Crossmill Dam, Scotland

Enhance the Levern Water by eliminating the last remaining barrier to migratory fish, fostering a historic return of Atlantic salmon spawning.

Introduction

The project is located in Barrhead, a small town in East Renfrewshire, Scotland, thirteen kilometres southwest of Glasgow City, with a population of approximately 18,000. 

The Levern Water rises in the Long Loch and flows through the towns of Neilston and Barrhead for 9 miles (14 km) until it meets the White Cart River in Glasgow. 

The river facilitated the socio-economic growth of East Renfrewshire by providing waterpower for cotton and paper mills during the Industrial Revolution. As a result, the watercourse was heavily modified.  

Crossmill Weir was constructed before 1864 to power Crossmill Print Works.  The small dam spans approximately 10.5m across the river, with a 1.9m drop from the weir crest to the downstream riverbed.  Crossmill Print Works is long gone, and the weir is now the last remaining barrier to migratory fish on the Levern Water. 

At a glance

Project typeDam removal (demolition)
Project statusComplete
Removal dateOctober 2023
CountryScotland
RiverLevern Water
Km opened4
Focal speciesAtlantic salmon

Project context and opportunity

This project is part of a wider programme of environmental regeneration and river restoration work to create an attractive green corridor connecting the small town of Barrhead to the city of Glasgow and to restore the Levern Water to pre-Industrial conditions. 

It involves the removal of a small dam or weir and is the final phase of works to open the river to migratory fish and improve the physical condition and ecological status of the water course.   

The first phase of this environmental regeneration and river restoration project, completed in 2022 at a cost of £2.7M, opened up 1km of good quality fish habitat upstream and transformed an area of vacant and derelict land into a community park.   

The Clyde River Foundation, a research organisation that has periodically carried out fish population and distribution surveys on the Levern Water for a number of years, has data to demonstrate that salmonids can be found up to the Crossmill Weir but not upstream.  

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency has identified the condition and ecology of this river as POOR and committed funding and staff resources to this project to improve the river habitat. 

Feasibility and research studies demonstrate that the removal of Crossmill Weir will open up over 4km of good quality habitat to migratory fish and restore the physical condition and ecological status of the watercourse from POOR to GOOD. 

In addition to the positive ecological and environmental benefits of the weir removal, the project will also have a positive impact on the local community.  The first phase of river restoration work ignited public interest in the river and provided the opportunity to re-tell the forgotten history of the Levern Water.  Local school children researched the historical significance of the river and created an art trail celebrating the river’s role in the town’s history.  Community consultation highlights that local people are enthusiastic about the prospect of removing another dam to further open up their watercourse for migratory fish. 

Further information on the first phase of the project can be found here.

Project aims

This dam removal project will deliver the following outcomes: 

  • Salmonids, including Atlantic salmon, spawning above the dam for the first time since the Industrial Revolution
  • Reduction of upstream sediment deposition, which will improve water quality, flood risk and the aesthetic appearance of the watercourse 
  • Improvement of river classification from POOR to GOOD status – a national priority 
  • Igniting community interest in and appreciation for the heritage and ecological importance of the river and wildlife 
  • Opportunity to reconnect people with a river running through an urban environment with the potential to have a positive impact on their health, well-being and pride in their natural and built heritage 
  • Opportunity for members of the local community and school children to learn about the river and fish ecology through educational outreach programmes 
  • Provide evidence and material for encouraging other river restoration and dam removal projects elsewhere in Scotland. 

Project achievements

The removal of Crossmill Weir in Barrhead, Scotland, is a significant achievement in restoring the Levern Water.  Through a collaborative partnership involving East Renfrewshire Council (ERC), Green Action Trust (GAT), Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the local community, and the Clyde River Foundation (CRF), the weir was successfully removed by the end of October 2023. This strategic initiative aimed not only to eliminate the barrier but also to enhance the water course’s physical condition and ecological status.

The removal of Crossmill Weir has opened up approximately 4km of high-quality spawning habitat for migratory fish, resulting in a noteworthy improvement in the ecological status of Levern Water from POOR to GOOD. A collaborative effort involving partners, government agencies, consultants, and contractors ensured the successful achievement of the project’s objectives.

This accomplishment marks the final phase of a broader regeneration project dedicated to restoring Levern Water to pre-industrial conditions. Beyond ecological benefits, the initiative seeks to reconnect the local community and school children with their river, reigniting community interest and serving as an educational resource for nearby schools. Partners plan to showcase Crossmill Weir Removal at various forums and conferences and as a case study to inspire similar dam removal projects. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Clyde River Foundation will continue to conduct surveys, monitoring the project’s long-term impact. The support of Open Rivers funding played a crucial role in enabling the successful delivery of this transformative project.

Green Action Trust Case Study

Partners