Rawreth Parish Council
Meetings held between Rawreth Parish Council and others
MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF RAWRETH PARISH COUNCIL HELD ON 2nd FEBRUARY 2011 AT 7.30pm AT THE VILLAGE HALL RAWRETH
Appendix A Prentation by the Environment Agency, including questions and answers.
244. PRESENTATION BY THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY - Pete Downes of the EA introduced himself to everyone and explained that his position within the EA is Operations Delivery. PD confirmed he would be happy to answer any questions from the public but explained that anything falling outside his remit would have to be referred to the relevant department within the EA. On this point it was agreed that the Clerk for Rawreth PC would take notes of the discussion and presentation and would forward these to PD to allow him to refer the matters he had been unable to deal with. Within the notes below the questions for referral are shown in bold.
PD began by stating that the recent floods in Parish over the week 17th January 2011 were the ordinary repetitive floods we see in this area. PD confirmed on this occasion they were made worse by the high tide as tides do influence the floods in this area, and as such, it will happen again.
PD then explained the areas of the Parish where the EA had undertaken work, these areas were in Watery Lane which included increasing the size of the watercourse. The works had been carried out between the Memorial in Hullbridge and the bridge before the sewage works. PD confirmed that the watercourse had been opened up and de-silted.
Cllr Alistir Matthews asked PD if it were true that one landowner had refused permission for the EA to work on their land. PD advised this was not true. PD explained that the entire section was cleared but some areas were walked therefore not all areas had machinery used on them. The areas that were walked were areas where there were no trees and so no silt build up. PD confirmed that whilst the work was being undertaken all opportunities to stop flooding of the road were looked at, including the possibility of putting retention ponds on the land at Image Depot.
Don Abbey then asked PD how many private properties are in the area of Watery Lane that had been dredged. PD confirmed not many. DA then asked why had it been cleared, was it to keep the highway open as it is deemed more important. PD explained that work is carried out on a necessity basis, and as the EA were aware that Boxes Farm had water at airbrick level on more than one occasion it was deemed necessary. DA then advised PD that in 2000 and 2001 the brook in Church Road had overflowed and the water was up to internal seal level in his property, yet the EA did not want to know. DA explained that at the time he had asked the EA to build a dam, which they refused to do. DA then advised he had said he was happy to build one himself and had been told that he if did and he built on the river bank they would prosecute him.
PD explained that areas are all worked on budget, and although in Watery Lane a long length of watercourse had been covered, it had not been an expensive operation due to accommodating landowners. PD also explained that residents can put forward proposals for their own flood defences to the EA for consideration, and if agreed, permission would be granted. This is by way of obtaining Formal Consent for the proposed works from the Environment Agency.
Roy Hart then asked PD if the EA won’t do the work and property owners are prepared to do it themselves at their own costs, is this not a moral issue and are they wrong to do so. PD replied that all property owners have the right to undertake the work, but to make it legal it has to be done with the permission of the EA (as above).
PD then advised that the road bridge in Church Road is the bottle neck. DA and Peter Plummer disagreed and stated that both up and down stream need dredging to increase capacity. Both stated that there is a further bottle neck further down on the crouch at the lock gates at Battlesbridge.
At this point RH defended the lock gates on his land stating they were not adding to the flooding problems in the Parish. DA and PP said they are a major contributory factor.
PD explained that at the present time the EA cannot dredge the brook despite the fact that some funding had been available. PD explained that at the moment Japanese Balsam is growing in the silt, and in addition the EA have been advised that Water Voles are present and therefore an ecological survey needs to be undertaken in the spring to ascertain if this is true. Funding for dredging was for this current Financial Year ending 31st March 2011. PD then explained that because of the delay, it may mean that if an all clear to dredge is given, the funding may not be available.
Several residents responded stating that despite the historic flooding of Church Road the EA will still not dredge the brook, residents said the funding should remain available. Residents believe that the EA will not dredge the brook, because of the small number of properties affected it is not cost effective, they have been told this in the past. There is historic flooding of properties in the road to air brick level on more than one occasion but these are not being taken into account, are these incidents registered as the EA visited and correspondence was sent to the EA
At this point RH repeated an offer that was made to the Parish Council that he would dredge the brook at his own cost, if the Parish Council wanted him to, RH said the money was available, the work would take approximately ten days and he would need to start within the next four weeks.
