawning season after recovering migrating trout upstream of the river just before construction started.

An EA spokesman said the work was being carried out under the Eel Regulations 2009 to improve the overall status of the water body, in line with the Water Framework Directive.

“These works will not just benefit fish but many other species which will in turn benefit the wide community,” he said.

“Under government guidelines, funding for this scheme can only be used in relation to the above legislation, and we are not permitted to use it for any other purpose e.g. for river flood maintenance which would be funded through our Flood Risk Management business.”

He added that ecological surveys and appropriate mitigation measures had been undertaken and evaluated the risk to spawning trout as low.