Minutes of the Parrett Full Board Meeting held at Westonzoyland Community Hall, Westonzoyland on Tuesday 17 June 2014 at 2.15 pm.

Chairman: Mr P Maltby

  1. Attendance & Apologies for Absence: as per register appended. The Chairman welcomed members of the public to the meeting, expressing that there would be opportunity to address the Board during the meeting.
  1. Items Additional to the Agenda: N Stevens – correspondence from Expenditors: agenda Item 9.

Opportunity for members of the public to address the meeting: Mr J Rudge, Westonzoyland resident, advised that the Parish Council are actively debating the 20 year Flood Action Plan (FAP) and issues of flooding; the Parish Council has submitted a document to Sedgemoor District Council and Somerset County Council, Mr Rudge will request that a copy is provided for the IDB.

  1. Declarations of Interest: None at this time.
  1. Minutes of the Full Board Meeting held on 28 January 2014: (appended) Item 4:2 members felt that the minutes as circulated are misleading as it was mainly the IDB officers, not IDB members, who were consulted on the lowering of Allermoor Spillway on the River Parrett. I Sturdy (IDS) by way of an update advised that he met with the Environment Agency (the Agency) several times during the development of the scheme, providing advice on the risks of the works they were proposing, and ensuring that that the views of the Board were represented fully at the meetings. Within the FAP is a work stream for the Agency to undertake works to repair damage to the Allermoor spillway. The Agency would like to hold a meeting with the IDB; members were asked what format the meeting should have; the preferred option would be a public meeting at which the design and survey may be questioned.

Having been previously circulated, with one amendment to item 4:2, the Chairman signed the minutes as a true and correct record of the meeting held.  All in favour

  1. Minutes of the Extra Ordinary meeting held on 27 May 2014: (appended) having previously been circulated, the Chairman signed the minutes as a true and correct record of the meeting held. All in favour
  1. Matters Arising:
  1. Draft minutes of the Somerset Rivers Board Working Group of 16 May 2014: (appended) the minutes provided for information purposes were duly noted by members. Members were advised that the preferred funding option of the Working Group is to extend the Board’s area, rather than a General Drainage Charge. N Stevens advised however that in general Treasury is not in favour of the introduction of a General Drainage Charge; the Agency could be asked to provide the latest information on this matter. It was agreed that the Working Group’s final preferred options would be forwarded to all Board members once responses have been received from other stakeholders.

Members were advised that an EFRA select committee summary report will be made available to all members for information purposes.

Concern was expressed that landowners, businesses and residents in the upper catchments had not been consulted; members were assured that the Project Manager, if extending the Board area was the chosen option, would put the matter to public consultation.

Members were advised that Welland & Deepings IDB (W&D) undertook a two day visit to Somerset following  media reports, of particular interest was dredging of the Rivers Parrett and Tone; W&D were appreciative of the approach to works in Somerset, to raise awareness nationally.

  1. Draft minutes of the Finance & Governance sub-committee of 20 May 2014: (appended) Item 7: Ref 11 should read Proposed T Bradford rather than Proposed P Maltby.

Item 11 Bradbury House: members were advised that the financial implications on the Parrett Board and SDBC are unknown at this time. Once the offices are refurbished, market and rental valuations will be undertaken to ascertain at a Consortium meeting the relevant charge to be apportioned to the Parrett Board in accordance with the Consortium Agreement. Members were assured that costs of refurbishment are the responsibility of the Axe Brue IDB; the relevant usage charge includes rental of office space and administration, not a proportion of the refurbishment.

  1. Draft minutes of the combined Management and E&M Committee held on 22 April 2014: Item 9 Plant & Machinery update: P Ham (PSH) advised that correspondence had been received from the Expenditor’s expressing concern that following the sale of the Massey Ferguson tractor and attachments, the Board no longer has a weed cutting bucket available and requested that one is procured for the remaining John Deere tractor. The following matters were discussed (this list is not exhaustive):
    • Parrett machine operators have reduced from three to two following Mike Snook’s reassignment to supervison and water level management only.
    • Two operators are now undertaking three men’s work
    • The Axe Brue Board purchased the Massey Ferguson at an agreed price of £27k.
    • Cannington & Wembdon will be completed in-house at an approximate saving of £10k over three years (current tender prices)
    • Currymoor – cannot be undertaken by in-house workforce due to the complexities of the area, moving the machine and current routine maintenance programme
    • The maintenance season should be extended – request to be made to Natural England for consideration
    • Purchase of a weed cutting bucket for the John Deere tractor, would enable the tractor operator to undertake more maintenance work

Proposed I Dyer seconded M Winslade ‘that the Parrett IDB purchase a weed cutting bucket at a cost of £6,000 as an attachment for the Board’s John Deere tractor to enable increased maintenance operations by the in-house work force.’ Vote: 12 for, 1 against, 0 abstentions RESOLUTION 1

It was requested that the Expenditor’s work rates are monitored for future consideration; PSH to review.

