Should the Environment Agency dredge rivers?

When the Somerset levels flooded during the last Parliament the government overrode the Agendy and told it to resume dredging to increase the capacity of the river system. The Agendy still seems to be against the idea of dredging generally? Should it change its mind? Is it merely following a Water Directive from the EU?

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72 Comments

  1. Richard1
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    The wisdom of centuries is to dredge rivers to avoid flooding at times of heavy rain. EU inspired environmental regulations made the Somerset flooding worse. What has to be considered though is where the unimpressed water flows to. In Cumbria it appears to have ended up in towns.

    • Richard1
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Correction: Unimpeded

  2. Leslie Singleton
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Some selective dredging is a good idea but why we need an (expensive) “agency”, or Heaven forbid the wretched EU, to (“monitor” the situation and) tell local people in the know what to do I have no idea. The point should be removing or reducing obstructions: there was an example in the papers recently of an old low stone bridge rebuilt (out of the original stone) with a higher arch to let high water through more easily; whereas previously the backed-up water just overflowed in to the local town (Sorry didn’t catch where). We should pay a great deal more attention to what the river wants to do after rain. There is no mystery where the flood plains are and building houses, except perhaps on stilts or designed to flood (I am reminded of the wet cellar, with drain, in my old farmhouse–an early refrigerator ‘powered’ by the latent heat of evaporation), is demented. The News just showed a particular field a fathom or two deep in water with a sign sticking up and just visible saying that permission for a new development (nasty word) of houses had been granted–and no doubt it will go ahead without so much as proper front-door thresholds against the inevitable next flood. Personally I think the stuff about ‘only once every 100 years’ is pure baloney–even if correct (a big if) so what? It’s obviously a roll of the dice what happens and with what frequency.

    • turbo terrier
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Leslie

      Brilliant my thoughts exactly.

      The Government if it did but realise it have a wonderful oportunity to make a real impact on how much damage weather like this can do.

      We have to ignore European Directives and revert back to the old ways of managing the land and rivers. People seem to forget that we being an island are surrounded by the stuff.

      All house and properties should be built on concrete piling with slab floors at least 3metres above the ground level. This void can be utilised for utility areas, garage, storage and kids dens whatever. Whatever is below the “raised ground floor” is expendable and in real monetary terms is very cheap to replace when taken against a existing ground floor being flooded.
      It also overcomes a lack of car parking areas.

      The majority of the properties damaged now should with the joint effort of the government and the insurance companies have their ground floors turned into expendable areas and in the case of houses have rooms built in the roof in older properties it might mean reinforcing beams, pillars and slabs but the new areas would have to be built to modern insulation standards thus reducing energy requirements. Flats etc would have to have the ground floor living areas removed and the owners relocated.

      Dramatic means but these are dramatic times. For once in its life the politicians have got to stop and start doing basic solution, problem management. Efficient effective companies are doing it 24/7 to survive and grow.

      It is not just the river/rain water it is all the sewerage that comes up as the water pressure “pops” all the manholes. It all adds to the reinstatement costs.

      The people who run this country have got to be seen to be carrying out detailed cause and effect programmes before shouting out to the world “we will be throwing £billions at this problem”

      As you quite rightly implied there was a lot of sense in doing things the old way

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Postscript–And then once the developed flood plain floods it is decided that it needs to be walled off from the river (“flood defences” I think they call it) which has the effect (this is not rocket science) of raising and speeding the poor old river (now more of a channel than a river and ugly with it), making the problem worse downstream.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted December 28, 2015 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

        PPS–Anyone who doubts the efficacy of dredging (where necessary) needs to imagine (repeat imagine) dredging the river to a depth of say 100 yds and figuring out whether that would help or hinder

        • Lifelogic
          Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

          Well it might help in that area, but just move the problem water along (& then very quickly) to the next area. You either have to store the water temporarily, on some flood planes or reservoirs. Or you have to get the water all the way to the sea & very quickly.

          Or you allow it (occasionally) to flood some ground floors and limit the damage done by better house design.

  3. matthu
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    John,

    When you say that the government overrode the Agency, how exactly did they intend the Agency to get round the European Water Framework Directive? I have seen sources that claim that neither the UK government, nor the Environment Agency has the power – or the money – to dredge. the responsibility has been shifted onto individual landowners at the same time making sure there are no funds available for and any sand or gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.

    An article from Chronicle Live suggests that as long as we remain in the EU any sympathy politicians express for the plight of their constituents is either based on ignorance, or deceit.

    Is this true, and if so, which is it?

    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/flooding-cause-government-would-keep-10580092

    Last century the obligation to dredge out the rivers was transferred to local river boards, consisting of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its characteristics, and who had statutory responsibilities to prevent or minimise flooding.

    But all this changed with the creation of the Environment Agency in 1997 and when we adopted the European Water Framework Directive in 2000. No longer were the authorities charged with a duty to prevent flooding. Instead, the emphasis shifted, in an astonishing reversal of policy, to a primary obligation to achieve ‘good ecological status’ for our national rivers. This is defined as being as close as possible to ‘undisturbed natural conditions’.

    ‘Heavily modified waters’, which include rivers dredged or embanked to prevent flooding, cannot, by definition, ever satisfy the terms of the directive.

    So, in order to comply with the obligations imposed on us by the EU we had to stop dredging and embanking and allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, as the currently fashionable jargon has it.

    And to ensure this is done, the obligation to dredge has been shifted from the relevant statutory authority (now the Environment Agency) onto each individual landowner, at the same time making sure there are no funds for dredging. And any sand and gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.

