Update from the Environment Agency
To receive the above verbal update.
Scott Salmon from the Environment Agency (EA) stated he had circulated the latest River Thames Scheme (RTS) update with the only change being the funding figure was up to £354m. There would be further meetings with Heathrow as there were two major projects on the horizon; one which involved continuing excavation works and the other was for preparations for construction. In terms of progressing the RTS, there were issues with funding and as it was a critical scheme, he urged all Members to support the scheme as much as possible. Scott Salmon stated the scheme was heading towards the pre-application stage with archaeological sites being recorded. Statutory planning consultations would begin at the end of 2020 at the earliest.
Councillor Beer stated funding was a problem. RBWM had committed to contributing but, a lot of local authorities had committed less money and there were county councils such as Surrey that had not committed any funding yet. The scheme should be nationally funded instead of leaving it all to river authorities. He felt the Borough was being charged for dealing with water that had come from other areas that were not being charged. Councillor Beer said he was watching what was happening at Heathrow and there was a proposal to bridge over the M25 instead of tunnelling underneath it which meant the water would need to be rerouted.
Councillor Beer asked as Heathrow were going through a Development Control Order, could the RTS also go through that process in order to speed up the development. Simon Lavin, Flood Risk Manager stated major construction rules would not apply but he did anticipate the RTS going to a public enquiry. Scott Salmon confirmed as the RTS went through planning, it would have to go through one hub at Surrey County Council. The process could be split between a county council and a unitary authority but, his understanding was that the scheme would go to a hub with involvement from the Royal Borough so it had a single point of contact.
v Action – Brianne Vally to invite someone from the RTS scheme to attend the next Flood Group meeting to answer questions on how the RTS will pass through the planning phase
Harry Clasper asked if there was any prospect of a conclusion on land acquisitions. Scott Salmon confirmed the scheme would not pass through any planning process unless all of those issues were resolved. He also confirmed that £354m had already been raised towards the scheme. The Chairman said the new Leader of Surrey County Council had been in touch regarding the RTS and was looking into how much money they could commit to the scheme.
Councillor Beer stated he had received a surprise call before Christmas to meet EA representatives on a trip in an EA boat. He was concerned about the number of houseboats on the Thames and a monstrosity was beginning to appear at Old Windsor. People were very concerned about planning issues and he wanted feedback. The answer he received while on the boat was the main concern was for navigation and the EA were not concerned about planning as long as the houseboats did not obstruct the Thames Path. Councillor Beer said he then raised it with Borough Planning Officers and he hoped the issue would be raised within the Traveller Plan. Ian Thompson said he was a member of a river users group and that the problem of houseboats were correct as explained by Councillor Beer but, the situation had been made worse by Richmond and Twickenham councils as they had cleared their banks and moved them on to our area. The Chairman said there were approximately 8-10 boats in Datchet and there were similar numbers in Windsor and Wraysbury. They would need to be addressed in the Traveller Plan. Harry Clasper stated any mooring had to have a licence from the EA. Martin Coker said it reminded him of the way people in mobile homes were treated years ago before legislation. The people in houseboats should have security of tenure and if the Borough moved them on, where would they go? The Chairman commented a lot of the houseboats lived there with residential moorings; it was the travelling ones that were causing a problem. Scott Salmon said if any of the boats were in breach of any law, they should be treated the same without fear or favour. The EA had a good enforcement team and they enforced licensing and registration on the Thames and would also interrogate any boat not complying. If a pontoon or pier was added, that should be flagged to the technical team as it could pose a flood risk and the do require permits. He reiterated that anything to be reported should be reported through the reporting system so it could be accurately logged and a case built. Scott Salmon added that sometimes people just wanted to fall below the radar and were entitled to live a lifestyle where they could move around unnoticed; however, if they were reported as acting unlawfully, the relevant agencies would address that.
Scott Salmon wanted to address concerns raised at the last meeting around the Temporary Flood Barriers (TFB) and where they would be sited, and if they could cause more flooding in Datchet. Tina Donaldson was keen to have a consultation on the alignment and there would be a meeting held on 25 January 2019. Tina Donaldson would arrange meetings at locations where there were concerns and would liaise with Borough colleagues. Scott Salmon stated the value of having TFB was that it put people on the ground in the early stages of a flood event and if there were people on the ground, they could be available for other flood risks; the military could potentially also be deployed.
Harry Clasper said at the last meeting, decisions on deployment of TFB would be made by the Local Resilience Forum, he asked where the Borough’s Local Resilience Forum was. Carolyn Richardson confirmed it was a Thames Valley Resilience Forum which was a multiagency forum made up of operational resources looking at risks and planning. There was an adverse weather plan which included flooding events. When deciding to deploy TFB, a strategic coordinated group would assess the situation and make the decision.