Item 19: Damage to Slabgate Sluice: A Gilling declared an interest in this matter. NWS informed members that following a review of the evidence, the Board’s solicitors, Ashfords, advised that there is sufficient likelihood of a successful prosecution damage caused to Slabgate Sluice. The Board needs to consider a resolution to lay the prosecution before a Magistrate’s court. The advantage of the prosecution is that the public will be aware that the Board will not tolerate interference of structures. The prosecution is based on the confessions made in police statements of those named in the resolution. The cost of prosecution is in the region of £2k-£5k.

Proposed T Bradford seconded D Spicer ‘that the Board appoints Jeremy Asher of Ashford’s Solicitors to lay the information on the Board’s behalf in bringing a prosecution against Wayne Kelland and Lee Goddard for the unconsented operation of Slabgate Sluices at Hambridge.’ Vote: 22 for, 0 against, 2 abstentions RESOLUTION 2

Resolution to appoint Ashford’s Solicitors was duly signed by the Chairman and Clerk.

  1. Finance Report: Approval of accounts and annual return to the Audit Commission: (appended)

S Gee (SMG) advised that annual accounts 2013/14 had been explored fully at the F&G meeting of 20 May 2014 and briefed members on the meeting held.

Proposed D Spicer seconded M Winslade ‘that the Parrett IDB approve and adopt the accounts for year ending 31 March 2014.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUTION 3

Annual Governance Statement: SMG advised that the Annual Governance Statement had been discussed in full at the F&G meeting of 20 May 2014; the eight statements were discussed for Board approval.

Proposed D Spicer seconded I Dyer ‘that the Parrett IDB approve statements 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 8 of the Annual Governance Statement.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUTION 4

The annual accounts and Annual Governance Statement were duly signed by the Chairman, Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer.

Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium: SMG advised that the SDBC annual accounts 2013/14 had been discussed in full at the F&G meeting of 20 May 2014.

Proposed I Dyer seconded P Palmer ‘that the Parrett IDB approve and adopt the Somerset Drainage Boards Consortium accounts for year ending 31 March 2014.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUTION 5

Notes to the Parrett Accounts item 10 Contingent Liabilities: members were advised that an Agency claim for damage to pumps at Northmoor is being resisted, as it is felt the Board’s Operators did not act unreasonably in the circumstances.

Belwin Fund: NWS advised that the Board has an undertaking from Sedgemoor District Council for the reimbursement of costs for works to be completed during 2014, to the value of £50k if they receive a proper Bellwin settlement. NWS was asked to investigate the possibility of obtaining Belwin funding from other local authorities.

  1. Engineering Report: (appended) Maintenance: P Ham (PSH) briefed members on the maintenance report previously circulated. The report was duly noted by members.

Favourable Conditions: I Sturdy (IDS) briefed members on the report previously circulated with the following updates:

  • Northmoor: a draft report has been prepared on the installation of two permanent pumps at Elson’s Clyce with the costs estimated to be in the region of £160k. Members concurred that if water was not coming back into Park Brook, this scheme would be considered sufficient. Consideration is to be given to funding the scheme; it was recommended to investigate funding streams from Wessex Water.
  • Bridgwater and Taunton Canal: IDS advised that as an alternative flood relief route, an advantage can be received from the canal; this scheme is included within the 20 year Flood Action Plan; however the Elsons Clyce Pump project is not included.

IDS further advised that a request has been made to raise water levels within the canal for use of a boating group; Cllr Fraser requested information to enable her to raise concern regarding water levels with SDC.

  • Parrett and Tone Dredging: members were advised that communication on the dredging is plentiful, with weekly updates being provided to members with email. A sixth team is due to be in Somerset and operational by 20 June 2014. The first 200m has been completed to the best outcome that can be achieved in the area; IDS is satisfied with the results. The Agency has advised that they will monitor resources to ensure the dredge is completed by the 1st November deadline; the Chairman encouraged members to remain supportive of the Agency efforts.

Members were advised that the Agency actively monitor water levels regularly in order to be pro-active, and that Expenditor’s are very important in monitoring water levels to assist the Agency.

  • Thorney Ring Bank: IDS advised that tender documents have been prepared for dispatch and that relevant planning and footpath closure applications have been submitted. Funding for the project will be by way of Partnership Funding, i.e. parish councils, South Somerset District Council, residential applications for flood resilience projects, with the shortfall underwritten by funding identified from within the Flood Action Plan. The Board agreed that the design expertise and time provided by officers was a considerable contribution to the fund.

