Plans for a £20 million overhaul of a Wiltshire town’s river could “attract people and businesses”.

Last month a controversial proposal was put forward by the Environment Agency to replace Chippenham’s weir and radial gate, on the River Avon.

Cllr Nic Puntis, the representative for Cepen Park & Derriads and portfolio holder for flooding, believes a transformation of the riverfront could help make it a hub for the town centre.

While the water is currently used during events like the Chippenham Folk Festival, Cllr Puntis believes the feature is “100 per cent underutilised".

READ MORE: Wilts & Berks Canal Trust blasts Chippenham river plans

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The River Avon weir at ChippenhamThe River Avon weir at Chippenham (Image: Environment Agency)

He said: “It’s just a bank of water, you don’t see a lot going on in the river at all.

“We have an opportunity now to make that safely more accessible and if we see more people using it that will attract people and businesses to the town.

“The whole point of it is to make it more accessible and maybe give people the opportunity to paddle in there and clean it up a little bit.”

The current proposal would include improved fishing platforms, better walkways downstream past Gladstone Road and stepped seating near the Olympiad.

A public consultation on the scheme is currently running, and some groups have voiced concerns about the impact of the plans on water levels upstream.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has claimed this would sink their hopes of restoring the Chippenham arm of the Wilts and Berks Canal, linking it to the River Avon.

Trust members say they would be unable to bring economic benefits to the town by conducting narrowboat trips on the river.

The Environment Agency has insisted this is not possible even under the current layout of the waterway.

Cllr Puntis was keen to emphasise that the weir does not currently prevent flooding and scrapping it would have no impact on protecting the town centre during heavy rainfall.

SEE ALSO: £20m masterplan to replace Chippenham 'liability' revealed

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Sketch showing potential footpath improvements under Gladstone Road.Sketch showing potential footpath improvements under Gladstone Road. (Image: Environment Agency)

He added: “So many people keep saying the gate is there to reduce flooding, if it was to reduce flooding in Chippenham it wouldn’t be positioned downstream of it.

“The consultation will listen to the multitude of views there are and align that with the practical solutions to the project.”

The radial gate in its current form is viewed by the Environment Agency as a “major safety concern” that could pose a flood risk if it becomes stuck.

This happened in October, ahead of Storm Ciaran, and nearly caused a “serious environmental incident”.