PD reminded RH of a conversation they had had outside of the meeting and that because of the possibility of the presence of Water Voles, no work could be undertaken to dredge the brook, and doing so could lead to prosecution.
PP explained to PD that the road and properties had never been flooded due to a high tide. PP stated that there is too much uncontrolled water running into the river and that a risk assessment needs to be done and should have been done. PP stated that development is to blame. PP then asked PD when the EA took over risk assessments of flood areas from local councils. PP had been told it was in 2000, was this true, and if so why in 2002 was the A130 constructed without a risk assessment?
PP explained that prior to the A130 being constructed the Parish Council chairman at the time had suggested that lagoons should be placed each side of the river crossing, his suggestion was based on research undertaken by him, in his engineering capacity and warnings were given of the potential dangers of not allowing for water run off. The suggestions where not listed and lagoons were placed in an entirely different place. Why are those lagoons empty when the road is flooding and why does the water from the A130 run straight into Church Road and not the lagoons?
PP stated that water should be controlled before it goes into the watercourse and that local councils do not know the calculations of what water goes into the brook system or what water flows through the lock at Battlesbridge because they have never been done. PP asked PD to find out what the spare capacity of the brook is, PP said these calculations need to be done as errors in the past have caused the problems experienced in the area.
PD asked what residents felt could be done to improve things, he was told,
a. control the water going into the ditch, not only in this area, but Shotgate, Benfleet Pitsea and Rayleigh as they all run into the same ditch system.
b. fit a new depth gauge on the bridge as it has been missing for years.
c. give greater consideration to Rawreth Parish as we are a different entity given that we suffer from fluvial and tidal flooding risks.
d. there is a valve missing at the end of the pipe and water backs up the ditch, can the EA replace it? PD confirmed that the EA do not own the pipe, therefore the repair needs to be done by the landowner/3rd party. Can the EA not do this as they know there is a problem?
e. dredge the brook, there is evidence of the Crouch silting rapidly because of growth, the brook is half the width it use to be. Tidal flooding is less of a danger to the Parish, we are at greater risk of fluvial flooding because water flow is restricted.
f. look at the level of the first pipe past the bypass bridge, if it differs 17” from the other side.
PD stated that the rainfall in January had been forecast as 6mm and infact 30mm fell, so a lot of people were caught out, Cllr Mary Beckers stated that flooding has affected the Parish for over ten years and something now needs to be done. PD said he was open to suggestions.
PD was asked are RDC aware of the problems in Church Road and Watery Lane as they are still proposing to build hundreds of houses in this area, all of which will add to the problems. PD said RDC are aware of the problems and that before any development can take place any where in the Country the EA have to ensure that there are adequate provisions for drainage, and where needed will stipulate what measures need to be taken, ie ways to store and pump water. PD stated that he was not personally aware of the proposals for this area as the Development Control section of the EA deal with new development and set the parameters. PD was asked in this case, will the development of 700+ houses in Rawreth Lane be looked at and can he bring the current and historic problems of Church Road and Watery Lane to the attention of the EA Development Control.
Alan Stone then asked PD how the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010 would affect this area. AS stated that money had been given to local councils, of which Essex CC is one, to assist them in flood defence and maintenance. AS quoted the figures of £218,000 for 2011/2012 and £585,000 for 2012/2013, how is it linked to the EA?
PD then explained about the EA external website and how it works. PD explained that the website http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/ shows how the operations delivery team works and tells you everything about PD and his team. The site shows who’s who, what they do, where they are working etc. PD then gave us some important system numbers, S059 is our identification number for the seawall section, 5060 is our identification number for Beeches Farm section and S061 is our identification number for the Hullbridge section.
PD explained that regular maintenance work is undertaken in this area, all this can now be seen on the website which shows schedules of work and areas. PD explained that every 6 months the seawalls are walked and inspected. Any area that is inspected is evaluated to show if any element of the system is failing, for example if an area is rated 4 and within 2 years has dropped to a rating of 2, maintenance work must be undertaken. Rivers are inspected every 2 years to look at the structure, not at the water course. Routine work on the rivers includes cutting back of growth which has recently been seen in Church Road, routine work does not cover dredging as this is covered by a different budget.
