Minutes of the Parrett Internal Drainage Board Meeting held at Westonzoyland Community Centre on Tuesday 26 November 2013 at 2.15pm
1. Attendance and apologies – as per register appended
2. Items additional to the agenda – none
3. Declarations of Interest – none
4. Opportunity for members of the public to address the Board meeting (maximum 3 minutes) – David Perrin was concerned regarding the standard of maintenance and advised that the standard was set by Natural England. During the flooding of 2012 a drainage board officer stopped work being carried out in a viewed ditch which Mr Perrin felt was unacceptable. Iain Sturdy advised that the standards of maintenance are set by the drainage board after consultation with Natural England and explained how the system would work when the favourable condition projects were complete. Mr Perrin reiterated that an ecology officer had stopped the work being carried out and stated this was completely unacceptable. The Chairman noted Mr Perrin’s comments.
5. Minutes of the Meeting held on the 11 June 2013 – having previously been circulated were signed as a true and correct record.
6. Matters Arising – Item 12 of the Management Committee – Cllr Anne Fraser referred to her comments to the Clerk concerning the possible restructuring of full Board meetings, setting out her thinking and concerns on the opportunity and ability of Appointed Members to engage in debates about very localised issues that are very important locally not of a strategic nature.
7. Draft Minutes of the Finance & Governance meeting 17 September and 5 November 2013 for information
8. Draft Minutes of the Employment and Machinery Committee 24 September 2013 for information – Phil Ham reported that a silt pump had been trialled and the grassland being used for the spoil is recovering quickly. A decision will be made shortly whether to purchase the pump.
9. Draft Minutes of the Management Committee Meeting 8 October 2013 for information – Nick Stevens informed members that the inclusion of a deputy vice chairman did not affect the Standing Orders. This had been confirmed by an official in Defra. Proposed: Tony Bradford Seconded: David Spicer “that a deputy vice chairman is included in the Boards structure”. All in favour RESOLVED 1
Proposed: Tony Bradford Seconded: Brian Rowe “that David Ayers is elected as Deputy Vice Chairman” All in favour RESOLVED 2
Patrick Palmer asked for details of Joy Thorne’s retirement. The Chairman advised members that there would be a function at the Wyndham Arms in Kingsbury Episcopi on Thursday 28 November. A gift is being organised for Joy. John Lock will make a presentation at the function. Joy will be replaced by Richard Vaux who has been shadowing her and is very keen to continue her good work.
Tony Bradford asked if there was any extra cost to the Parrett Board as a result of the relocation of the offices in Highbridge. Stephen Gee reported that this has not been costed as yet but would only relate to running costs and the licence fee for usage of the building. All would be reflected in the normal agreed SDBC recharge percentage.
10. Finance Report – appended. Stephen Gee reported that the budget should be achieved for the current year. The amount of outstanding rates on the balance sheet has reduced after liability orders had been served. Barrie Bryer asked if any ratepayers who paid very small amounts had accepted the offer of paying an amount of £20 to cover a number of year’s rates. A few had taken this up.
SDBC budget 2013 for approval – the budget had been approved by the Management Committee in September but now needs the full board’s formal approval. Proposed: David Spicer Seconded: Tony Bradford “that the SDBC budget of 2013 is approved”. All in favour RESOLVED 3
Parrett draft budget for 2013 – for information. Stephen Gee explained that he had incorporated an increase of 1.99% on the current rate but will still leave a deficit. He also reported that solar farms pay a business rate to the councils, the main use of the sites are for power generation which is a non-agricultural business use so therefore HMRC inform us that business rates are chargeable. This would mean that the Board should now identify the land as non-agricultural use and include it within the Special Levy. Currently there are approximately 39 hectares in the Parrett which will need to be transferred. Anne Fraser asked that any increases are kept as low as possible. The Chairman commented that this will be looked at.
Richard Archer asked for information regarding completed schemes. Iain Sturdy reported that many of the schemes were virtually complete and the figures in the budget are there to cover any operational issues that arise in the first years of operation and require additional works to achieve full operational status.
Stephen Gee explained that the budget reinforces the concerns raised last year regarding the board having sufficient financial resources to carry out routine maintenance and fund capital work. It highlights the need for members to address how these essential activities should be funded in 2014/15 and into the future in an economic climate which continues to be very difficult.
Julian Taylor stated that expenditure needs to be reduced. Brian Rowe commented that it should be made clear to the authorities that standards need to be maintained. The Chairman reported that the Agency had released a figure for last year’s flooding was in the region of £600 million. The Chairman clarified that the budget was still in draft form and would be taken to the Finance and Governance meeting in January for further consideration at which time Appointed Members would be able to have further input.
11. Engineering reports – appended
Maintenance Works – Phil Ham informed members that structures had been interfered with in the Board’s area and a more secure locking system may have to be implemented.
Improvement Works Programme – Iain Sturdy showed slides of the works carried out on the Favourable Conditions project this year. Resources are being reduced as projects are completed.
