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The Jubilee River story (0933) - The
Thames lock keepers issue (again) - October 2011 onwards
The issue of the
Thames lock keepers and their houses has re-appeared. The EA will not replace leaving or
retiring lock keepers and the vacant lock houses will be rented out.
In April 2008 the
EA announced plans to reduce the number of Thames lock houses, but
implementation was put on hold.
For some of the history please see
Lock keepers - Key facts and news Also of interest -
Eye - 16/5/2008
GMB Press release
to GMB Press Release - 11/10/2011
Motor Boats Monthly 11/10/2011
Letter to Philip Hammond MP from Harry
Purchase: - 13/10/2011
e-mail to Adam Afriyie MP from Peter
Mills - 16/10/2011
to Adam Afriyie MP from Ian Thompson - 17/10/2011
Letter to MPs from Mrs G Bolton - 17/10/2011
Letter from Mr J Wanamaker -
External link to the Association of Thames Yacht Clubs -
including ATYC response
Windsor Express -
Letter in Windsor Observer - 21/10/2011
Letter in The Times - 22/10/2011
e-mail from TMBA - 24/10/2011
Letters in the Times -
GMB Press Release below (external
link to source
Tuesday 11th October 2011
ENVIRONMENT AGENCY INCREASE
RISKS OF FLOODING ON RIVER THAMES AND TRIBUTARY RIVERS BY DOWNGRADING FLOOD
DEFENCES BY WITHDRAWAL OF NINE RESIDENT LOCK KEEPERS
Taking away resident lock
keepers from nine locks means being unable to provide adequate response to
three adjacent locks upstream of Reading which could mean that the levels of
rainfall seen in 2003 and 2007 would devastate Reading and surrounding
villages in Oxfordshire says GMB lock keepers
On Friday 7th October the
Environment Agency decided to freeze the positions of up to nine resident
lock and weir keepers on the River Thames and rent the properties they live
in to residents not connected with the river. With effect from Monday 10th
October the Environment Agency are actively looking to let these properties.
Lock keepers have warned that this
increases the risk of flooding on the River Thames and its tributaries which
constitute the most managed waterway in the UK. It goes against the
conclusion of a 2008 review that resident lock keepers were essential for
flood defenses on the River Thames waterway.
Lock keepers houses at seven of the
locks in question are currently vacant, or will be vacant within the next
few months. The houses are at Grafton, Cleve, Goring ( See picture on GMB
website) and Whitchurch in Oxfordshire, Blakes Lock in Berkshire and
Chertsey and Sunbury in Surrey. The other two lock houses will become
vacant when the present lock keepers retire. Lock staff have been pressing
management to fill the vacancies for resident lock keepers at Chertsey and
Sunbury for some time but to no avail.
In 2008 GMB lock staff overturned a
then decision by Environment Agency to rent out the riverside lock keeper
properties. Then they were backed by local MP’s David Cameron and Theresa
May. In December 2008, the Environment Agency Director, Howard Davidson,
gave assurances to MPs, river users and those living on the flood plain that
keeping a resident Lock Keeper at each of the 45 sites along the River
Thames was the most sensible way forward to manage the river as safely and
efficiently as possible. After a full review had been carried out he told
MPs that the key considerations to his decisions were mitigating against the
risk of flood and response times to out of hours incidents.
Clive Smith GMB organizer for the
lock keepers said “This further reckless attempt by the Environment
Agency to lower flood defenses and risk flooding from the Thames has angered
residents living near the river, Thames user groups and boat owners. The
decision ignores the conclusions from the full review carried out in 2008
when the Agency told MPs that the key considerations on residential locks
were mitigating against the risk of flood and response times to out of hours
At present resident lock
keepers respond to incidents at lock sites within 15 minutes. With no one on
site at nine locks this level of response would be impossible and the public
will see the response change to the Agency's guideline of 2 hours. At times
of flooding it could take staff a lot longer than that if roads are flooded.