PD explained that the maintenance programme of the EA sets the standards of work, when cutting is done it is the bed of the water course, overhanging branches and then 1m up each side of the bank.
PD explained that the EA do not own the river banks or the sea wall. These are owned by 3rd parties/landowners, who are entitled to clear the brooks and ditches if they get permission from the EA first.
PD also explained that anything thrown or dumped in the river is now the responsibility of the local district council, the EA will only respond if the problem will cause a significant risk.
The Clerk Hayley Bloomfield then asked PD about the EA flood warning scheme. Why given the past two years flooding events in the Parish do we not receive warnings? HB advised PD that she is the registered number with the EA for flooding warnings, yet she had only ever received one, and this was not during the last three years.
PD did confirm that the fluvial flood warning trigger for the parish was actually situated in Wickford, and Southend for tidal flooding. HB asked why, and could a more relevant trigger point be given? HB then asked if the Parish is not receiving warning signals despite the fact that they are at risk and are flooding is the EA actually recording the incidents of flooding in the Parish? and will they be used when the EA is considering the requests from developments and the district council to build more houses. HB asked if the incidents are not being recorded because no flood warnings are being given, how will the EA assess the impact of new housing correctly if their system information is not complete? HB asked if residents give the EA historic information of flooding, in 2000. 2001. 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, will these be added to the EA system retrospectively? HB also asked, if the trigger point is not moved how do the Parish Council and residents let the EA know they are flooding? PD confirmed there is a number that should be used and an EA inspector, normally he will then attend to assess the situation, PD confirmed he would give the number to HB to circulate.
General question for PD to answer.
a. when does a watercourse become a river?
b. do the EA class the head of the river as the Church Road road bridge?
c. the North bank of the seawall was looked at and repaired and it was stated that within 5 years the South bank would be done, it hasn’t been, when will this work be undertaken?
PD closed by telling us Rawreth PC, identification number 5148 is listed from inspection reports as a high priority and it is stated that it is crucial the water courses are looked after. Having said that all EA reports state that the condition of the structures and watercourses are level 3, if they fall to level 2 or 1 they require work.
PD will continue to liaise with the Clerk and will respond through her to the questions raised.
Members, the Clerk and residents thanked Pete for attending.
NOTES OF THE MEETING HELD ON THE 27TH OF JANUARY 2011, BETWEEN ECC TRADING STANDARDS, ECC HIGHWAYS, ESSEX POLICE, HULLBRIDGE PC and RAWRETH PC.
VENUE. TELFORDS FARM, CHELMSFORD ROAD, BATTLESBRIDGE
Present: MATTHEW SANCTUARY ECC TRADING STANDARDS
ANDY DELLAR ECC HIGHWAYS
SGT STEVE JOYNES ESSEX POLICE (RAYLEIGH AND HULLBRIDGE NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING TEAM
PC WYN SHARP ESSEX POLICE (RAYLEIGH NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING TEAM)
PC EMMA CHAMBERS ESSEX POLICE(HULLBRIDGE NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING TEAM)
CLLR ANGELINA MARRIOTT HULLBRIDGE PARISH COUNCIL
CLLR LYN HOPKINS RAWRETH PARISH COUNCIL
CLLR ALISTIR MATTHEWS RAWRETH PARISH COUNCIL
HAYLEY BLOOMFIELD CLERK TO RAWRETH PARISH COUNCIL
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the ongoing going issues surrounding the weight restriction in Beeches Road/Watery Lane and the number of vehicles still using the road illegally, together with more general problems connected to the road, ie flooding.
Everyone introduced themselves and Cllr Lyn Hopkins opened the meeting by thanking everyone for attending.
PC Wyn Sharp advised everyone that following the recent Neighbourhood Action Panel meeting , the enforcement of the 3T weight restriction in Beeches Road is now the priority. Wyn will be on site with Trading Standards twice month, enabling the drivers to be stopped and issued with £30 fixed penalty notices for breaking the weight limit.
