Minutes of the Parrett Internal Drainage Board Meeting held at Westonzoyland Community Centre on Tuesday 28 January 2014 at 2.15pm.
Chairman: Mr P Maltby
The Chairman (PCM) welcomed members and 14 members of the public to the meeting.
PCM requested an amendment to the agenda: items 11 & 12 to follow item 4; members concurred.
- Attendance and apologies: as per register appended
- Items additional to the agenda: (1) TB advised that a meeting instigated by Ian Liddell-Grainger MP for Bridgwater, was held on 27 January 2014 attended by the Chairman, TB, Owen Patterson MP (OP MP), representatives of Somerset County Council (SCC), the Environment Agency (Agency), Sedgemoor District Council (SDC), David Heath MP for Somerton and Frome as well at three local farmers. O Patterson MP has requested that the collective attendees provide a 20 year plan within six weeks, which if found to be feasible will be approved and funded by Government. TB advised that dredging will be included within the plan with other measures. OP MP declared Somerset to be in an emergency situation, and that progress of an approved plan would be considered accordingly. PCM advised that OP MP accepted that national guidlines may not be applicable to Somerset due to heavily modified watercourses and geography therefore an exception may be possible. Also, OP MP was not aware of road closures and the consequential problems.
(2) PCM advised of a meeting organised by D Heath MP, held with Dan Rogerson MP (DR MP); in attendance were residents of Muchelney and other affected areas. The severity of problems being experienced by residents and land owners was expressed to DR MP.
PCM advised that he and many Board members have given several press and media interviews to raise the profile of the IDB during the flood events.
(3) The Royal Bath & West Agricultural Society (RB&W) has appointed fundraisers; with circa £33k being raised to date. If a 20 year plan is approved by OP MP, then funding could be provided; therefore the purpose of the fundraising will need to be re-considered. Cllr Palmer opined that future and on-going maintenance costs need to be addressed within the plan to be submitted to OP MP.
- Declarations of Interest: B Rowe for the item on the Parrett Barrier.
- Opportunity for members of the public to address the Board meeting: The Chairman invited members of the public to address the meeting (14 members of the public present):
- N Craddock, wood flooring business owner along A361: the 6-week plan must include amendments to Athelney Spillway, as this spillway overflows when the River Tone is at an acceptable level.
- A Lloyd: Question: the Parrett IDB newsletter written in April 2013 was very positive and stated that the Chairman promised to continue to lobby MP’s, Defra, County Councillor’s, Natural England and the Agency to restore the carrying capacity of the rivers to reduce the extreme threat of rainfall events we are experiencing; were the IDB and relevant landowners consulted by the Agency concerning work to alter several hundred yards of flood bank along the River Parrett upstream of Aller, leaving it vulnerable to summer floods? Was this not a criminal act?
PCM: Answer: the IDB Officers were consulted that the bank would be lowered to prevent floodwater from overtopping the downstream Parrett floodbanks in an uncontrolled way leading to a possible risk of bank failure ; the IDB advised the Agency about the possible impacts of this work in regard to housing and highways. The Boards received reassurance that floodwater volumes would remain the same. Landowners were not consulted as the assessment indicated that households would be not be affected.
NWS advised that the works undertaken were lawful, as the Agency has powers to undertake such works. Spillways were installed to control water flow during flood events; the IDB recommended that the Agency considers mitigating works to reduce risks of flooding if the results were not as predicted.
TB opined that the works were carried out to prevent further closure of the A361, and to reduce costs related to pumping within the moors.
NWS advised that from the information supplied by the Agency, there was no intention to divert the pattern of flooding and that is was an exercise to avoid bank failure.
In addition the Clerk advised that the door at Monks Leaze is opened on the rising arm of an event to allow water into the Sowy; when the spillways run the door is closed. It is not yet known if the excessive flows over the spillway were a result of excessive rainfall run off, an incorrect design or incorrect construction or a combination of all three.
Luke Brooker: Question: Could the IDB not take over control of the rivers?
NWS: Answer: the IDB does not have the resources to fulfil the task; the Agency has approx 90 staff available to respond 24 hours, 7 days a week providing cover in emergency events, whereas the IDB has approximately 10 staff with the expertise required. The IDB did assist the Agency in recent events with walking banks and sand bagging.
NWS advised that precept to the Agency is a small part of their funding, and that if retained by the Board it would not be adequate to manage the necessary workload.
PCM thanked all staff and Expenditors for their hard work and dedication over the past 5 weeks.
Agenda Items 11 and 12 were brought forward.
- Flood Risk Management: PCM invited members to discuss local flood events:
TB: many landowners were disappointed that it took one month to deploy extra pumps; they arrived one day prior to the Ministers visit of the area.
Cllr Taylor: The pumps made a difference; it was disappointing that they took so long. The old steam pumping station at Westonzoyland has an outfall 7ft below river bed level, which indicates how the river has not been maintained.
