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The Jubilee River story (0936) - Here comes 'Staines under Thames'? (December 2011)

I really do wonder about the process used to justify priorities! Just look at the two articles below............

'Staines-under-Thames' fear of flood plan opponent

By Chris Caulfield
December 07, 2011

A ROW has erupted over the merits of a flood plan designed to take 15,000 homes out of danger.

The Lower Thames Flood Risk Management Strategy group held public meetings across Surrey this month to show its latest proposals for a multi-million pound scheme to create a second river that runs parallel with the Thames between Molesey and Wraysbury, and covering Sunbury and Staines.

But one activist fears the plans could replicate the so-called ‘Jubilee River disaster’ and leave taxpayers with a £110m white elephant.

Ewan Larcombe, a former Datchet councillor in Berkshire, was chairman when approval was given for the Jubilee River project and said he had a loft full of documents from the original plans.

“If this goes ahead the town shouldn’t be renamed Staines-upon-Thames, it should be called Staines-under-Thames, so little confidence do I have in the scheme,” he said.

“All they are doing is repeating the mistakes of the past.

“They won’t admit they were wrong over the Jubilee River and if they won’t admit their mistakes there is no hope for their future.”

Mr Larcombe said the £110m Jubilee River was approved in 1995, built in 2002 and first used in 2003, "when everything downstream of Windsor flooded", and has since cost millions more in repair costs.

He said: “The Jubilee River is falling apart and in 2003 it cost a further £5m in repairs, leading to the Environment Agency (EA) eventually suing the designers and settling out of court.

“I fear something like this will happen again. This is the past repeating itself, I have no doubt about that and no confidence in this project whatsoever.

“It is a ludicrous and outrageous plan and it would be paid for with public money – your money, my money.”

Lower Thames Strategy manager Barry Russell defended the project and rejected the scenario that the Jubilee River had failed.

“We have had three independent reports carried out that said the Jubilee River was not the cause of the 2003 floods,” he said.

“The Lower Thames project is downstream from the Jubilee River and will create three channels that run parallel with the Thames and protect 15,000 properties – those with the one-in-a-100 chance of flooding each year.

“The flooding in 2003 was caused by heavy rainfall upstream and the Jubilee River operated the way it was supposed to and stopped 1,000 homes from flooding.

“It’s a bypass channel to increase the Thames’ flow and we are looking to do the exact same thing here.”

He admitted there had been problems in the past, but said the EA had learned from them.

He conceded: “Yes, there were areas we weren’t happy with. Yes, we did seek damages where we felt there were inadequacies in the design, and that was fixed.

“We have seen where there were problems and fixed these problems to make it up to the standards and we are confident in this plan.”

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Staines-upon-Thames name change confirmed

The Lino Sculpture in Staines town centre The change of name to Staines-upon-Thames will come into effect at a ceremony next May

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The Surrey town of Staines is to change its name to Staines-upon-Thames with the aim of promoting its riverside location and boosting its economy.

Spelthorne borough councillors backed the change at a full council meeting on Thursday night after consulting residents and businesses.

Of the 35 councillors who attended, 25 voted for the name change, six abstained and four voted against.

There will be a formal ceremony on 20 May to mark the official renaming.

Alex Tribick, chairman of the Spelthorne Business Forum, came up with the idea to change the name of the town and said he was "delighted" with the decision.

"It's the culmination of two years' hard work," he said, adding that "it was quite clear from the public consultation that we'd overwhelmingly won the argument".

"Last night's vote by the council was a ringing endorsement of what the public wanted."

Staines Town FC had been among those campaigning against the name change and has insisted that it would not change the name of its club.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G Staines was the home of Ali G, created by comic Sacha Baron Cohen

Secretary Steve Parson described the consultancy process as "a sham".

He said the argument that the new name would attract visitors and businesses to Staines did not stand up.

"It doesn't take very much research at all to learn where Staines is if you don't already know.

"If he [Mr Tribick] is looking to attract the sort of businesses that are run by people that are so stupid they can't even open an atlas or a gazetteer then I'm not sure that they're going to be very good for the future of our town."

But Councillor Colin Davis, the borough's economic development spokesman, said: "All those who voted for this excellent measure recognise that by evoking its historic position on the River Thames, Staines-upon-Thames can display its best to the world at large."

Staines was lampooned by comic spoof rapper Ali G and Indie band Hard-Fi.

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen used the town as the home for his character, while the rock band described it as being "like a ghost town".

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