    The truth they don’t tell you is that even if they wanted to, neither the UK government, nor the Environment Agency has the power to dredge – or the money.

    So next time you see David Cameron and his MP acolytes swanning around Cumbria in wellingtons, high-viz jackets and hard hats, wringing their hands and promising to do whatever it takes to protect us from flooding, ask them how exactly they intend to get round the European Water Framework Directive.

    And they would have to tell you they can’t. Not while we remain in the EU. So any sympathy politicians express for the plight of their constituents is either based on ignorance, or deceit. It’s about time we asked them which it is.

    I would be grateful to hear an official response to this accusation.

    • The PrangWizard
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      We may with luck get out of the EU but even if we do, if the Environment Agency continues to exist the people there may continue with their EU mind-set and the opposition to dredging may continue for some time. It may take decades to reverse their attitude and I presume much legislation will be required to overturn all the laws our EU compliant governments have enacted.

      In the meantime we have to admire the Dutch who live on a highly managed land. They clearly resist orders to allow their land to revert to a natural state; it would after all mean they should allow the North Sea in.

      They are clearly a much more sensible race and have not suffered from incompetent and insane government as we have had in the UK for the last few decades. I’d like to think that we in England could protect ourselves even more if we had our own elected directly elected parliament, and better still independence – getting rid of the British Establishment, comfortable in its embedded power, and which thus has an equally malevolent influence as the EU.

      • willH
        Posted December 28, 2015 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

        Good stuff Prang Wizard , the madness from the EU could have been rejected if we had ,had leaders with the backbone to stand up for common sense, instead of grovelling all the time, why do people elect incompetents like Blair & Cameron just because they sound glib on the telly, isn`t it obvious they have no substance. Do you ever wonder how things might have been had a certain Berkshire MP got the reins ?

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Thank you for reproducing this article which I also read online.
      We need answers and action not hand wringing by government ministers and the Environment Agency.

    • APL
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      JR: “during the last Parliament the government overrode the Agendy and told it to resume dredging .. ”

      matthu: “I would be grateful to hear an official response to this accusation.”

      As would I.

      I would love to find just one instance where a member of our political class isn’t looking us straight in the eye and lying though his teeth.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      The answer is simple, but unpalatable, in fact totally unacceptable, to Cameron and other committed adherents to the federal European project – Parliament is still the supreme legal authority for the UK, and it is only necessary for Parliament to pass primary legislation to disapply or nullify that and other EU Directives.

      Although Cameron did slip up in the early months of his party leadership by allowing a proposal for such legislation to be given official Tory party support.

      That was in May 2006, and needless to say the proposed New Clause 17 laid by Bill Cash was voted down by the Labour majority.

      Division No 239 at Column 945 here:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/vo060516/debtext/60516-0017.htm

      “New Clause 17

      DISAPPLICATION OF EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES ACT 1972 (NO. 2)

      ‘(1) An order made under Part 1 containing provision relating to Community treaties, Community instruments or Community obligations shall, notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972, be binding in any legal proceedings in the United Kingdom.

      (2) In section 1 and this section –

      “Community instruments” and “Community obligations” have the same meaning as in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the European Communities Act 1972 (c. 68);

      “Community treaties” has the same meaning as in section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.’. — [Mr. Cash.]

      Brought up, and read the First time.

      Motion made, and Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

      The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 318.”

      Somehow Bill Cash had managed to get official Tory party support for this amendment, and therefore those who voted for it were mostly Tory MPs, with some Ulster unionists; among the senior Tories who went through the “aye” lobby were Dominic Grieve, Theresa May and David Lidington.

      The debate on that had taken place the previous day, starting at Column 750 here:

      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/vo060515/debtext/60515-0010.htm

      with JR saying:

      “Finally, I turn to the amendments on the European issue tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). Nowadays, so much of our regulation comes from Brussels that we cannot exempt that from scrutiny and from our deregulatory urge. New clause 17 makes a good attempt to draw the House’s attention to that and to make Ministers understand that they cannot have a deregulation policy worth anything unless they are prepared to tackle quite a number of the regulatory burdens coming from Brussels. That would preferably be through renegotiation of those individual items, but it would be good to have a legislative back-up to make it crystal clear that if this House wishes to deregulate something, that should be law made here in the United Kingdom.”

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      Talking of David Cameron visiting, I notice that he visited York today and talked to the Army and Rescue Services but did not seem to meet any of the Residents affected by the flooding. It was only reported that a woman shouted at him from a window. I Really do think he should get out and meet more of the general public, instead of taking the safe option and talking to a ‘captive audience’. That is always a good way to hear what the public think about Government policies. That is, if he wants to know.

  4. mickc
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    So, suffer annual property damage, huge cost and human misery… or dredge?

    The EU will enforce the former of those, and our supine government will comply, as ever.

    • Pauline Jorgensen
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      One does wonder what the Dutch do in terms of this directive, any idea?

      • Mark
        Posted December 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

        They tell the Germans that if the Rijn silts up they won’t be able to push their trade through Rotterdam, so it gets redefined as a canal, not a river.

        • Pauline Jorgensen
          Posted December 29, 2015 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Aha thanks suspected there would be a get out – it appears we are too spineless and unimaginative to work round the ‘rules’ . Maybe we should employ more of our expensive civil service brainpower in defeating or bypassing rules which are not in our national interest and less on finding ways to enforce them….of course would be better if we didn’t have such regulation in the first place.