J Winslade (JW): when Currymoor had started to fill up, prior to Christmas, a request was made for pumps on Northmoor; however the Agency advised that this was not necessary at that time, and that pumps were not available, however JW advised that after investigation he was able to locate six available pumps.
R Barrington: IDB needs to investigate the speed with which water is arriving at Currymoor and the onset of overtopping and water getting onto the moor; in previous years it would take approx 2 days whereas in this recent event it took only 6 hours.
- Adopting a plan for reducing flooding in Somerset: (appended) NWS has recommended a collaborative ten point plan for reducing flood risk, to be undertaken by a range of bodies and organisations with adequate funding; at present DEFRA does not consider rural areas to be a priority when allocating funding. A General Drainage Charge was discussed; within legislation the Agency could obtain funding via a GDC, which is levied on land outside the Board’s area, by Ministerial approval, collected by the Agency (currently it is only in place within the Anglian Region of the Agency).
All points included would need to be addressed; however they may be actioned over a period of time. The conveyance of capacity of channels is paramount within low land areas.
Cllr Fraser requested the Board consider a 2001 SDC document ‘The Future when in Rains’ when considering the ten point plan, as the document highlights a list of three suggestive measures to reduce flooding on the levels and moors. The document includes partners that had signed to the plan in 2001. The Board should also consider incorporating a list of innovative measures for funding, such as the creation of renewable energy to assist in an additional way.
B Rowe thanked members and officers for their work, including meeting with MP’s; a letter of thanks should be forwarded to the local MP for raising awareness of the problems being experienced within Somerset at Westminster.
Mr Rowe opined that a barrage at Dunball may prove beneficial to reduce the amount of water within the rivers, and greatly benefit Somerset. Cllr Fraser advised that for the previous five years, through new developments, SDC has raised considerable funds for a barrier, and that a feasibility study is now being conducted with the Agency, SCC and other bodies. PCM advised that the timescale of the creation of a barrier may be 10 years.
Members gave consideration to the ten point plan; although the list is not written in a specific order, it was agreed that item 10 should become item 3 to allow a ‘Phase One’, with the remaining items following as ‘Phase Two’. It was agreed that as the main rivers have a limited capacity, point one should read maximise the conveyance of the lowland rivers, rather than increase the capacity of the lowland rivers.
Members were advised that upgrading pumping stations would be included within item 5 – promote flood resilience and property level protection in the whole catchment.
Cllr Lillis advised that he would promote the ten point plan at a flood scrutiny group meeting in February.
Cllr Slattery advised that there may be a fragmented picture through Somerset as several partner bodies and organisations had not been involved with the recent Minister visits.
After further discussion Proposed B Rowe seconded D Ayers ‘that with item 10 becoming item 3 and item 1 amended to read Maximise the conveyance of the lowland rivers in Somerset and maintain them and items 1 to 3 being Phase One and items 4 to 10 being Phase Two that the Parrett Internal Drainage Board approves the Ten Point Plan for Somerset.’ All in favour RESOLUTION 1
- Minutes of the meeting held on 26 November 2013: (appended) having been previously circulated the minutes were signed by the Chairman as a true and correct record of the meeting held.
- Matters arising: Item 8: NWS advised that, following a successful demonstration and trial period, the Employment & Machinery Sub-Committee had agreed to purchase the silt pump as £12,070 (less grant in aid £6,000). It was agreed that a Creeper gearbox was not a necessary purchase at this time.
- Draft minutes of the Management Committee meeting 07 January 2014: item 6 Parrett and Tone dredging: I Sturdy (IDS) advised that this item should read ‘disappointment regarding the exclusion of Dutch contractors’.
Item 5 Strategy for the Procurement of Maintenance Works: NWS advised that the meeting agenda had been truncated, so was unable to discuss this matter.
- Draft minutes of the Finance and Governance Committee meeting 14 January 2014: having been previously circulated for information purposes was accepted by members; no matters were expressed at this time.
- Consider budget and rate setting for 2014/15: (appended) S Gee (SMG) briefed members on the reports and commentary submitted, advising that there are no matters of concern on the budget.
SMG advised that the Environment Agency precept will increase by 1% (approx £2,000) which will create a deficit of approx £21k to be taken from reserves. SMG advised that the recommendation of the F&G committee is to increase the rate by 1.99% to set a penny rate of 6.323p in the £ for the forthcoming year 2014/15.
Proposed D Spicer seconded M Winslade ‘that the Parrett Internal Drainage Board set a rate of 6.323p in the £ for 2014/15 to raise a total Agricultural Rate of £150,063.59 and Special Levy of £686,780.07.’ Vote: 27 for, 0 against, 6 abstentions, motion carried RESOLUTION 2
- Engineering Report: (appended) P Ham (PSH) briefed members on the maintenance report and advised that the Expenditors were regularly talking with landowners to provide assurance during flood events.
