Memorandum by the Anglian Regional Flood
Defence Committee (IW 24)
The Regional Flood Defence Committee (RFDC)
is the executive committee through which the Agency is required
to discharge its flood defence and land drainage functions in
the Anglian Region. It is responsible for recommending to the
Agency's Board the amount of money which local authorities will
contribute to flood defence works in the Region. It also prepares
an annual programme of flood defence maintenance and improvement
works, determining the necessary funding and obtaining Ministerial
approval, and it is responsible for providing and operating flood
The Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food
appointed me as RFDC Chairman on 1 July 2000. Other members of
the committee are appointed by, or on behalf of the constituent
Councils in the Region, or by the Agency.
In the Anglian Region recreational navigation
is an important activity, particularly on the rivers Nene and
Ouse, for which the Agency is the Navigation Authority. Both rivers
form part of the network providing land drainage to a wide area
of Fenland and the East Midlands, with the Agency being responsible
for flood defence and control.
RFDC have consistently supported the Agency
in the development of its integrated river management, and firmly
believe this to be the most efficient and cost effective way forward.
The rivers Nene and Ouse are particularly good
examples of a fully co-ordinated approach as both have exceptionally
extensive systems of weirs, locks and sluices to maintain navigable
river levels and to control flooding. All of the structures contribute
to both needs, and the operational activities at control structures
cannot be divided into those required by navigation and those
required by flood defence. These flood defence and navigation
activities are managed alongside and in conjunction with the Agency's
other responsibilities of improving water quality, developing
fisheries, enhancing habitats, creating environmental benefits,
and broadening leisure facilities within the river corridor.
The river Nene is the most "flashy"
in the Anglian Region and any sustained periods of wet weather
or sudden heavy rainstorms result in periods when it is unsafe
to navigate the river and many of the lock structures convert
temporarily to a flood discharge role. At such times the co-ordinated
operation of all structures is essential for public safety. During
the autumn/winter period of 1999-2000 alone, the new "strong
stream" advice system was used to warn boaters that flows
were too strong for navigation to be safe on 60 days. To deal
with such episodic events, whether the result of drought or heavy
rain, the Agency retains a significant staff presence on the river,
in the form of the emergency work force. Although principally
a flood defence force, navigation benefits directly from its presence.
The synergies that exist across the management of all river control
structures provide an excellent example of efficient, cost-effective
delivery of service that is gained as a direct consequence of
managing rivers in an integrated manner.
Boat users on the Nene and Ouse enjoy further
benefits as a consequence of integrated river management. These
include an enforcement team which also deals with fisheries and
water resource issues, and an engineering design team shared with
flood defence, with the resulting efficiencies of delivering a
co-ordinated engineering programme, funded by the respective functions.
There are also benefits gained from combined dredging and week
cutting programmes serving both functions. The efficiency gained
by such synergies would be lost if the management of navigation
were to be separated from the remainder of river management.
The Committee welcomed the recent Collaboration
Agreement between the Environment Agency and British Waterways,
and believes that this should form the basis for the future development
of the navigational systems in England and Wales.
Alongside the foregoing, the Agency works with
a wide range of partners in its work on waterways on day to day
management matters, including other Navigation Authorities, Local
Authorities, Drainage Boards, Water Companies, Conservation bodies,
Agricultural and Industrial concerns and a diverse range of user
The Committee has encouraged the Agency in furthering
the development of partnerships to extend, and enhance, the facilities
within the river corridor. This combined approach has generated
additional expenditure of over £3.25 million in 1999-2000
within Anglian Region.
The RFDC joins the Agency in its support of
the Government's Transport White Paper, which looks to increase
the use of river navigations for freight, but is keen to ensure
that this is achieved without any adverse impact on the environment.
The Committee believes that opportunities exist for increased
freight between the Essex ports and the Thames, and also believes
that options including dredging should be considered to facilitate
the increase in water borne freight on tidal rivers.
The Committee believes that the best way to
secure waterways for the future is for firm decisions to be made
on the future of river navigations. Navigation roles and responsibilities
have been under almost continuous review since the late 1980s
with a number of studies and consultations taking place to assess
the merits of transfers between navigation authorities.
The Agency has consistently received a high
level of support from stakeholders, and user groups, to continue
In summary, the committee believes that the
Agency should retain the navigation on rivers, which it does best,
and that British Waterways retain responsibility for navigation
on canals, which they do best.
RFDC members wish to thank Members of the Select
Committee for the opportunity of contributing to your enquiry.
Peter Bye, Chairman
27 September 2000