  5. Mark B
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    The more people who know who our true masters are the better. Then they know who to blame for when things like this happen. Sadly, the media will not do their job and point the finger of blame where it needs to be – that would be too inconvenient.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Our true masters are still the MPs we elect, they who have handed us over bound hand and foot to be ruled by foreigners. Take away the European Communities Act 1972 they voted for, and also all their later Acts to approve successive treaties, and the EU would be nothing in this country.

      And the great majority of the MPs we elected in May are determined that we shall remain in EU servitude and that it will get worse:

      “Serfs you have been and are; you shall remain in bondage, not such as you have hitherto been subjected to, but comparable viler.”

  6. David Cockburn
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    It is difficult to rely on the expertise of the Environment Agency as it is becoming clear they have been taken over by the ‘rewilding’ crowd who believe we should leave it all to nature and everything will be fine. They forget that England have been a managed countryside since the bronze age. The cost of the flooding of the Calder valley, again, should demonstrate that it is worth investing in flood control measures in the hills as well as increasing the river capacity and providing places for the water to go.

  7. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Slight change in pressure differentials and it would have been all over S. England or N. Scotland. The latter not worthy of report. Must be the heat from the Oceans being returned? Some of it may well be.

    Probabilities of n in 100 are normal as regards best guess is concerned. However, intensity and spread is very difficult to identify. Assets at low level and in direct paths are simply asking for it, but could be defended to some extent. That would require simple and regular and thorough maintenance…newt or no newt.

    We need some common sense again…so forget the EU and get on with caring for the people and property of this country. Newts will go somewhere else, nearby.

  8. Old Albion
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    The (dis)uk has for centuries interfered with the natural flow of rivers. Having done so, it then allowed building in what was previously flood plains.
    The only solution to flooding is to revert back to natural flow. This of course will not happen. Because it would cost billions? Reduce housing stock and upset thousands of people by forcibly removing them from their homes and businesses.
    The ‘climate change’ devotees will carry on claiming ‘global warming’ is the problem and they’ll carry on being wrong.
    The EU will carry on sticking it’s nose into our affairs and they’ll carry on getting wrong.

    The words ‘hell’ and ‘handcart’ come to mind.

  9. The PrangWizard
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I live in a small village which could be an example for the entirety of England in flood management.

    When I moved here 8 years ago, there was flooding in each of the first three years although my property was not affected. The problem was a lack of maintenance, the ditches (rivers) and culverts (bridges) were not kept clear. They had silted up and become restricted or blocked. They could not take the water away fast enough when it rained and, Hey presto! there was flooding. We even had a bloke from the District Council (I think) who had been forced by pressure to see us even bragging at the meeting that he had only spent £x ( a small amount ) in the previous year. He was lucky to get away unharmed, so out of touch was he. So incompetent was he that he could not see that although he did not pay the population had to many times over.

    Eventually by kicking up a stink, we got change and our ‘rivers’ are regularly dredged and the ‘bridges’ are kept clear and we don’t get flooded any more. Funny that, even with El Nino and Climate Change!

    ‘No wildlife has been harmed’ as they say, maybe the ‘rewilders’ could explain, and I ask them would they refuse to clear a ditch near their house and accept being flooded as a result? They are quite happy to have other people’s homes be damaged. Hypocrites and the complacent as usual are in charge.

  10. Martyn G
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I have been a volunteer assistant lock keeper on the river Thames for the past 4 years and modestly suggest that I might know something whereof I speak. The Oxfordshire section of the river Thames was not dredged at all this year. In fact, I put a dredger and its barge through the lock I was working at the start of the season, after which it was berthed at Abingdon lock and didn’t move for the next 6 months. At the end of the season it returned downstream for winter, having not once being put to use. We were informed by the EA that they were in dispute with the Fisheries Agency, who had effectively banned dredging to protect the fish and water life. I have no idea whether or not the EU was behind that.
    There is concrete visual evidence that, in the absence of dredging, silt levels have significantly built up over 2015. At the start of 2015, downstream of my local lock weir there were 2 green buoys (keep on your right going upstream, left downstream) marking the edge of the edge of the navigable channel. There are now 5 green buoys marking the greatly expanded silted up shallows and 2 red can buoys (keep on your left going upstream, right downstream) showing by how much the channel has been reduced over 2015 alone. Over the boating season the lock is filled and emptied many hundreds of times and each time the lock empties to let boats downstream, thousands of gallons of water flush the channel and act to keep it relatively clear of silt. But the silt has to go somewhere; hence the addition red dan bouys because silt flushed along the channel has built up against the downstream right hand bank of the river where it bends to the left.
    Over the past 2 or so months there has been a small handful of lock movements, hence little water to flush the channel and it is entirely predicatable that the channel will become even narrower without dredging in 2016. The commercial users of the river using large passenger boats are likely to find their businesses affected by narrowed and shallowed navigation channels. There is another predictable matter, in that we haven’t had a great deal of rain recently, but nearby weirs have opened most of their sluices and put out ‘red boards’ warning of increasing stream (speed and strength of flow). Predictably, if we get heavy and persistent rain in this part of the world, the increasing silt buildup and narrowing navigable channels will restrict the ability of the river to pass the increased stream and flooding issues will arise at an earlier stage than would otherwise be the case. Listening on the radio and TV to those in the badly flooded areas this morning, it seems pretty clear that lack of dredging is at least part – perhaps a major part – of the problem for those unfortunates affected by flooding. Note that I do not entirely blame the EA for this, because I can see that its activities are hindered by reduced funding, political decisions and perhaps not least the ‘green blob’.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Martyn

      Agree absolutely with your comments.

      A friend of ours has a large motor boat on which we get regularly invited for day trips and the occasional holiday.

