NEW black fencing put up around a closed footpath and bridge following a weir collapse has been described as looking like a prison. 

The Middle Mill Weir, in Castle Park, collapsed into the River Colne in December last year, and its nearby footbridge and site was closed off as a safety precaution.

It is believed the cost to the repair the bridge and weir could be in excess of half a million pounds, following talks between Colchester Council, the Environment Agency, Essex County Council, the Canoe Club, and residents.

Monday marks 210 days since the closure and recently metal fencing and a large gate have been installed.

Security - fencing at The Middle Mill WeirSecurity - fencing at The Middle Mill Weir (Image: Public)

The large green gate is kept shut with a lock, and a small informational sign has been set up beside it.

The sign says: “Due to the collapse of the part of Middle Mill Weir, this bridge has been closed to protect pedestrians and cyclists from potential hazards. A diversion is in place.”

It also states that structural investigations are ongoing to assess the damage and determine the best course of action, and that the council, and Essex Highways are “actively” looking at solutions.

The move to put up fencing comes after it was revealed people were flouting the closure. 

One anonymous passer-by said: “They’ve made a once scenic view look like a prison.”

Sir Bob Russell, former MP for Colchester, has lived near Middle Mill for more than 50 years, and believes the situation needs to be resolved.

Information - signage next to the gateInformation - signage next to the gate (Image: Public)

Problem - The collapsed weir in Lower Castle Park in December last yearProblem - The collapsed weir in Lower Castle Park in December last year (Image: Nicola Dines)

He said: “The saga of Middle Mill has not been Colchester City Council’s finest hour.

“There is no sense of urgency, the matter has already dragged on too long.

“The erection of these ugly structures indicates that the Council is taking the view that matters will continue to drag on to the detriment of the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists who previously used the bridge here.

“I wonder how much this iron barricade has cost the public purse?”

Colchester Council’s scrutiny committee will meet on July 9 for another update on the situation.

A spokesman for Colchester Council said: “The temporary fencing at Middle Mill Weir site serves a critical safety purpose, preventing public access to the damaged area while ongoing assessments and planning for the weir's repair take place.

"Unfortunately, there have been instances of continued attempts to access the unsafe area, making this fencing necessary.

“Whilst we acknowledge the visual impact of the gates, safety remains our top priority. This type of fencing was used instead of hoarding to ensure the site could still be accessed by contractors and residents can still observe progress on the repairs.

“Whilst we cannot provide the exact cost, due to commercial sensitivity, we can confirm funding for the fencing will come from council budgets allocated to public safety and infrastructure maintenance.

“Significant progress has been made on planning the weir's repair, which has required consultation with many agencies and community groups.

"Our structural engineers have conducted multiple site visits and surveys. Collaborating with the Environment Agency, we are addressing flood risk concerns alongside the structural repairs.

“Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the project an exact reopening date cannot be confirmed at this stage.

"However, we are committed to keeping the public informed and aim to provide a more concrete timeframe as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, we continue to urge the public to respect the closures and use the designated diversion routes.”