Proposed Cllr P Palmer seconded R England ‘that the Parrett IDB contributes £20,000 towards the Thorney Ring Bank scheme deducting costs involved with design and officer time.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUTION 6

  • North East Bridgwater: IDS advised that maintenance costs for the channel are being discussed with the developer; that the Board should only be interested in undertaking the routine maintenance, not the ownership of the watercourse. The Board needs to ensure that the developer has a mechanism in place for payment of routine maintenance; the developer is favouring a management charge rather than a commuted sum.
  • Wembdon: Following Notice, Mr Quick has consulted with the Board on appropriate pipe sizes for consented works, which are to be completed by September 2014, at which time the Board will undertake an inspection.
  1. Seasonal water level change dates: NWS advised that resolution 1 of the Employment & Machinery meeting of 14 January 2014, agreed to seasonal water level change dates of 1 April and 1 December. After discussion members concurred that all moors are different, therefore some flexibility should be permissible in the April changeover. It was recommended that further consideration of seasonal water level change dates are reviewed at a meeting of the Water Level Management Plan however this year should follow the Clerks advice.
  1. 20 year Flood Action Plan and Somerset Rivers Board: NWS advised that information has been discussed with members at several previous meetings, highlighting that reasonable progress is being made by the eight work streams and associated funding. Leaders Implementation Group meetings are held regularly, from which updates are disseminated to the Stakeholders Group.
  1. Adoption of Strategy for Future Maintenance: (appended) NWS advised the paper (deferred from January 28 2014) confirms the approach for delivering future maintenance, as recommended by the Management sub-committee: Option 5 – work undertaken by a combination of contract and in house plant and reducing to two plant operators. Following the sale of the Board’s Massey Ferguson tractor, there is the possibility of employing the Axe Brue machine and operator when resources are temporarily unable to meet demand.

The Chairman was asked if discussions with in-house staff had resulted in the ability to extend the season: Members were advised that a review of Expenditor and Operator Terms & Conditions is currently being undertaken, although a preliminary meeting indicates the in-house staff are favourable to the request; however the Board is to be mindful of the maintenance season in respect of SSSIs and other significant sites, as well as statutory requirments.

Proposed B Bryer seconded T Bradford ‘that the Parrett IDB accept Option 5 to have work undertaken by a combination of contract and in-house plant and reducing to two plant operators also to investigate extending the maintenance season.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUITON 7

  1. Full Board 22 July 2014 – site inspections: Vice-Chairman Mr T Bradford opined that a lot of meetings had been held in 2014 due to this being an extra-ordinary year. Traditionally the July meeting was held to adopt and sign the year end accounts, however this process been brought forward to the June meeting.

Proposed T Bradford seconded D Spicer ‘that the Parrett IDB cancels the meeting and site inspections scheduled to take place on 22 July 2014.’ Vote: unanimous RESOLUTION 8

  1. Special correspondence and meetings: NWS advised that many meetings have been attended by Board officers, in particular at the Agency drop-in sessions North Newton, Aller, the Willow & Wetlands Centre and Muchelney, also the Canalside drop-in meetings.

Officers attended a follow up meeting for the 20 year FAP in the form of a technical seminar held by the Agency to discuss the Parrett Sluice, to review the proposals. Presentations were given by district council and the Agency re: development and engineering. A review of the hydrology will be undertaken on the impacts that a sluice or barrier will have on the flood levels of Bridgwater but also on the levels and moors fluvial flood risk.

Welland & Deepings IDB has invited members to attend their annual meeting and site inspection on 8 July 2014; a small contingent from both the Parrett and Axe Brue Boards will attend.

South Somerset Hydro Power Group has invited the Chairman and Clerk to attend their 10th anniversary luncheon to be held on 25 July 2014.

  1. Any other business: T Bradford requested an evening meeting to discuss the Allermoor Spillway, to allow a greater attendance.

The Chairman was asked: If the Allermoor spillway had not been dropped would Moorland have flooded as much as it did: the Agency response is that it is neutral, because as well as dropping the spillway level, all the low spots on the right bank have been filled; Board officers were not involved with the Agency in the  modelling or reporting of the work.

The Chairman congratulated Mr Horsington & Mrs Graham for their diligence is obtaining and retaining media attention on Somerset during the flood events.

  1. Date of next meeting: Finance and Governance 16 September, Employment and Machinery 23 September, Consortium Management Committee 30 September, Parrett Management Committee 07 October.

There being no other business the Chairman closed the meeting at 16.50 pm.