      Over many years we have navigated the Thames from Oxford to the Estuary, and it is clear to see that over those years little has been done to maintain the river, aside from the refurbishment of some of the locks.

      It is now not uncommon for the boat to bottom out on a number of stretches on the river as the navigation channels move and get more narrow with less depth.

      Complaints to the EA result in them saying that there is no need to dredge the Thames as it is self cleaning.

      The simple fact is that if a river has less depth, and becomes less wide as banks collapse, then the volume of water that it carries will be reduced, thus it will flow with reduced volume and leave a build up of water behind for longer.

      I have no idea who rejects this simple logic, or if it is a politics or cash problem, but the end result will be less water flowing, which will create a higher possibility of flooding.

      • Martyn G
        Posted December 28, 2015 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your thoughts – all in line with the many boaters I speak with in increasing numbers each year. As it happens, I have just visited my local lock and noted an increased stream flow and upstream weirs pulling more gates open to maintain the required levels, which are rising despite the lack of rain in the upper Thames. I also noted one of the 2 red can buoys has already been swept away, as has another upstream at Culham where there has long been another large shallow. I think it can be safely said that the upper Thames is now already well lined up for more flooding if and when real rain hits us this winter and spring.

  11. Antisthenes
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    The mind set of all animals including humans is to look to their own needs before those of others. Only when there is an incentive does the opposite become true. Nature overcame this problem by inventing free market capitalism so that incentive would be there. It paid to put others first as doing so reaped a reward and not doing resulting in a loss.

    Bureaucracies and state institutions are not capitalist they are mostly monopolies so the rules of capitalism do not apply. Those who work in them have no incentive to put the needs of others before there own. So for them dredging rivers is not as important as their need to improve the environment they put their own ideology and therefore there own agenda first.

    A typical example of this is the junior doctors resisting efforts to have working practices that benefit patients. They work in a monopoly so can they can put their own needs first as their is no reward or loss for changing that. Not much can be done about the environmental bureaucrats other than by through the chain of command as it is not possible to set up a structure in which they have to compete. By competing they would find that if they did not look at ways to solve the flooding problems even if that means dredging then the public would turn to those who who do.

    The EU is only important in that if it was not part of the process the chain of command would be shorter and those at the top less remote and another heavy hand would be removed and so there would be fewer for the bureaucrats to appeal to to reverse decisions that the public wish to be made. The NHS however can be structured so that medical practitioners do not put their own needs before their patients and that is by the simple expedient of privatisation.

    It does not matter whether dredging is the right thing to do or not. What is important is what the public want. Better would be that the reasons and the impacts of dredging are fully understood by the public so that their decision on flood control are objective ones. Even without objectivity it is still the public who should decide as it effects them and it is not the business of technocrats to override them in the erroneous belief they are only doing so to save them from themselves.

  12. Pauline Jorgensen
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    The real question for me is why the EU have any say on whether we dredge rivers or not, it does t affect trade or free movement of labour and as we are an island it doesn’t affect anyone else either?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      Well Major promised us “subsidiarity” so clearly the EU should have no input to the issue at all. Or was he misleading us?

  13. Liz
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    A relative, who is in water management, says it is not just giving priority to wildlife over people in river management but clearing uplands of trees – another EU policy that is much to blame for the present floods. For whatever reason the Environment Agency seems incapable of managing the rivers as the farmers and landowners of the past did and should be relieved of its duties and handed to the local authority.
    Although there is blanket coverage of the floods there is almost no proper discussion of the causes or even mention of the EU, dredging or tree clearances. The media might as well be the propoganda arm of the EU

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Dear Liz–You can say that last bit again–the BBC doesn’t even think of questioning the EU’s Water Directive because it believes the EU can do no wrong. Besides it’s the Law innit? I have watched a good few BBC news programmes recently and apart from rabbiting on about “danger to life” (what they used to call “mortal danger” and of which I believe there is little) because they choose to have little else to say, there has been nothing I’ve seen that even scratches the surface of what needs to be done. 1.01 Fluid Dynamics would be good.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted December 29, 2015 at 5:12 am | Permalink

        Postscript–Apart from the obvious beneficent effect on the bodily movement of water, dredging of course maintains and increases depth (of which there is little or none in some places) thus giving the water more of a place to go to give it time to drain away. The river itself forms its own reservoir in other words. This could easily be the difference between “overtopping” and no overtopping. As a salmon fisherman (sort of) I do not like the idea of dredging a river (“improving” it they used to say–joke) and leaving a river wild is wonderful where possible but unfortunately it is not possible where man has built (and built houses no less) densely and indiscriminatively and hard by the banks. Cannot retrofit houses with stilts.

    • Peter Davies
      Posted December 30, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Another issue apart from lack of trees in uplands is that when rivers are dredged they can’t use the silt to build up the banks like they used to. The Eu/ea really is an asylum.

      The government needs to have the balls to relieve the ea of its dredging duties and revert back to local water boards

      What will it take?

  14. miami.mode
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I am a fairly familiar with the northern part of York and what seems to be missing over many media and government reports is that over the past 30 or 40 years thousands of houses and enormous retail parks have been constructed over what was, I believe, fields and an old airfield and what may have been considered a flood plain. It is now virtually one enormous concrete pad.

    Various flood prevention schemes have taken place on the Ouse and Foss throughout their lengths but all too often this seems to push the problem elsewhere. An overall consideration of flood problems appears to be needed where large amounts of land are built on which may well cover many miles of a particular river which probably includes dredging. The rivers in Yorkshire of course generally have their sources in the Dales and North York moors.

