Meeting note 2 July 2014

Dear All,
Donald Bell and I attended a meeting with the NAO team at Shepperton
Lock yesterday afternoon, also there were residents from Datchet, Wraysbury,
Chertsey, Sunbury and Thames Ditton, all of whom had suffered very serious
flooding. It was one of the most depressing, but at the same time, rather inspiring
meetings I have ever attended, as we heard how the communities worked together
to shore up the disorganised and much delayed official response to the disastrous,
and completely out of control, flood situation. Not only did the opening of the Jubilee
River flood gates on 24th December create immediate flooding in the Wraysbury
area, but the Thames and its various tributaries flooded and water came up through
the ground all over the place. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong,
plus criminal activity with theft of sandbags when they eventually arrived, and
furniture and belongings stolen on the pretext of being put into safe storage. On top
of this, residents are finding very much increased insurance premiums, with
excesses up to £7500, and even those in the same postcode who were not flooded
are having their premiums increased - although Philip Hammond, the local MP, had
said that the Government would take measures to stop this happening.
We heard that many residents are still living in various sorts of emergency
accommodation, particularly those whose properties had been several feet deep in
excrement for several weeks. One resident had just recovered from a nervous
breakdown, in another case, the Neighbourhood Watch team organised meetings
and identified residents at risk, particularly those requiring medical treatment or
medication. Alison Griffiths, who you will have probably seen on television flood
programmes, organised a volunteer force to help clean up houses, all free of charge,
and is now training to carry out emergency clearing up work on the river because the
local Councils, Environment Agency and Thames Water are not doing enough. Who
is responsible for what appears to be a major problem, complicated by the Riparian
Rights Act which makes residents living on riversides responsible for maintaining the
river banks and river bed in front of their properties.
We in Teddington have been remarkably lucky with minimal flooding below the lock,
and considerable low level but not too damaging flooding on both sides of the river
between Teddington and Molesley Locks. This flooding appeared to be due to
Teddington Weir being barely able to cope with the volumes of water arriving at the
weir - certainly this was the case when I photographed the weir with all gates and
sluices fully open on 13th February 2014. The local water table was very high, most
noticeably in Bushy Park, and storm drains suffered from backing up with minor
flooding in some Teddington roads. We may not be so lucky next time. It was
interesting that all at the meeting appeared to recognise that the Datchet to
Teddington Flood Relief Scheme (DTFRT) would merely push the problem
downstream to Teddington, and all preferred immediate dredging of tributaries and
the Thames itself. That is not happening at present, although one local Council is
doing some tidying up. I made it clear that the DTFRT would put Teddington at
additional risk being tidal , and that the proper solution to the flooding situation is to
carry out an Upper Thames flood reduction strategy, to reduce and slow down the
flow-off into the Upper Thames. This should include working with Landowners and
Farmers to plant trees and crops to reduce flow-off, with one or more new reservoirs
to act a sumps to capture excess water throughout the winter, with managed release
back into the Thames throughout the year. The excess winter water would help meet
the expected water shortages in the hot dry summers that are forecast to happen in
the future.
I also explained that Ham Hydro CIC (which is not based on the Thames flood
plain) wants to put a controversial hydro electric scheme on the Middlesex side
of Teddington Weir adjacent to the Lensbury Club, a place which in my view, is the
best location for the additional flood relief measures that are to be put in place as
part of the Lower Thames Flood Relief Strategy. The HH scheme can be described
as experimental, as lessons learned are to be applied elsewhere, with Teddington
Weir being the guinea pig for the unproven design. The Ham Hydro Team had a
stand at the recent Teddington Village Fair, and was still displaying the pictures and
plans of the over-sized scheme that is opposed by the Teddington Society, the
Lensbury Club, and has been rejected by the Council's Planning Officer who has
asked for a new design and set of plans to be submitted. It is not clear why the HH
Team is persisting with a design that has to be changed significantly to make it
acceptable to those who live and work in Teddington and elsewhere on the flood
plain. No doubt we will find out in due course.
The Teddington Society's Flood Relief Working Party will be examining all aspects of
this year's flooding to learn any lessons that might be applicable to the Middlesex
bank's flood plain, but it has already become apparent that even a 1% risk of flooding
is too much, such is the level of damage to property and people. In the present
circumstances, it might be prudent for the Environment Agency to consider putting
all proposed Thames hydro schemes on hold until all the flood relief measures are in
place, unless it can be proved beyond all reasonable doubt that a particular design is
110% certain not to increase flood risk.
This note, I hope, has captured the flavour of the meeting, but is not intended as a
detailed minute. I will ensure that the NAO Report, with more detail, is circulated to
you all in due course.
Brian h