The Politics of (Local) Flooding
A Report to Datchet, Horton & Wraysbury Parish Councils
Ewan Larcombe 20/11/2023
30 years ago I gave evidence at the 1992 MWEFAS Planning Inquiry
20 years ago the Jubilee River was opened – and we flooded
10 years ago the Jubilee River was used again – and we flooded (twice this time)
5 years ago I was preparing to contest another RBWM election. I felt that things would be different because Datchet Ward had been merged with Horton & Wraysbury Ward and the Council Member numbers reduced from 4 to 3.
4 years ago I won a seat on RBWM. I then secured a four year appointment to the Thames Regional Flood & Coastal Committee where I represented Berkshire (except Slough), Hampshire and West Sussex. I attended the Surrey County Council Meeting where the River Thames Scheme was announced as fully funded by all parties. Bingo I thought – RTS on the home run now!
3 years ago I had been removed without notice from the TRFCC by the new RBWM Leader. I was replaced by Cllr. Cannon (Conservative) who promptly announced that Channel One had been removed from the River Thames Scheme due to ‘unaffordability’.
2 years ago – Wraysbury Parish Council recorded a unanimous vote of no confidence in two of their three Borough Councillors. The EA gained NSIP approval and applied for the RTS DCO.
1 year ago while I prepared for the 2023 election, the Environment Agency celebrated the Jubilee River’s 20th Anniversary. (I was not invited).
NOW I am back – on the Borough Council and re-appointed to the TRFCC. As a consequence of the FWMA 2010 the TRFCC sits at what I would classify as the PESTLE core – the place where the wide variety of risks can be considered. The TRFCC is there to oversee, to scrutinise (and if necessary challenge) and finally to approve annual flood defence spending on specific projects.
In my opinion the removal of Channel One from the RTS has damaged the logical connectivity and continuity of the flood defence design. My view is that this project is no longer coherent. Furthermore the new ‘Datchet to Hythe End Flood Improvement Measures’ project is a significantly sub-standard alternative in terms of both cost and timing. Many millions of £’s have already been spent and I believe that RTS1 is the appropriate and only solution to the problem.
We have already been flooded three times this century. I do not see why we (the undefended downstream villages at ever increasing risk of flooding) should be obliged to accept a cheap and delayed solution. Apparently those upstream – who hold the purse-strings and have already benefitted from a flood alleviation scheme without the need for a partnership funding contribution – are unwilling or unable to help us. Flooding here is still a political and economic problem – actually a genuine PESTLE problem.
THE FUTURE My most important and imminent action on the TFRCC will be to consent (or not) to next year’s Thames catchment flood defence funding – a sum that could exceed £100m.
I have made clear that I am not minded to consent to a further £20m expenditure on top of the £70m spent on the RTS project to date.
Furthermore the RTS still requires a DCO (i.e. Ministerial planning approval) and I have stated that I will let the Planning Inspectorate know exactly what has happened here and is still happening with MWEFAS.
The root cause of our RTS problems is the concept and practice of ‘partnership funding’ that was introduced around 2011 (which was after LTFRMS). In my opinion the project funding problem – caused by the newly created partnership funding policy – is not our problem. It was not there in 2003, the new policy appeared in 2011 and was then improperly handled, hidden and fudged by RBWM Councillors, Officers and the EA – all of whom had every opportunity to reveal the truth in the years before 2020. So who was in charge? In my opinion ‘partnership funding’ is now somebody else’s geopolitical problem.
Two new issues –
- A) I am seeking answers as to how the Jubilee River name has been changed to Jubilee FRC without consultation.
- B) My investigation into the rotten Berry Hill Footbridge failure costing Bucks CC about £500,000 has exposed a significant RBWM future cost implication. Consequently I now have a Member Question on the RBWM 21/11/2023 Agenda.
DCO = Development Consent Order
FWMA 2010 = Floods & Water Management Act 2010
LTFRMS = Lower Thames Flood Risk Management Strategy
MWEFAS = Maidenhead, Windsor & Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme
NSIP = Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project
PESTLE = Political, economic, social, technical, legal, environmental (elements of risk analysis)
RTS = River Thames Scheme
TFRCC = Thames Regional Flood & Coastal Committee
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