Notes of an Extra-Ordinary Briefing meeting of the Parrett Internal Drainage Board Management Committee held at 1 Church Street, Highbridge on Friday 07 February 2014, at 2.15pm

Chairman: Mr P Maltby

Mr P Maltby (PCM) opened the meeting, welcoming guests David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council (SCC), Jeff Fear, Chairman and Ray Adlam, Vice-Chairman of the Axe Brue IDB.

Attendance & apologies as sheet appended; apologies received from T Bradford as he is representing the Board at a meeting at Sedgemoor District Council offices and J Winslade who is evacuating cattle.

PCM advised that Owen Patterson MP (OP MP) had visited the area on 19/20th January and during his visit has suggested that national policies may not relate to Somerset due to its particular geography and hydrology, therefore an exception may be possible. Also, OP MP was not aware of road closures and the consequential problems.

A meeting organised called by Dan Rogerson MP (DR MP) was received positively; in attendance were residents of Muchelney and other affected areas. The severity of problems being experienced by residents and land owners was expressed upon DR MP.

A meeting had been held at the offices of Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) to co-ordinate the Action Plan for submission to OP MP. Meetings will be held weekly to progress the plan. C Passmore asked for members to have greater involvement in creating and submitting the plan.

OPERATIONAL

P Ham (PSH) provided an overview of current levels within the district – the following list is not exhaustive:

  • King Sedgemoor Drain (KSD) at Parchey is now rising 100mm per day (pumps are due in this area)
  • Middlemoor/Northmoor: rising 6mm per hour; Baltmoor spillway has stopped running
  • Langport moors have levelled out
  • West Sedgemoor keeps building due to no outlet being available
  • Peaking on the King Sedgemoor system; Westonzoyland was almost flooded at 4.25m
  • Nythe is currently at 4.14m 3 days ago it was 3.78
  • Peak on High Ham Rhyne was 4.59m there is capacity for a further 400mm
  • Earlake is filling with Parrett water from the culvert under the A361
  • Burrow Wall is at its highest
  • Cllr J Taylor asked if a correlation of telemetry recordings and expected rainfall had taken place; N Stevens (NWS) advised that the Board does not have the modelling capabilities to undertake this task. I Sturdy (IDS) advised that the Environment Agency (the Agency) may have the ability for main rivers; the Agency may have the ability to make predictions of flow rates and catchment run off levels; however these would be of limited accuracy.

NWS and IDS briefed members as follows – the list is not exhaustive:

  • The overall strategy is to increase the flow down the Sowy by opening Monks Leaze Clyce
  • The Agency proposes to pump over Beer Wall by installing four pumps which have arrived from Holland. Up to eight (1.7cumec) pumps could be installed at Dunball; however ground works to site the pumps will be required prior to installation
  • There are risks associated with the pumps; problems previously experienced at Weir Bridge in Aller
  • There is a risk of flooding around Westonzoyland, as happened previously as flows are not fully controlled
  • It has been recommended to the Agency that they pump slowly and monitor the impact as they are opened Monks Leaze incrementally;
  • They need to have twice the pumping capacity at Dunball than is being installed at Beer Wall
  • The Agency is installing temporary defences at Aller to protect land at Weir Bridge
  • A proposal from the Agency has been put to Gold Control, the overall strategic control in flood events; however Gold Control requires written confirmation of approval from the Board prior to commencement of works.
  • Contingency and control will be discussed with the Board once all pumps and works are in place.

 

  • It is acknowledged that properties on Aller Drove are very vulnerable to flooding and water level will be monitored continuously to avoid increasing flood risk; this is being taken into consideration.
  • Operation is underway to remove the top of the bank at the throttle to increase flow in the Sowy.
  • The Agency has advised that pumps will be redeployed as necessary if they are proving not to be beneficial at initial placements.

