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
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
“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
“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.”