Plans to replace a unique weir on the Thames will go ahead next March, despite local concern.

The 115-year-old structure was served a stay of execution after residents put in a bid to run Northmoor Lock themselves.

But the replacement plan was put back on track after it emerged that an Act of Parliament would be needed to transfer operation of the weir to locals.

Villagers in Appleton and Eaton claim motorising the weir would be a waste of money and would removed a much-loved element of local history.

Northmoor Lock has been manned by professional lock staff since 1896 to control river flow and reduce the risk of flooding.

It is also one of five paddle and rymer weirs remaining as the Environment Agency undertakes a programme to replace them all.

The other remaining weirs are Iffley weir, Rushey weir, and Goring and Streatley weirs.

Villagers won a reprieve last year when the Environment Agency agreed to look at whether control of the weir could be handed over to locals.

Eaton resident Mike Hill, who chairs the Weir Campaign, said: “The weirs are very characteristic of the Thames and are part of our history and heritage.

“It will be a tragedy when they are replaced.

“Apart from the initial installation cost of an automated weir the annual running costs to provide power to the electrical systems and maintenance costs will be a small fortune.

“But now the Environment Agency seems bent on spending unnecessary millions to achieve the same result.

“It doesn’t make any commercial sense whatsoever.”

The Environment Agency, which operates the weir, confirmed the work would take place over two summers and would cost £2.5m.

But motorising the weir, it claims, would protect the long-term health of its staff, enable a wide range of waterways staff to operate them and would be quicker to operate.

Motorisation has already been completed at weirs at Radcot, in Oxfordshire, Mapledurham and Blake’s, in Berkshire and Molesey Locks, in Surrey.

A meeting was held at Appleton Village Hall last month where plans for the weir, which straddles the River Thames, were put on show to the public.

But Appleton resident Margaret Reading didn’t think it would have an impact on flooding.

She said: “Change may be acceptable and modernisation sometimes welcome.

“But whether the weir is a paddle and rymer system which is manually operated by the lock-keeper, or electrically operated from a remote control station, the net result is exactly the same.”

Innes Jones, Environment Agency Area Manager, said: “The weirs will still need to be manually operated on site by our staff and we do not say that replacing the weir will reduce flood risk.

“But residents will derive benefit from its speedier operation.

“We are working with residents to find a solution that suits both parties.”

PADDLE AND RYMER Paddle and rymer weirs are unique to the River Thames.

They operate by placing large wooden posts – rymers – into a slot at the bottom of the river.

Paddles of different heights are then places against the rymers to hold back the water.

There are 44 weirs which control the flow of the Thames, all operated by the Environment Agency.

Nine of these were paddle and rymer weirs but four have now been motorised.

Northmoor will be motorised next year, and Rushey the year after.