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The Jubilee River story - Big Society - Hydropower and flooding

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead are considering the possibility of promoting a series of Archimedean Screw installations along the Thames.

This is my submission to the RBWM 'Big Society' Meeting on 26 January 2011 complete with links.

Councillor Jesse Grey of Datchet then used his best efforts to discredit me personally rather than ask sensible questions.


26 Jan 2011 – Big Society – Maidenhead – 7.00pm

I am not against hydropower but……..

In a debate on flooding and the Environment Agency on 12 January 2011, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP stated that ‘the top tiers at head office have begun to believe their own glowing publicity, and all too often come across as a bunch of cocksure know-it-alls.’  He went on to ridicule their literature and expose their flawed consultation process.  Finally he stated that ‘the organisation is out of control, and does not care about people or anything’,_

The ‘total environment’ section of the Big Society projects document V1.2(3) refers to flooding and to ‘give greater flexibility and control to local residents over various environmental issues where this had previously been minimal or non-existent’. The objective then talks about ‘greater accountability’ and ‘meeting specific residents concerns.’

According to the EA (December 2007) - there are over 11,600 people at risk of flooding in RBWM, 8,000 in Runnymede and 8,000 in Spelthorne.

The £110m Jubilee River is sub-standard in design and construction, needed £5m in repairs, may never be able to carry its design capacity of 215 cumecs and resulted in a £2.75m out-of-court settlement.  The people of Windsor, Eton and Maidenhead may have benefited from improved flood protection, but the situation downstream of Windsor is grim.

The Environment Agency is responsible for main rivers, but they have no duty to maintain those rivers for flood defence purposes.  They use every possible excuse to avoid dredging, and have not implemented the conclusions of Clive Onion’s 2004 FRAG Report into the 2003 flood event. Ecology and biology get priority and the people at risk of flooding (who pay EA wages) are put last.

In my opinion main rivers are the primary means of flood defence and should be recognised as a critical infrastructure asset rather than a liability, with additional environmental, recreational and commercial benefits.

The Thames is no longer a natural river, being heavily engineered with locks, weirs, bridges etc.  Over time flood arches have been blocked, the water level has risen and the within-banks conveyance capacity has reduced.

With an allowance for the possible effects of climate change the probability of flooding downstream of Windsor is increasing.  The EA appears unable to learn from previous mistakes.  The £300m Lower Thames Strategy proposal is more flawed than the Jubilee River and probably still ten years away.  The NRA did their best to avoid a MWEFAS Public Inquiry twenty years ago and I see history now repeating itself.

Today – eight years on since the 2003 event - the people downstream of Windsor still live with the probability of both fluvial and reservoir flooding.  I will just remind you of the burst pipe at the Queen Mother Reservoir in April 2006 when we were just a whisker from a world-class flood event, the truth being still hidden by the EA today.

Yet these same people have to pay more for insurance (if they can get it at all) - and the flood warning system still has shortcomings.

I will not even mention flood maps!

As the newly designated lead local flood authority subject to the Flood Risk Regulations 2009 and FWMA 2010 I urge you to get a grip, take control and fix these problems, bearing in mind that you will now have only one representative for Berkshire on the Thames FCDC.

So I now offer you a new policy

And a strategy


Ewan Larcombe

26 January 2011