 

  • Two temporary pumps at Northmoor were redeployed to Northmoor Green to be of greater benefit as they are in danger of being flooded out.
  • Bridgwater/Taunton Canal: efforts have been made to reduce the amount of water entering Northmoor from Park Brook spillway. Water from the Tone is also being directed along the canal to Bridgwater, back to the Parrett.
  • Sandbags are available for local residents; however the spillway has not been sandbagged.
  • Attempts were made to divert Kings Cliff into the canal with limited success; better discharge arrangements are being considered
  • Baltmoor Wall embankment, structure is satisfactory; water could go over 1m deep without a problem occurring
  • Fordgate: railway track is now closed; concern was expressed for the economic impact
  • Pumps at Elson’s Clyce are running and being monitored
  • Dunwear: the pumps that are currently installed to lower levels in the Dunwear Ponds may be removed; the sewer records show surface water from all properties at Dunwear drain into the surface water sewerage system. Concern was expressed that some properties may not be connected; PSH was asked to investigate
  • Cannington Brook: the Agency has inspected this area to programme improvement/repair works
  • Stanmoor: The Military are placing sandbags on the bank to prevent overtopping.
  • PCM advised that as a vision for the future, bridges within the district are of original design and are the correct size, and that the Agency has purchased an approx 4m strip adjacent the Sowy could be removed. Increasing use of the Sowy connection reflects the original 1960’s design that was scaled back due to insufficient benefit cost. Structures installed were designed to allow for future expansion; however this is not believed to have occurred in relation to Beer Wall culvert.
  • West Sedgemoor: properties flooded at Wickmoor and West Sedgemoor adjacent to pumping station
  • Langport: no pumps are working in this area at the current time
  • There is a lot of water in and around Isle Brewers
  • Many areas are flooding in the current events that have not flooded in living history.
  • Concern was expressed for opening of Monks Leaze Clyce as during the last event this operation caused flooding and closure of the A361 at Graylake

 

 STRATEGIC

The IDB has been asked by the Agency to approve changes to the control of the Sowy; after discussion the Board agree that Monks Leaze Clyce should be opened slowly and the top should be taken off throttle, as this would minimise the risk of further water flowing into Middlemoor.

A phased approach is preferred with pumping starting at Dunball then Beer Wall, followed by the operation of gradual opening of Monks Leaze with continual monitoring and principles to be agreed such as temporary defences at Beer Wall and Aller.

 

It was agreed that the Board should add notes to update emails from the Agency where necessary.

 

Owen Patterson MP has requested a 20 year plan; this is being considered by a working group, with Somerset County Council as lead, and will be incorporating aspects of the Board’s 10 point plan, which ADA has taken to create a national policy. The working group is meeting on a weekly basis to produce the plan which has six themes: dredging and river management, land management, urban run-off management, infrastructure resilience, community business and resilience, and economic.

  • Dredging and river management is being led by the Agency with the Board.
  • Each plan has three phases: immediate action, medium term plan (2-5 year) and long term plan (over 5 years).
  • A contractor has not yet been appointed to undertake the dredging associated with the plan; however it has been confirmed that there will be no further pinch point dredging.
  • Methodology used may be dependent upon acceptance of removed silt by landowners.
  • SCC is seeking clarity on extra funding being provided by the Government for emergency works.
  • The proposed dredging work will total a length of 8km; 4km upstream of Burrowbridge on the Tone and 4km downstream on the Parrett to remove 230,000 cubic metres. It may be beneficial to undertake this task with numerous contractors.
  • The dredging and river management plan includes 13 items of potential work that was first identified in the Somerset Levels and Moors Review of Flood Management Practices 2001, which was agreed as a framework of desirable work.

 

There is a programme of works to be considered including – this list is not exhaustive:

  • A tidal sluice
  • Redistribution of flood water
  • Major dredging of other watercourses
  • Increasing flows to the Sowy and KSD on a permanent basis
  • Pumping station at Dunball
  • Automation and main control and enhancement
  • Reconstruction and improvement to spillways
  • Local flood defences protecting communities
  • Individual property protection

 

The Chairman thanked members for their attendance, and closed the meeting at 3.55pm