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The Jubilee River story (0948z6)   UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Northern Powerhouse disappearing under flood water!

Maintenance of national land drainage infrastructure neglected.

Yet another reason to leave the EU?

It's only two weeks since the Environment Agency 'A Country more resilient' Press Release but here we go again. 

Two years ago we flooded here (on the River Thames) twice in four weeks.  Now with 'unprecedented rainfall' (yet again), record river levels and extensive flooding in the North I have published an article below that I wrote in October 2015 for our local village magazine - Wraysbury News.

The Environment Agency is happy to construct new parallel channels and to raise flood banks and barriers.   Yet they refuse to maintain or improve the 'within banks' conveyance capacity of the existing designated main river system.

Unfortunately flooding is just the symptom of a problem that requires a political solution.  The maintenance of the national land drainage infrastructure is neglected and in my opinion the Environment Agency has failed this country for twenty years.

It's time to get our act together!

Flood Re and the River Thames Scheme

The delayed ‘Flood Re’ insurance scheme (a temporary fix) is on the move again and likely to become effective in April 2016. With the legislation (actually regulations) currently in the House of Lords the plan is to cap domestic household flood insurance on the basis of Council Tax banding. Individual insurance companies will contribute towards a central managed fund of reserves that can be used in exceptional circumstances.

Although still short of money the Environment Agency is moving forwards with their £302m (@ 2009 prices) River Thames Scheme i.e. three new channels, one widened channel and some weir improvements. Due for completion in 2025 I have no doubt that this will be a £1bn project. Worse still this is yet another scheme that fails to incorporate a catchment wide multi-agency solution. River Thames upstream flood plain and in-stream development is accelerating – with over 100 homes recently approved at Taplow, new flood defences in Oxfordshire and still more Archimedean Screws planned.

I do have serious concerns about the new channels and in particular I have warned the Environment Agency that (on completion of the new scheme) if they are lucky they will only flood Staines – but if they are unlucky they will flood London. The Thames Barrier is already being used (actually misused is a more accurate term) to maintain fluvial capacity within the Thames tideway.

The Environment Agency has made changes to fine tune their Jubilee River Operating Procedure and to their web based hydrograph displays but here we are now left with a significant dilemma. Should we take the ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude (like the majority of Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton residents and Councillors did and still do) and support the project? Even if the proposed River Thames Scheme channel really does reduce the probability of flooding here (and by here I mean upstream of Bell Weir) …..do we then knowingly ignore any consequential downstream impacts?

After the 2003 flood event I was labelled ‘vexatious complainant’ by the Environment Agency! Well not any more - because the digital revolution has empowered me to gather, analyse, link and publish the evidence. The world class, award winning Jubilee River is a constant source of embarrassment to the EA. The channel is sub-standard in concept, design and construction and consequently constantly exposes the EA lack of engineering capability.

I have already prepared and published a draft Statement of Case in anticipation of a River Thames Scheme planning inquiry in 2018. Unfortunately flooding is just the symptom of a problem that requires a political solution.

Finally I had a visit from Titia Ketelaar (the London correspondent for a Dutch Newspaper) who was disbelieving when I stated that we are well above sea level here. She said ‘We have much land below sea level in Holland that never, ever floods. Why aren’t you protesting on the streets?’ My answer was as always – prompt, precise, brief and unprintable.

Ewan Larcombe