    Another part of the problem is that government only really suffers reputational damage as they dodge a lot of the cost by telling people to get insurance. As with potholes and poor road conditions people have to get on with their lives despite the fact that they cannot input any sort of solution to the problems on a personal basis.

    The flooding of the Somerset levels would appear to be a totally different situation.

  15. Pete
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Any central agency will fail. It always does. Just look at the appalling inefficiency of government in general.

  16. agricola
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    If we are not dredging rivers vigorously then government is failing in its’ duty to the population in flood prone areas and should be pilloried for it.

    It is also time for government to step in and back the re-generation of flooded areas financially and then put in place measures to ensure it does not happen repeatedly. To spend £12 Billion per annum on very questionable overseas aid in such circumstances is risible.

  17. alan jutson
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    “Should the Environment Agency dredge rivers” ?

    We should do whatever is required, by whoever is best to do the work.

    We should look after the local peoples interest first, and b..ger everyone else.

    For centuries we used to clear ditches, dredge rivers where required, remove debris and leave flood plains clear, in more recent times we used to clear highway drains, culverts, and lop trees on a regular basis, now nothing.

    We build on flood plaines the rivers become silted up, the banks collapse, tress fall into them without being cleared, and more and more land is built on with non pourus surfaces and then we wonder why flooding takes place.

    Seems to me that the Environment Agency is just a huge expensive Quango which is no more than a talking shop for the so called educated who never seem to suffer from any of these problems, whilst they themselves promote all things conservation but putting humans last.

    • turbo terrier
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Alan Jutson

      Your last paragraph re the Enviroment Agency as a huge expensive quango, you bet, just like the DECC. Departments that are controlled by failed legislation and EU directives. Yet another reason to repeal the Climate Change Act and ignore EU directives.

  18. A different Simon
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Why does the UK environment agency have a headcount 10X the equivalent in Germany ?

    Aren’t these quango’s just a job creation exercise for the less able boys and girls who went to pay schools ?

    There is another aspect to this issue which some of us might see as an unhealthy relatively recent phenomenon .

    People in Britain doing unexceptional jobs seem to want to live in what I can only call “show houses” with blemish free decoration and surrounded by opulent luxury and faux quality .

    I suspect they are attempting to create a fantasy world along the lines of Disneyland or Michael Jackson’s Never Never Land right behind their own front door .

    This suggests that they have either i) never grown up or are ii) incredibly shallow .

    If people move into an area which is at risk of natural flooding then they need to take some responsibility themselves to protect their belongings .

  19. A different Simon
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    London benefits from deliberate sacrificial flooding of areas upstream like Chertsey , Staines , parts of Oxfordshire and Berkshire .

    If London wants to continue to avail itself of such services then it must start paying an annual insurance premium .

    It is outrageous that London should be spared at the expense of others yet currently provides no compensation .

  20. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Cameron has ordered the British army in to help deal with the flooding, which in part and in different ways is down to our government’s compliance with EU policies and laws.

    If we stay in the EU, as Cameron is determined that we shall, even standing aside while the EU Commission bombards the population with propaganda at taxpayers’ expense to support his side in the referendum, then in due course one of his successors as Prime Minister will be unable to do that because there will no longer be a British army.

    Only today:

    https://euobserver.com/migration/131670

    “EU army

    Schaeuble also said, the refugee influx meant that European countries will have to increase spending on defence.

    “Ultimately our aim must be a joint European army. The funds that we spend on our 28 national armies could be used far more effectively together,” Schaeuble was quoted as saying.

    Earlier this year, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also called for the gradual establishment of an EU army.

    He said the European Union needs its own army to help address the problem that it is not “taken entirely seriously” as an international force.”

    This is despite repeated denials from our government that there are any such plans.

    No doubt a small minority of the UK population, disgracefully including many of our politicians, would actively welcome that development; but when the rest of us come to vote in the EU referendum it is important that people understand where the EU is heading and that staying in it would not be any kind of “status quo” safe option, on the contrary as our host says it would be “a wild ride to political union”, and an essential part of that would be a MILITARY union with the abolition of the national armies.

    • turbo terrier
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Denis Cooper

      Very well said.
      If there was no other better reason to leave the EU then the thought of a European Army is enough for this country to leave.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted December 29, 2015 at 4:47 am | Permalink

        Dear turbo–Agree totally but then I would because I don’t want an EU anything.

    • Peter Davies
      Posted December 30, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Well said though the behaviour of the eu of late should tell any idiot that this is a natural conclusion.

      Imagine then merging all security agencies and future dissent is clamped down by the “legislate” EU government

      • Peter Davies
        Posted December 30, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        “legitimate” typo

  21. Anonymous
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Just as they are telling us we must take more and more people they want us to make what limited housing stock there is uninhabitable – or else build on flood plains, or create flood plains because of run-off from new estates.

    Environmentalism per the EU is simply incompatible with EU mass immigration, unless we are to experience a dramatic fall in the standard of living.

  22. Peter Davies
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    We need proper national control and common sense bought Back here, flood defences need local knowledge for starters rather than the disconnected lefties in the ea. Flood defences have to start in upland areas with enough trees and perhaps water capture systems to slow down release in the first place then you look at dredging and defences.

    The point is that we will not get to any of this whilst kow towing to dysfunctional organisations

  23. Nig L
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    David Cameron is more interested in being seen as ‘politically correct’ amongst the international elite by spending £12 billion on foreign aid, much to corrupt, countries, countries with nuclear weapons and countries that spend a fortune on arms and so people within high flood risk areas can lump it.

    No doubt the Treasury will say they are spending more than ever, stock response, but if it needs more we have to find it.