Andy Dellar from ECC Highways gave everyone an insight into the legalities of the road, Andy advised that in 1972 an Environmental Order was placed on the road which imposed a 3T weight limit along the entire length of Beeches Road and Watery Lane unless vehicles had a valid reason for using the road, ie entering a site etc. This order was then deemed to be invalid because of the number of years it has been in force and despite the best efforts of ECC Highways the order was not allowed to be renewed and therefore an alternative order had to be put in place. The solution was the current order which prohibits vehicles in excess of 3T from using Beeches Road because of the weak bridge, this order is now in place and enforceable but that took some time due to objections by the owner of Image Depot, known locally as the Mousery on the grounds of access for his business. Andy advised that the owner of Images had a requested an exemption to the weight restriction but this had been declined.
Matthew Sanctuary advised that since October 2010 ECC Trading Standards had regularly attended the site, but they do not have the power to stop vehicles, they can record their number plate details and issue them with a warning, but until the police became involved, no fixed penalties could be issued.
Matthew advised that the biggest culprit is the “white van man” and most are using the road as a shortcut for deliveries.
Matthew advised that for a first offence, if TS are alone on site they identify the owner and driver of the vehicle and issue a written warning. If they are accompanied by the police and the vehicle is stopped, a fixed penalty notice of £30 is issued, with the vehicles details being recorded by TS. If a vehicle is then found to have already breached a weight restriction order anywhere in the County, TS may consider prosecution. The maximum fine on successful prosecution is £1,000 and TS have taken cases resulting in fines between £500 and £950.
A couple of problems that Matthew highlighted were the fact that currently TS cannot access their own data base whilst they are on the site, so they cannot tell if a vehicle is committing a first offence or not, secondly, they cannot access Essex Police database, so they are not aware of any recorded related offences, at this point PC Emma Chambers commented that because the fixed penalty notices are not recorded as an endorseable offence they will not show, she said that 30 tickets could be issued to the same person, and there would be no record, this was quite a worrying factor as this showed how easy it would be to continually breach the order unless both databases are shared.
Matthew then went on to discuss the possibility of looking at a zero tolerance policy for HGV’s caught contravening the order, ie if a HGV lorry (>7.5 tonnes) breached the limit, prosecution could be the first line of action, rather than a warning as all HGV drivers are trained to a higher level than car drivers and given the size and weight of the vehicles they are driving should acknowledge and adhere to the warning signs. This suggestion was warmly welcomed by all.
Matthew advised that on average 12 to 14 vehicle an hour contravene the weight restriction, and this is one of the worst roads in the County.
PC Emma Chambers advised that there are 25 recorded incidents in the road, only one of which is classed as a major, the others are slight or driver error, none are recorded as having involved an overweight vehicle, save for the one “slight” in December 2010.
Alistir Matthews asked Andy Dellar if it was true that ECC Highways are looking to strengthen the bridge, Andy replied it has been looked at, but several more costings etc would need to be done, and then it would have to have approval. Andy advised that it is one of a number in the County that have been discussed but he is not aware how far down or up the list this particular bridge features. Everyone agreed that if the bridge is strengthened the problem of contravention of the notice would be eradicated, but the number of very heavy vehicles using what is essentially a country lane would increase and the road is not designed for such use, leading to a whole new problem. Alistir then raised the question of whether the other two bridges in the road are strong enough and Andy agreed these would need to be looked at.
A general discussion then took place about different suggestions to combat the contravention of the restriction, suggestion put forward, together with thoughts, and answers, and where action or further investigations need to take place, who would undertake them.
- Alistir suggested a width restriction which would prohibit the larger vehicles. Andy advised that a width restriction needs a turning circle, to do this ECC would need to aquire land, more signage would be needed, another road traffic order and thus spiralling costs which ECC Highways have not budgeted for, and it is unlikely they could or would.
- Hayley asked if the SAT NAV companies had been approached, as it would appear that most SAT NAV’s direct drivers to use Beeches Road. Both Andy and Matthew agreed this is the case, but Andy confirmed he had already tried to contact the major SAT NAV companies without success.
- Higher penalties, depending upon the size of the vehicle and the qualifications of the driver, and whether first offence or second etc. (Matthew Sanctuary will be looking into this)
- Better database sharing, and more information available to officers on site. (Matthew is looking into this and so will Wyn, Steve and Emma)
- Media coverage, BBC Essex to make people aware that spot checks are taking place and what the fines can be (Hayley will liaise with ECC and Trading Standards and will contact BBC Essex) and high media coverage to highlight successful prosecution.