IDS advised that Favourable Conditions Projects are coming to an end, with works as listed on the Engineer’s Report (appended).
Minehead investigations: IDS advised that allocation of grant in aid is dependent upon a Project Appraisal Report and partnership funding. Following investigations and development of concept, delivering works would not take place until 2015/16.
Parrett Health & Safety project was established as a five year project, which is coming to an end. An application has been submitted for a further three year’s funding to progress works that were originally assessed as medium priority.
Parrett and Tone dredging: the pilot pinch point works on the Tone have been completed, as report; framework contractors have been invited to tender for works on the Parrett. The Agency has enquired that if the Board’s contacts at Norfolk and Holland were invited to tender, how quickly could they mobilise and how long it would take to complete the works. The Dutch contractors have responded that if the environmental and regulatory constraints were completed, the work could be started by the end of March, taking (approx) 8 months for a main dredge, or the remaining pinch point works would take (approx) 5 weeks; the proposal is a combination of traditional side-casting and for difficult access, a machine in the channel taking material off the banks and pumping via a transporting line to a handling area. IDS has recommended that the Dutch contractors are tested on the remaining pinch points to ascertain if their methods are suitable for the Parrett.
Members requested that a soil analysis is provided for landowners, to promote acceptance of spoil. Spoil deposit was discussed with regard to landowners reluctance to accept spoil; the Agency had contacted many landowners to ask, in principal, if the spoil was of an acceptable quality, and all the licencing was in place, would they be prepared to discuss the issue with the Agency. IDS advised that the samples of river sediment analysed from the pinch point work have proven to be of a satisfactory quality apart from one location next to the pumping station.
- Adoption of Governance Policies and Register of Members’ Interests: (appended) NWS advised that the policies are ADA model policies and the recommendation of the F&G sub-committee is to adopt the Employee’s Code of Conduct, Gifts and Hospitality Policy, Anti-Bribery Policy, Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy, Whistle Blowing Policy and Confidential Reporting Code, Freedom of Information Publication Scheme, Division of Responsibilities between Chair and Chief Executive and Data Protection Policy as well as the Register of Members’ Interests. Following discussion, members were advised that the Publication Policy includes advice on how to access information and indicates that charges may be imposed for the provision of some information; however information available on the Boards’ website will not incur a charge. Members were advised that there is be a cost to the Board for administration of the system.
Proposed D Spicer seconded M Winslade ‘that the Parrett Internal Drainage Board adopts the Employee’s Code of Conduct, Gifts and Hospitality Policy, Anti-Bribery Policy, Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy, Whistle Blowing Policy and Confidential Reporting Code, Freedom of Information Publication Scheme, Division of Responsibilities between Chair and Chief Executive, Data Protection Policy and Register of Members’ Interests.’ All in favour RESOLUTION 3
- Special Correspondence and meetings: Correspondence with MPs (appended) having been previously circulated for information purposes was accepted by members. PCM advised that he has met with Tessa Munt MP, David Heath MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and Jeremy Browne MP following the email inviting MP’s to visit the flood affected areas of the district.
Future of the water management groups in Somerset: NWS advised that Somerset County Council, as lead flood authority to rationalising the many water management groups to provide a more organised approach. A discussion was held at the recent Strategic Flood Management Partnership meeting, supporting the rationalisation of the various groups. NWS will update at the next meeting.
A draft vision for the Somerset Levels and Moors in 2030: (appended) NWS advised that the document was the initial task of the Somerset Water Management Partnership Task Force chaired by Anthony Gibson, which has been released as a draft for comments.
- Any other business: (1) SMG introduced C Gunn of South West Audit Partnership, internal auditors to the Boards. Mr Gunn thanked the Chairman for the opportunity to address the meeting and advised that SWAP will be looking at the processes of the Board for internal audit purposes, and will produce a survey for members to complete to identify issues of governance that may be of concern.
(2) Pumping: B Rowe advised that a landowner installed a drainage scheme, without permission of the Board at Chilton Trinity over two culverts which has proven to be detrimental to neighbouring landowners. NWS advised that notice will be served in due course for the landowner to remove bunds.
(3) Penzoy Sluice: could the Board please ensure this is running correctly prior to summer penning; PSH will investigate.
(4) Outstanding Rates: the Assistant Clerk requested that members review plans of land with unknown landowners to assist with the collection of rates.
(5) NWS advised that ADA has provided a briefing note to announce they will become Incorporated at 1st April 2014, with a Director structure, of which there will be one representative from the South West;
T Bradford will continue to represent the South West.
ADA will provide a model branch constitution which the Board will have to consider accordingly.
- Date of next Board meetings: 04 February 2014 Consortium Management Committee
25 February 2014 Employment and Machinery
22 April 2014 Management Committee
20 May 2014 Finance and Governance Committee
17 June 2014 Full Board – approve accounts
The Chairman thanked members and members of the public for their attendance and closed the meeting at 4.45pm