    Instead of asking questions from your cosy Home County constituency, maybe we could have some answers?

  24. graham1946
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I doubt it is anything to do with the EU, but more likely the Government’s bovine obsession with cutting funding for anything and everything it has real responsibility for. Cuts by government often mean false economy – save a pound this budget year, only to spend a hundred next time to reverse the effects. We see it all the time, from pot holes in the roads not repaired to major maintenance of A roads left to rut and crumble, to a century of neglect of the railways, cutting of elderly care causing blocking up the hospitals. Now flooding after not putting up proper defences or allowing building on flood plains. All this, of course, whilst being prepared to spend an open ended amount on stuff like HS2 and a new runway at Heathrow and strutting about the world stage bragging that we spend more on foreign aid than anyone else. It’s lunacy and arrogance of those who know nothing of commerce or ordinary people’s lives. This will not change – politicians don’t like spending on something that does not end in an opening ceremony of some sort. The mundane does not attract them.

    Above all, we need sensible government based on what only they can do to make the wheels of the country turn effectively and keep out of stuff they don’t. We have government by pressure and focus groups and it is not working. Any progress we make economically is despite government intervention, not because of it. They should stick to emptying the bins, maintaining infrastructure, the NHS, defence etc.and not indulge in their pipe dreams of immortality. How many times do we hear of the PM’s legacy? Why? Who’s he but an over promoted public schoolboy? Forget it and get on with the job. We’d all be a lot better off financially and life quality wise

  25. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I expect that now we’ll have weeks and months of the government and other apologists for the EU pretending that “this is nothing whatsoever to do with the EU”.

    There are no EU policies or laws which can be held responsible for this, and if there are any such EU policies or laws the problem is not with those EU policies or laws but with their interpretation and implementation by the UK authorities, and in any case all this chronic misgovernment is a price worth paying to prevent another Holocaust, etc.

    Whatever small measure of honesty may have been present in our political system before we joined the EEC has been destroyed by the need for the government to systematically lie to the people in the interests of the EEC/EC/EU project, which above all is favoured by the Foreign Office.

    It used to be said that the Treasury was the most powerful government department, but that position has been usurped by the Foreign Office which has succeeded in implanting a novel system of government, national government by international treaty.

  26. Margaret
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I live half a mile from the Waterside pub which was swept away in the torrent. The Irwell was belting down its course and although there was little damage to our local riverside cottages there were carpets which have been ruined. The videos I took of the swirling waters pouring into beautiful gardens is a warning that things could get a lot worse . Dredging would not have helped us in the north as there is little sediment to begin with , but the river banks need building up. I have a rivulet running at the bottom of my garden which became a river, but the valley provided the vegetation with much needed water to the roots. We are thankful for water but if we can send rockets into space surely we can manage our waterways.

  27. Ian wragg
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Having travelled extensively through Europe recently I see the Dutch, French, Italians etc don’t seem to be having these problems with flooding as they all dredge the rivers and maintain the embankments.
    In this country we have one section of government encouraging building on flood plains and another actively flooding these areas.
    I have stated many times that a degree in stupidity is needed for Parliament but in this case I think a doctorate is the order of the day.
    I see CMD is blaming climate change. No mention of EU involvement in banning dredging. I intend emailing the EU regulation to all in my address book and hope it is passed on.
    It’s time the public understood where the real enemy lies.

  28. Nick Crowson-Towers
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps an analogy may help our Environmental Agency decision-makers.
    If their gutters at home are not regularly cleared of leaves and moss —— surprise surprise they OVERFLOW !!!!!!!!!!
    Yours simplistically
    Nick Crowson-Towers

  29. Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    If we leave the EU then El Nino will never happen again.

    • Margaret
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      tee hee x

  30. Ken Moore
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Bit too late to start dredging as much of the old plant was left to rust and has now been scrapped. David Cameron, only interested in chasing the next headline couldn’t see the point in investing in it. How long before a Europhile comes along to tell us how grateful we should be that the Eu has given us back a small chunk of our own money to the flood affected areas ?

    The environment agency got rid of the old boys in overalls that understood the ways of waterway management and replaced them with a small army of clever clogs college kids with a degree in ‘Environmental science’. All housed at huge expense in glass and steel offices.

    Just another bloated and useless quango that isn’t ‘fit for purpose’.

  31. Observer
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Planning Authorities and Developers who knowingly build on flood plains should be held responsible for any subsequent flood damage. Planning Authorities who claim that they did not knowingly authorise should be held to be incompetent and each individual in place at the time should become personally liable even if this leads to their bankruptcy.

  32. fedupsoutherner
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    John, I should think the question should be ‘Shouldn’t we tell the EU where to go and simply do what is necessary and dredge our rivers?’ I suspect that all rivers are in a similar state and that if there were to be enormous amounts of rain anywhere in the UK we would experience flooding. Surely to God, people must come before any mussels or newts etc? The cost is far greater to do nothing and clean up afterwards than it would be to do regular maintenance and would also save a lot of heartache for families and businesses. All this EU interference is not welcome and is another good reason to get out and do what we have to do.

    On a different topic, I have just been reading about the Calais migrants (men) who are going to be housed in a very small village near Chichester and outnumber the number of residents there. Horrified. I know the area well and this will cause great concern for many. I wonder how many will abscond before their situation can be assessed. Those that fail in their asylum requests are supposed to be sent home but we know what happens in reality. Just keep going down this track because I can see a lot more people voting to leave the EU and it can’t come too soon.

