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The Jubilee River story - January 2003 - EA response (from Sir John Harman) to Cllr Laurence
(Letter copied from the Wraysbury Village Website)
Following Reply was received by Councillor Lawrence, from the Environment
Transcript of letter from Environment Agency to Councillor Lawrence
Date 20 January 2003-01-22
Leader of the Council
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead
Cabinet Office, Town Hall
St Ives Road
Dear Councillor Lawrence
FLOODING IN THE ROYAL BOROUGH OF WINDSOR AND MAIDENHEAD
Thank you for your letter dated the 9th January 2003. Firstly, I think it is important to recognise that we have recently experienced some of the highest flood levels since 1947 and indeed in some places recorded levels were the third highest since records began. Without doubt, if the Jubilee River had not been built, probably four times the number of properties would have been flooded. I think it is somewhat premature to suggest an independent investigation of the recent flooding events given that the Environment Agency has not yet had a chance to complete gathering and to present even the first facts about what actually happened during the recent flood event. As you are aware, an initial presentation of these facts will be given to all interested parties at he all day surgery to be held at the Hythe Centre, Thorpe Road, Egham next Thursday 23rd January.
Our initial response to the three issues you raise is as follows:
a) What assistance is the Environment Agency willing and able to offer to homeowners whose properties were affected by the flooding both in terms of immediate relief, and to address the possible difficulties such owners will now face when attempting to sell or insure their properties in the future?
Firstly, it is not the role of the Environment Agency to provide clean up and other assistance following a flood. As the Local Authority, you will recognise that you also have a major role in this respect. For our part, however, we have already distributed to all known affected properties a copy of our booklet “After a flood” offering a practical advice about what to do to restore your home after flooding. We can follow this up at our surgery with further advice regarding individual cases. We will also continue to provide a comprehensive flood warning and flood risk management service. However, in terms of selling and insuring properties in the future this is a business decision for individual insurance companies and currently the subject of discussions between government and the insurance industry. For our part we are providing the association of British Insurers with information on current and planned flood defences, to allow them to make the best assessment of risk.
b) Does the Environment Agency accept that it has inadequately modelled the effect of the flood alleviation works to areas downstream of Windsor to such an extent that no adequate steps were taken to protect those properties affected form flooding, and that therefore the Environment Agency is liable for the extent of the flooding that has occurred?
No, the Agency does not accept this. You may recall that, at the public inquiry about whether this scheme should go ahead. Your own Council, along with the Planning Inspector, both used independent consultants to scrutinise the modelling work. All 3 parties, each using separate experts, were satisfied that there would be no significant increase in flood levels downstream. We are currently re-running an updated hydraulic model used to determine the impact of the Jubilee River on downstream levels using 2003 flood data. The engineering consultants, Gibb Ltd will run the model with and without the flood alleviation channel to determine what difference if any it would have made on downstream flooding. Any initial findings will be presented at the surgery on the 23rd January and when we have final results we will be happy to share these with your Council and more widely. I am sure that you are conscious that as the model predicted, the operation of this flood alleviation scheme successfully protected thousands of homes within your Borough.
c) What action is the Environment Agency proposing to take in respect of potential future flooding in the area?
Given the increased risk of flooding this winter due to the saturated ground conditions, we are already urgently reviewing short-term actions should flooding re-occur. Such measures including encouraging residents to take up the flood warning service direct to their own telephone through our Automatics Voice Messaging system; providing advice to those at risk as to what further practical measures they might take to protect themselves and their property; ensuring that our Floodline service does provide accurate and timely advice in the event of further flooding. Once we have evaluated the full impact of this flood, we will then move rapidly to examine the case and options for further flood protection measures. We will also continue to scrutinise and comment on all planning applications submitted to your Council and will maintain our policy of objecting to all developments that could lead to an increased risk of flooding.
I understand your Council officials as well as representatives from the Emergency Services and Thames Water have been invited to participate in the surgery next week. I believe their attendance is important so that the public can understand the various responsibilities of all our organisations to work together to warm and protect the public from flooding and for dealing with these events. I also hope that you and your councillors and the public will be able to attend and judge for yourselves the facts as to why and how this flooding occurred.
Sir John Harman