Thus the decision to take away resident lock keepers from these nine locks
means that the Environment Agency may not be able to provide adequate
response to three adjacent locks upstream of Reading. This means that
there is a high likelihood of flooding of land and property even during
periods of moderate rainfall. The levels of rainfall seen in 2003 and 2007
would devastate the Berkshire town of Reading and surrounding villages
Since 2008 the Agency has
actively sought to reduce its property portfolio by selling or renting out
most of the Area Relief Lock Houses. These were based all along the river
from Oxfordshire through Berkshire and into Surrey. They were located
near the locks for operational reasons so staff could respond to incidents
within a matter of minutes.
Lock staff numbers have been
hugely reduced over the last few years. This places a strain on the current
workforce, therefore, not enabling the Environment Agency to fulfill its
customer charter. Most of the sites are very remote. It is imperative that
lock staff are retained as an operational resident for the safety of river
users and properties. History shows that over the years many lives have been
saved by having a lock-keeper on site.
GMB, the union for lock
staff on the Thames, has asked on several occasions for a detailed breakdown
of the savings that the Agency claim they will make. To date this
information has not been forthcoming.
There have been no
negotiations between the Environment Agency and GMB on this matter. GMB know
that once these properties are let a vital link in a flood defense chain
that stretches back 200 years for the safe operation of the River Thames
will be lost. “
Contact: Clive Smith GMB 07802 958 554
or 020 8303 3407 or Paul Maloney 07801 343839 or GMB press office 07974 251
823 or 07921 289880
Environment Agency response below -
11 October 2011
Response to GMB
news release on rental of vacant River Thames river side houses
Government funding for the
River Thames is reducing, so to maintain our levels of service we need to
become more efficient and reduce our costs, and raise more income where we
As part of a package of
measures to reduce an existing £800,000 funding gap, we will not immediately
replace nine out of 45 resident lock and weir keeper posts when they become
vacant between now and the end of 2012/13.
Their duties will be covered by
the rest of our permanent lock and weir keepers and our seasonal staff, and
the lockside houses will be rented out to generate much needed income.
With all nine houses rented, we
estimate the overall benefit to our waterways budget to be £416,000. And we
will still have 36 resident lock and weir keepers in post.
arrangements have already
been in place at four sites where the resident lock and weir keeper either
retired or resigned; these are Cleeve and Grafton (both in Oxfordshire) and
Chertsey and Sunbury (both in Surrey).
has had no detrimental impact on our operational performance or levels of
customer service or safety, or on our ability to respond to accidents or
flood incidents, either in normal working hours or out of hours. The river
weirs will still be operated to protect communities who live along the river
just as they were in 2003 and 2007.
We have a
pool of more than 250 employees who are on call around the clock, and whose
job it is to respond rapidly to incidents, wherever they may occur on the
There is no
evidence to suggest that this move will have any impact on health and safety
using the river are responsible for their own safety and in any emergency
they should contact the emergency services. That is what we train our staff
This initiative is intended to make significant inroads on the gap in
funding for our waterways operations without affecting our levels of service
or impacting our employees.
Matt Carter, Waterways Manager
“Government funding has been
cut and we must now look at ways to generate income so that we can continue
to provide the best possible service to the public.
“Renting out the vacant houses will raise a significant amount of much
needed revenue, without any impact on our current workforce or the
round-the-clock service we deliver to our customers.
sites with rented houses, the duties normally carried out by the resident
lock and weir keeper will be performed by our dedicated team o lock and weir
keepers, including the other resident lock keepers nearby.”
Principal Press Officer
Environment and Performance
Letter to Philip Hammond MP from
Harry Purchase - 13/10/2011
The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
From Harry Purchase
13th October, 2011.
Here we go again with
the eccentricities of the Environment Agency. Your Constituents in the
Runnymede area are now extremely worried over the recent decision to rent
out Lock Keepers houses. In addition not to replace retirees. (See the
We are advised that
as a result of Government cutbacks there is a shortfall of £800,000. This
is a mere dribble in the total budget of the Environment Agency.
