The Environment Agency has been running multiple consultations regarding a flood defence scheme based on heavy engineering of walls, bunds and a conveyancing channel proposed for North Reading and Caversham.
Caversham GLOBE is opposed to this approach owing to the destruction of hundreds of trees and large areas of habitat that would be lost wherever the walls, bunds, and the channel would be built (approx. 5 km of walls running through parks and riverside, a 25m wide conveyance channel running from the Christchurch meadows play area across George Street into Hill’s Meadow would lead to the loss of a large swathe of the iconic avenue of Lombardy poplars. Relocation of the play area would result in the loss of well used open areas of Christchurch Meadows, part of the Hill’s Meadow car park and many trees there would also be removed.)
Amersham Road playing fields and the area around Dean’s Farm would also be badly impacted by walls and bunds.
Hedges would be ripped out and replaced by a wall along the Reading side of the river between the two bridges.
The EAs estimates CO2 emission of over 24,000 tonnes from the walls and bunds alone.
Walls could be a magnet for anti-social behaviour including graffiti.
We would instead prefer that the EA look into more natural flood defences further up/downstream instead of solely relying on concrete walls and bunds.
Examples of more natural approaches are common across the country in other flood schemes: one example is the Denham, Suffolk flood scheme that has implemented natural flood defence approaches (storage of excess water, whilst also creating habitat).
This is mentioned in the EA published case study data on 31st October showing the use of natural flood defences as part of flood management schemes:
“The study includes a project in Debenham, Suffolk, where modelling has shown that installing a range of natural flood management features along the River Deben could provide more than 30,000 m3 of water storage – thereby reducing annual average damages to properties and farmland by 31%.”
You can also see information on the three instances of natural defence ‘features’ already implemented in the Debenham project on their website:
Grants for property-based flood resilience?
New builds are increasingly building in a variety of flood defence/flood resilience mechanisms, why not apply some of these approaches to the few properties actually at risk?
For example, the scheme could give out grants to retrofit items like flood-proof doors, non-return valves, closable air bricks, replacement of floor with flood resilient materials, moving electrics higher up walls etc.
You can read more about these measures in the ‘Know Your Flood risk’s Homeowner’s guide to flood resilience’ here:
Government and EA sees Natural flood management as important:
We are not alone in thinking that natural defences should be used in flood schemes, as Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, said:
“Natural flood management is an important part of our approach, alongside traditional flood defences and helping homeowners to improve their own property resilience. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to flooding and this scheme is a fantastic example of how we can use a variety of measures that work together to reduce flood risk.”
Plus, the government obviously sees natural flood defences as important, as they announced 15 million pounds worth of extra funding towards natural defence approaches back in 2017:
What can you do?
The scheme is still in the consultation phase and so we encourage readers to share their views on the current scheme.
You can contact the EA flood scheme project directly via email: reading&[email protected] as listed on the flood schemes consultation page: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/thames/reading-and-caversham-flood-alleviation-scheme-inf/
In addition, you can contact your local Councillors to encourage them to oppose this ill-conceived scheme. Find your local Reading councillor by ‘ward’ here:
Want to read more about Natural Flood Management (NFM)?
More information about Natural Flood Management (NFM) can be seen in the EA presentation ‘Working with Natural Processes – the evidence behind Natural Flood Management’ on the River Restoration Centre website here: https://www.therrc.co.uk/sites/default/files/files/Guidance_training/NFM_Roadshow/Dec_Eng_Grads/13dec_enggrads_nfmoverview_lydiabg.pdf