Fair a Far and Dowies Mill Fish Pass and Weir Removal design


In 2015, the River and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland commissioned us to produced detailed designs for the removal of Dowies Mill weir. They also asked for a technical solution to replace an existing fish pass at Fair a Far weir on the River Almond, Lothian. This would facilitate the passage of salmonids, lamprey species and eels.

At these locations, the Almond is considered an active, high energy, bedrock influenced river with a Qmean of approximately 6.0m3/s. The head difference across Fair A Far weir at Q95 exceedence flow is approximately 3.5m.

Heritage and access considerations were particularly challenging at these sites. Both sites are within a designated public open space. The left banks are designated as a Designed Landscape and an Area of Outstanding Landscape Quality in Local Policy.

Fair A Far weir and mill remains are designated Category B. Therefore they are protected under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997, and are located in the Cramond Conservation. A pre-existing pool and traverse fish pass sits between Fair A Far weir and the inaccessible left bank. The bank consists of a near vertical, 20m high, sandstone face.

Dowies Mill weir is adjacent to the highly valued River Almond Walkway, an accessible footpath which is busy during the summer. Dowies Mill lies 300m downstream of the Category B listed Cramond Brig.

A further challenge has been to develop a solution that is aesthetically acceptable in the context of the adjacent landscape and heritage receptors of value. It needed to reflect the visualisations used in earlier public engagement activities as far as possible. It also ideally needed to overcome the large head difference at the weir which sits within the footprint of the existing fish pass.


At Fair A Far weir, our project team is designing a two flight Larinier fish pass with an adjacent dedicated eel & lamprey pass.

At Dowie’s Mill, the solution is full removal of the weir. This is in combination with bed stabilisation and creation of a boulder-rapid arrangement.


The proposed Larinier solution at Fair A Far results in a fish pass whose geometry and hydraulic performance achieves all associated criteria for large migratory salmonids, as specified in the EA Fish Pass Manual.

Furthermore, our engagement with the Scottish and English regulatory fisheries specialists enabled acceptable, compact changes in direction to be incorporated into the resting pool design. This ensured the alignment and location of the pass also achieved accepted technical criteria relating to fish passage.

We utilised 3D CAD software in development of the design. This facilitated rapid and ongoing visualisation of features key to the technical performance of the design. This did however have the potential to compromise the aesthetics of the scheme. This facilitated the most appropriate JBA technical specialists (heritage & structural engineers, fish pass specialists), as well as the client group, being efficiently involved in the design decision making process. This technique was particularly useful in resolving design decisions relating to appropriate construction materials and general arrangement details.

Want to know more?

Find out more about the work our fisheries team does in our environment section.

You can also contact Jon Whitmore for more information on this specific project.


  • Why are they installing the fish pass in the autumn, when migratory salmonids are attempting to get up past the weir? It seems to be causing all sorts of problems for the team, trying to collect the fish and transfer them by hand, when if the work was done in spring, this would not be an issue.

    • Sophie Bunker

      Hi Colin, thanks for getting in touch. We were involved in the design aspect of the project. The implementation of the fish pass has been constructed by a separate company, organised by the River and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland. If you’d like to pose your question to them directly you can visit their website (http://www.rafts.org.uk/contact-us/), email them at info@rafts.org.uk or call them on 0131 2216566.

  • Bruce Austin

    Hi Sophie Bunker,
    I was wondering where we can see the detailed plan design of the Fair a Far fish Pass. I’ve seen the imposed image on a photo of the falls. Looks quite impressive.

  • Isla Browning

    I would be interested to know why it is felt that the solution for Dowies Mill is removal of the weir which is an important landmark in the area for its Heritage value. Why not improve fish passage there and maintain the weir?

    • Sophie Bunker

      Thanks for your comment Isla. After earlier consultation by the River Forth Fisheries Trust – JBA were asked to design the reinstatement of the river channel. From our work in the area our observation would be that the decision to remove the weir was a difficult one and needed to balance many views. Overall there is a drive to reinstate natural habitat where possible and provide access to improved fish passage for important species of fish. The River Almond has been modified and polluted by man for centuries, recent years have seen significant improvements in water quality and now man-made obstructions – often abandoned weirs have become barriers to fish passage. Our understanding is that many options were considered and this included consultation with a broad range of stakeholders leading to a general consensus that weir removal presented the best available option.

  • The prospects for Dowies Mill were far more disappointing. The existing weir was in a bad state of repair which has limited the available options for securing fish passage at the site. Outline design has therefore been progressed for removal of the weir at Dowies Mill. Significant concerns were expressed about the impact of scouring on the Cramond Brig which it was believed would occur should the weir be removed. KC confirmed this would be mitigated against as pat of the design work. The absence of any ongoing maintenance to the existing structure by CEC also served to heighten the risk. There followed an animated exchange about the terms of the options statement where in the absence of any reference to a reinstatement option any foundation for community engagement seemed tenuous in the extreme. Ms Comins clarified that the SEPA would not grant the necessary CAR licence to reinstate the structure (hence this option being progressed) and tried to assure those present that regardless of the terms when it came to the working through of the options the outputs would have to cover what mitigation works would be required to address such risks as could be anticipated in the event of the weir being removed. The current focus was very much on taking forward the Fair-a-Far replacement works. Ms Comins highlighted that it was vital that al parties waited for the design report to be finalised as then information on costs, mitigation measures etc would be available to inform discussions. It was agreed to hold a meeting with RFFT, CEC, and the Community Council in the Autumn to progress discussion on Dowies.

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