£416,000is the amount that the EA hopes to generate by way of rent is
unlikely to be achieved immediately. Because of locations it will take
some time for potential tenants to emerge.
Quite honestly – a
number of properties in your constituency will be at severe risk of
flooding, certainly those adjoining our property. In 2003 this whole area
was flooded and properties were inundated to a depth of 4’. (Causing one
resident to have a heart attack and die).
The remedy is
simple. Ask David Cameron to take £800,000 out of the foreign aid
programme which we definitely cannot afford, and transfer that to the EA
possibly as a long term interest free loan. Until such times as a thorough
examination of the manpower needs at EA HQ (There is still plenty of room
for a redundancy or two there).
It is appalling that
this Government can give financial support to corrupt African States and
ignore the perils facing UK Tax Paying Citizens.
Philip, once again we
need urgent and direct action to stop this madness.
Harry Purchase JP .
FCA . FCIM...The Anchorage, Riverside, Temple Gardens, Thorpe Lea, North
Surrey, TW 18 3 NJ. / firstname.lastname@example.org
e-mail to Adam Afriyie MP from
Peter Mills - 16/10/2011
writing to express my dismay and concern over the proposed action on the
part of the Environment Agency to put vacant Lock Keepers houses up for
letting as they become vacant. They have also stated that they will not
replace lock keepers as positions become vacant.
riverside dweller who experienced serious flooding in 2003, I cannot accept
that the Environment Agency fully understands the risks that such actions
pose for those at risk from any future flooding. This added risk will
exacerbate the situation regarding home insurance for those who live in the
understand the need to make cutbacks in the current economic environment, I
cannot accept that the intention of the EA to leave weirs and locks
potentially unmanned. History shows that the presence of a lock keeper has
often made the difference between life and death.
Environment Agency must be told that their intentions are completely
unacceptable. Can I ask you, please, to take up this cause with the utmost
e-mail to Adam Afriyie MP from Ian
To: Adam Afriyie MP
Subject: Fw: RENTAL OF LOCK HOUSES AND REDUCTION OF
return to the same subject you and other MP's discussed with the EA
back in 2008, the principle is unchanged, further in depth scrutiny
is required to establish the practical details of manning and safety
levels are suitable for the proposals to be carried through,
together with the appropriate level of fully qualified assurances
to all Thames riverside councils.
bland press release issued by the EA is not good enough or the right
instrument to over-arch the operational detail of the EA's intentions
therefore we seek your support to halt progress on the release of
the properties until the assurances sought have been received and
Trusting you can assist with this matter
Datchet Parish Council, Flooding Spokesperson.
Letter to MPs from Mrs G Bolton -
Dear Riverside MPs
RENTAL OF LOCK HOUSES AND
REDUCTION OF PERMANENT LOCKKEEPERS
I was absolutely horrified
to receive the attached press releases from the GMB Union and the EA
regarding the proposed rental of lock houses and the reduction of permanent
onsite lockkeepers on the River Thames.
I was regularly in touch
with many of you in 2008 when the Environment Agency planned to sell the
lock houses and after much debate, a huge public outcry at that proposal and
a meeting at the House of Commons Committee Rooms the EA did not go through
with the proposed sales.
So now the EA are again
trying to destroy the heritage of the River Thames and put at greater risk
from flooding thousands of lives, homes and businesses.
Their current decision will
make the situation far worse than the proposal in 2008.
The safety of 1000’s of
riverside residents, boaters and businesses will be compromised if this ill
conceived plan were to go ahead.
The EA’s statement that it
would make no difference and not put flooding at greater risk is in my
opinion inaccurate and untrue.
Of course it will!!