A map was shown of West Sedgemoor and how the maintenance would need to be carried out in the future if the scheme was to achieve full benefits of the capital works. Health & safety works have been carried out such as updating and replacing structures.
On Dunster Marsh, West Somerset Council had approached the Board for assistance with their maintenance works. Estimated costs have been forwarded to them however no response has yet been received.
The groundwork on the Steart project is almost complete. Slides were shown of the area. Discussions are taking place with the Agency and WWT over future operational procedures for the area. Telemetry stations are to be installed in the area to assist in the management of water levels. The output will be available to any interested party on the Time view telemetry website.
Parrett Dredging – Iain Sturdy showed slides of the de-silting work being carried out in the pinch point areas of the Parrett and Tone. The Chairman had written to local landowners to ask if they would be happy to have the spoil placed on their land when the next phase is undertaken on the Parrett downstream of Burrowbridge. In total 13 areas are to be de-silted 4 by the Agency’s in house work force and the remainder to be completed by contractors. Tenders have been sent out to the Agency’s Framework Contractors for the Parrett sites. The Board’s Dutch consultant and contractor had been notified of the Agency’s intentions. The Agency will have to follow guidelines and regulations where dredging work is carried out in SSSI and tidal areas. Any silt removed for local reuse will be subject to careful analysis and any necessary advice given to recipient landowners.
Iain Sturdy updated members on the National Grid Hinkley Connection Project which is now at the end of the consultation stage. There will be an impact on the Board’s interests regarding the location of towers as we have requested that all structures must be kept 9 metres away from watercourses. A haul road/access road will be installed along the route of the line which will require culverts at every watercourse crossing. There are approximately 90 culverts proposed under the access.
Access to tower locations following completion will require permanent easements across land especially with concrete pylons are used due to the specialist access platforms required to maintain the overhead equipment.
12. Winter water levels and communications – Phil Ham advised that the latest date for lowering of water is likely to be 15 December. Tony Bradford reported that levels were high on the King Sedgemoor Drain and Jessica Healey reported that there appeared to be a notable difference in the levels being retained in the Parrett area and the Axe Brue area. Officers commented on the difference in approach between the two Boards that will reflect their geography.
Nick Stevens reported that there are regular meetings with the Agency and they are keen to ensure communication is good between all bodies and is consistent. There will be a press release on preparing for winter and works that have been carried out over the last year.
The Chairman is keen for the Board to have email addresses from as many landowners as possible to be able to pass on important information quickly.
13. Steart Management Realignment Progress report – covered in item 11.
14. Somerset Task Force – Nick Stevens reported that the Task Force had been set up initially following the end of the ESA in an attempt to influence government thinking and to draw in replacement funding. It has however evolved into a multi organisation group to promote improved resilience and control in the flood risk management in Somerset which resulted in a meeting in November 2012 and its aim to create a vision for the Somerset Levels and Moors. More meetings have taken place and in order to give the group credibility across the county institutions and authorities it was felt an Executive Group was necessary. District and County councillors have met at County Hall recently with further meetings planned for the future. Anne Fraser commented that there had been a lot of discussion but not much action.
15. Approval of meetings calendar for 2014/15 – the draft calendar was accepted by members as submitted. A colour copy of the calendar will be provided for members with the next meeting pack.
16. Special correspondence and meetings including ADA Conference – Nick Stevens reported that Anne Macintosh had attended the ADA Annual Conference in London. Anne is the Chairman of EFRA Parliamentary Select Committee. She raised a number of concerns about the government’s arrangements for the management of surface water as well as raising issues about role and use of precept within the Agency and IDB relationship.
Nick Stevens had asked a question which is attached for information. The question led to a useful debate and was well received. The problems in Somerset had been a worrying trend that may also come to affect other areas.
Tony Bradford advised that the SWADA meeting was being held on 4 December 2013 at the Oak Tree Arena in Highbridge.
The Chairman reported that the Royal Bath & West Society has asked him to join their funding raising group as a result of a visit by the FRAS to this area. There will be meeting on 3 December.
17. Any Other Business – Jessica Healey asked for less paperwork to be forwarded prior to meetings. Members agreed that the correspondence list could be omitted. In future paperwork some paperwork (notably deputies for the SDBC Management Committee meetings) could be emailed and if members wish to have a hard copy they can either print it out or ask the office staff do this for them.
Phil Brewin showed slides of the network of telemetry sites and gave details of the log in for members to access the system.
Nick Stevens advised that the office would be closed for the Christmas period from 5pm on Monday 23 December and will open again on Monday 30 December at 9am. There is an answerphone message which will give details of whom to contact in an emergency.
18. Date of next Board Meeting –
- Consortium Management Tuesday 3 December 2013
- Finance & Governance Tuesday 14 January 2013
- Management Sub Com Tuesday 7 January 2013
- Employment and Machinery Tuesday 25 February 2014
The Chairman closed the meeting at 4.45pm