    • Martyn G
      Posted December 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      What you say about migrants being moved to near Chichester is interesting – hadn’t heard that. I wonder if they are going to be located in the special accommodations built a some years back which currently house mainly Polish migrants who are mostly, shall we say, less able or willing to take up employment? A special bridge was built across the A27 to enable them access to the city and it the Calais migrants are bound for the same place, I would expect some interesting clashes of culture soon after they move in. Madness, all is madness these days!

  33. Chris
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    The root problem of the flooding disasters we are having is our adherence to the EU Water Framework Directive and related legislation. It is put simply in this letter in the Telegraph. For detailed info see R North’s eureferendum blog and Christopher Booker’s articles, with particular reference to Somerset.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/12046126/Letters-EU-dredging-rules-make-effective-flood-prevention-in-Britain-impossible.html

    SIR – It is not surprising that the rivers in Cumbria have flooded again, so soon after the last serious inundation in 2009.
    The Environment Agency cites all kinds of reasons for this. However, it neglects to mention that its policy is dictated by the EU Water Framework Directive, adopted in 2000, which places constraints on the dredging of rivers.
    Putting in flood defences does not infringe the policy, as long as the river is not dredged or embanked. Hence, for example, the erection of expensive and ineffective glass panels on the wall next to the Greta river in Keswick. Here there has been absolutely no dredging of the gravel that has raised the river bed considerably over the last decade.

    There is nothing unusual about heavy rainfall in Cumbria; what is unprecedented is the refusal of the authorities to dredge the watercourses to carry it away.

    Philip Walling
    Belsay, Northumberland

  34. Qubus
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading about this problem in the Daily Telegraph, maybe two years ago, and also seeing a photograph of the effect of not dredging rivers. However, apart from almost everybody in this blog, I have not heard or seen a word mentioned about it on the radio or in the press.
    Why is this?

  35. matthu
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    I had wondered exactly why the EU might want to discourage dredging as there appears to be no rational reason.

    Unless, of course, one takes into account that the EU benefits whenever governments or green crap agencies succeed in being able to link a natural disaster on man-made climate change.

    Surely no-one would ever set out hoping for disaster in order to increase support for EU policy?

  36. Chris
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Below are 2 extracts from excellent account by Philip Walling on the effects of the European Water Framework Directive and its link to the recent/current flooding disaster. I hope you will permit these lengthy extracts as they really explain the background to the current disaster. The second extract explains the change after the 2000 European Water Framework Directive was adopted i.e. the change from preventing flooding to encouraging it. “Under EU legislation, dredging rivers is considered environmentally unfriendly because it takes them away from their “undisturbed”, “natural” state.” (J Delingpole).

    First extract from Newcastle Journal:
    …For all of recorded history, it almost went without saying that a watercourse needed to be big enough to take any water that flowed into it, otherwise it would overflow and inundate the surrounding land and houses. Every civilisation has known that, except apparently ours. It is just common sense. City authorities and, before them, manors and towns and villages, organised themselves to make sure their watercourses were cleansed, deepened and sometimes embanked to hold whatever water they had to carry away.

    In nineteenth century Cockermouth they came up with an ingenious way of doing this. Any able-bodied man seeking bed and board for the night in the workhouse was required to take a shovel and wheelbarrow down to the River Derwent and fetch back two barrow-loads of gravel for mending the roads. This had the triple benefit of dredging the river, maintaining the roads and making indigent men useful.

    In Cumbria they knew they had to keep the river clear of the huge quantities of gravel that were washed down from the fells, especially in times of flood. For Cumbrian rivers are notoriously quick to rise as the heavy rain that falls copiously on the High Fells rapidly runs off the thin soils and large surface area over which it falls. Cumbrian people have always known that their rivers would be subject to such sudden and often violent inundations and prepared for them by deepening and embanking their channels. Such work was taken very seriously………..

    It was obvious to people, who depended on the land for their living that failing to keep the rivers clear of sand and gravel would cause them to burst their banks and destroy in a few hours fertility that had taken generations to create, wash away their houses, and drown their livestock.

    Last century the obligation to dredge out the rivers was transferred to local river boards, consisting of farmers and landowners who knew the area and its characteristics, and who had statutory responsibilities to prevent or minimise flooding.

    But all this changed with the creation of the Environment Agency in 1997 and when we adopted the European Water Framework Directive in 2000. No longer were the authorities charged with a duty to prevent flooding. Instead, the emphasis shifted, in an astonishing reversal of policy, to a primary obligation to achieve ‘good ecological status’ for our national rivers. This is defined as being as close as possible to ‘undisturbed natural conditions’.

    ‘Heavily modified waters’, which include rivers dredged or embanked to prevent flooding, cannot, by definition, ever satisfy the terms of the directive.
    So, in order to comply with the obligations imposed on us by the EU we had to stop dredging and embanking and allow rivers to ‘re-connect with their floodplains’, as the currently fashionable jargon has it.

    And to ensure this is done, the obligation to dredge has been shifted from the relevant statutory authority (now the Environment Agency) onto each individual landowner, at the same time making sure there are no funds for dredging. And any sand and gravel that might be removed is now classed as ‘hazardous waste’ and cannot be deposited to raise the river banks, as it used to be, but has to be carted away.

    On the other hand there is an apparently inexhaustible supply of grant money available for all manner of conservation and river ‘restoration’ schemes carried out by various bodies, all of which aim to put into effect the utopian requirements of the E W F Directive to make rivers as ‘natural’ as possible.
    For example, 47 rivers trusts have sprung up over the last decade, charities heavily encouraged and grant-aided by the EU, Natural England, the Environment Agency, and also by specific grants from various well-meaning bodies such as the National Lottery, water companies and county councils. The West Cumbria Rivers Trust, which is involved in the River Derwent catchment, and includes many rivers that have flooded, is a good example.