The EA do not plan to
recruit new permanent lockkeepers when a post becomes vacant. In this event
there will be locks and weirs where lockkeepers are no long onsite for
emergencies or at times of flood. Therefore, if there is no lockkeeper
onsite during a flood event the weirs cannot be operated properly.
If a lockkeeper is not
onsite it may be impossible for them to reach the lock and weirs due to the
fact that the roads that they have to travel to reach them are flooded.
Weirs have to be operated
sequentially and if they are not, as a result of there being no lockkeeper
onsite, then thousands of residents, boats and businesses will be put at
This move is a false
economy; other areas need to be looked at to find the savings that the EA
say they need to make.
How many unlicensed boats
are currently on the river? How many superfluous staff are there in the EA
offices? How much is being wasted on excessive expenses? The solution to
making savings is certainly not to lose vital front line staff.
I appreciate that the
country is in recession and that cutbacks need to be made but not at the
risk of lives, homes and businesses.
The flooding that occurred
in 2003 and 2007 to homes, residents, businesses and more importantly the
loss of life was at enormous cost to the economy - far greater than the
savings that can be made by the action the EA proposes.
Where is the EA business
plan for this poorly thought out scheme? Are the EA moving into the
property rental market? What costs will be incurred in updating these
properties for rental? What costs will be incurred in maintaining these
properties? What expenses will be incurred? What happens when tenants
renege on their rents? What health and safety issues are involved with
renting properties by deep water?
It is naive to say that
this is a good way of saving money.
In 2008 a meeting at the
House of Commons Committee Rooms agreed that selling these properties was
wrong. What has changed?
Why are the EA employing
summer and relief lockkeepers through a recruitment agency and not through
their own HR Department? This must be at huge extra cost.
cheaper than cure. Having almost abandoned river maintenance, will it take
another flood disaster to focus the EA? Not to replace permanent resident
lockkeepers is madness and will extensively increase the risk of flooding.
Thames system relies on prompt and accurate weir adjustment at any time, a
control process that will be put at risk by the EA proposals.
The River Thames is our
national heritage and we need to look after it and manage it correctly or we
will suffer the cost and consequence of increased flooding.
It is essential that there
are permanent residential lockkeepers onsite at all times.
Please let me know what you
intend to do regarding this appallingly bad decision that the EA have made.
Gillie Bolton (Mrs)
Letter from Mr J Wanamaker -
Once again the lockkeepers’
cottages are under attack from the Environment Agency.
In 2008 the lock
cottages were saved from being sold because of the huge swell of public
support. Now the EA intend to rent the lock cottages out as they become
vacant and not replace permanent resident lockkeepers as they leave.
Whether you are a
boater, a walker, a home owner or just an occasional visitor to the
River Thames the job the lockkeepers do is vital. Officially, they are
not on duty 24/7 but in the event of a problem they invariably turn out
– Do we hear them protest – NO!
The lockkeepers’ legacy
is threatened yet again – Do we hear them protest about that – NO –
because they have been threatened with the sack if they say anything to
the media. So it is up to all of us to help the lockkeepers and save
part of our national heritage.
If there is flooding at
night, who turns out to change the weirs? Who maintains the beautiful
lock gardens and paths? Who helps novice boaters in trouble? Who is on
hand to combat vandalism? Who is on hand to deal with emergencies such
as boats on fire?
lockkeepers the whole ambience of the river will be at risk. At times
of flooding the risks will be far greater.
This penny pinching
scheme to reduce the number of resident lockkeepers is nothing short of
vandalism by the bean counters. If economies have to be made and, I
agree that they do, the EA big bosses in their shiny glass offices and
their minions concocting manic schemes on their computers must be first
to go. Front line staff, resident lockkeepers and river maintenance
workers must be protected at ALL costs.
Windsor Express 21/10/2011
Windsor Observer 21/10/2011
The Times - 22/10/2011
e-mail from TMBA - 24/10/2011
Motor Boats Monthly 11/10/2011
Letters in the Times 28/10/2011
keepers - Key facts and news