- Trading Standards have “A” board signs stating weight restriction spot checks take place, Matthew is very happy for these to be chained in place at the beginning of Beeches Road. Everyone agreed these need to be randomly placed otherwise people get complacent and think it doesn’t happen. Alistir offered to store them, and Rawreth PC offered to put the boards out in conjunction with Trading Standards. (Matthew will follow this through)
- PC Sharp advised that he asks delivery drivers when stopped where they are delivering to. He then approaches the company and asks them to make their delivery drivers aware of the restrictions. Everyone agreed this is a very good idea and needs to be continued.
- Publicise the meeting today, and show that all parties are working together.
- PC Sharp and PC Chambers then asked if feed back after each enforcement visit would be useful, ie how many tickets issued etc. Everyone agreed this would be and Rawreth PC agreed they would circulate these via email, the Parish Newsletter and the website.
- Every vehicle that police are unable to stop is recorded. PC Chambers advised that due to the location of where the vehicles are stopped, sometimes a fixed penalty maybe in the process of being issued and another overweight vehicle will pass, which due to man power and operational hurdles cannot be stopped If TS are working with the police they will record the registration number of these vehicles and issue a warning or prosecute as per the process outlined above.
- Hayley asked if any form of vehicle recognition camera’s could be placed in the road, thus recording every vehicle and alerting the Police and Trading Standards to the over weight ones. Matthew agreed this would be a good tool, but because of resources and the man power needed it was very unlikely. Matthew explained that each time the camera is triggered for an overweight vehicle someone would need to review the image to check it so this would mean someone either manning the camera receiver 24/7 or someone trawling through hours of images.
- Hayley asked if possible, could she and Councillors accompany the Police and Trading Standards on their next spot check day as they would be interested to see what happens and witness the numbers for themselves. Both Wyn, Emma, Steve and Matthew agreed this would be good and had no objections. Matthew said that it would be better on the joint operational days for safety reason, high visibility etc.
- Matthew advised that Trading Standards do have the resources to put into this area and agreed to push ahead with the initiatives already in place, implementing wherever, the additional ideas put forward at the meeting.
- Sgt Joynes advised that Essex Police have operational names for all their initiatives and this particular operation has been name “Operation Red Sail” which is showing the police commitment to the problem.
The meeting then moved onto other matters concerning the road but before doing so, Hayley passed on thanks from the Parish Council and residents who have noted the high level of police presence in the road, and that of Trading Standards, and said that residents did appreciate what was being done to try and stop the offenders. Hayley also thanked everyone for meeting.
Hayley then asked Andy Dellar about road closures, and in particular who is responsible for closing Beeches Road/Watery Lane in the event of a flood. Andy said that normally the emergency services would notify ECC that a road needed to be closed, and why, and then someone from ECC Highways would inspect and close the road. Hayley then advised Andy that last week it was actually Alistir who had closed the road because it had not been done, and as a result vehicles had already got stuck and the fire brigade were on site.
Alistir explained that given the position of this farm, and the closeness of the community, the Parish Council would always know before any other party of a flood threat because warnings came from the properties in Watery Lane who are on the Parish Council’s most at risk list. Hayley added that as the Clerk she has 24hr flood warning lines to her mobile, home and office number, so again the warnings would come in first. PC Sharp added that it would normally be a police closure if the road was dangerous, but again he said the call would need to be made to the police to start with so they were aware, PC Sharp confirmed he carries accident signs, police slow signs, but not road closed. With this in mind Andy was asked if the Parish Council could implement the closure of the road, which would happen long before it would normally, and hopefully alleviate vehicles getting stuck. Hayley asked if the Parish Council could work with PC Sharp on this point. Hayley pointed out that at present not only does it take ages to close the road, but ECC Highways forget to re-open it, which again, the Parish Council always does (or rather Alistir) Alistir offered again to store any necessary signs to allow for joint co-operation on this point and Andy said he would check the legalities of road closures and come back to everyone.
Lastly Hayley advised Andy that currently Watery Lane still has been pools of water, so it would appear the drains are blocked. As the road is closed the first Wednesday of every month, that being next week, could Andy liaise so that the drains are inspected and cleaned at the same time. Andy confirmed he would look into this.