    But they all have the same aim, entirely consonant with EU policy, to return rivers to their ‘natural healthy’ state, reversing any ‘straightening and modifying’ which was done in ‘a misguided attempt to get water off the land quicker’. They only think it ‘misguided’ because fast flowing water contained within its banks can scour out its bed and maybe wash out some rare crayfish or freshwater mussel, and that conflicts with their (and the EU’s) ideal of a ‘natural’ river .

    The Environment Agency has spent millions of pounds on ‘flood defences’ yet still warns us that they are not guaranteed to work.

    The climate is changing, they say, live with it. But the real reason they erect expensive and largely ineffective flood defences, as at Carlisle and Keswick, is because such work does not interfere with the flow of the river in its bed, so it does not infringe the EU Water Framework Directive.

    Also there is EU money available for flood ‘defences’, but none for the very measure that would do some good, namely removing the huge build-up of gravel from the river bed. This is hardly mentioned, and if it is, they try to make out that it would do more harm than good. Maybe to molluscs and invertebrates, but not to the devastated people whose homes are being destroyed time and time again.

    No. The truth they don’t tell you is that even if they wanted to, neither the UK government, nor the Environment Agency has the power to dredge – or the money.

  37. Maureen Turner
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    At the time of the Somerset Levels flooding I recall being told the reason the rivers had not been dredged was due to an EU directive as it was the intention to create a wildlife nature reserve in the area. You cannot by command create a nature reserve as wildfowl and other species will find the habitat that suits them best. They don’t do EU directives.

    The Shadow Minister for Environment was on radio today saying when it comes to new build LA’s should not give planning permission to contractors on potential flood plains as many house purchasers are unaware of the possibility of flooding. Surely that’s a sensible beginning. The more land tarmac’d over the more frequent the floodings as water will always takes the path of least resistance.

    The BBC is making great play of the fact this current situation is down to AGW as is the PM
    who as usual only wants to accept that which fits the EU agenda. Perhaps he should watch the TV series The Rage-ing Planet which chronicles natural disasters worldwide going back centuries.

    The misery and expense of having your home awash with filthy water can only be imagined unless experienced so let’s hope this inadequate government dips deep into its
    contingency fund and builds the necessary defences to ensure the recent floodings in Cumbria and Yorkshire can at best be contained. Do we have such a fund or has it all gone in overseas aid?

    • graham1946
      Posted December 29, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      LA’s don’t have much authority any more. Eric Pickles ordered that where a LA does not have a 5 year land bank there should be an automatic presumption in favour of almost any old plan that comes up. Many LA’s don’t and speculative planners are having a field day even to the extent of doing it on a ‘no win no fee’ basis for anyone with a bit of land that cannot get normal planning permission. In my area, most times when the LA refuses planning permission, the Inspector acting for the Secretary of State approves it over local opposition on government orders.

      The flood plain building could be killed overnight by the Insurance Companies. All they have to do is issue a statement that they will not cover any new builds on flood plains and no new mortgages would then be available. It’s coming. It must.

  38. Mark
    Posted December 28, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    It would be a good idea if someone sensible was appointed to the Environment Agency board. As it happens, there are a couple of vacancies just coming up:

    http://publicappointments.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/appointment/environment-agency-board-member/

    Role 1. Natural Environment: Candidates must be able to bring an enthusiasm for and high-level expertise in working for the protection of the natural environment

    Role 2. Local government: A comprehensive understanding of how local government functions, and the ability to work effectively and efficiently with local authorities at a senior level to find solutions when faced with conflicting demands

    Person Specification

    • A collaborative style, the ability to contribute to Board discussions, and inspire the confidence of Ministers, fellow Board Members, Executive Directors, employees and stakeholders in all sectors

    • An enthusiasm for and genuine interest in the work delivered by the Environment Agency

    • Strong analytical skills with the capacity to examine issues at a strategic level in ways which are impartial, creative and focused on finding solutions, including driving forward substantial change

    • An ability to influence and engage a strong and diverse network of contacts and stakeholders

    Perhaps they need to appoint someone whose role is to look after the interests of people and the economy, rather than favouring the environment instead while being a green establishment yes-man. Such an appointment simply verifies the comments made above by many other contributors.

    • Mark
      Posted December 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      The second role appears to require emollient persuasion of local politicians when they demand the Environment Agency actually does something sensible.

  39. Marilynw
    Posted January 1, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Is there not a balanced counter argument on this site? Just sounds to me like the propaganda you are all so against

  40. williamg
    Posted January 2, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Lot of anti eu whining. Plus usual lets have a go at migrants and overseas aid. Dredging has taken place in UK so it cannot be banned. The Dutch have large brilliant nature reserves and contribute more of GDP to overseas aid than UK. We could always stop giving millions to the Royal Family and saved billions spent invading other countries. All could go on improving our country.

  41. Peter Buxton
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Spent yesterday in Ballater (Scotland) helping family member empty her bungalow of its entire contents ready for taking to the dump. Water a yard deep from the river Dee engulfed hers and many other properties. The devastation in the town has to be seen to be believed. Heartbreaking in the extreme. Cameron and his spineless cronies should be made to come and physically help with the clear-up. For me we cannot leave the E.U. soon enough but with the kind of politicians we have nowadays will it actually make any difference?

  42. Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    They had silted up and become restricted or blocked. They could not take the water away fast enough when it rained and, Hey presto! Where is this information?

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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