Sedgemoor District Council and the Environment Agency recently reported at the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) meeting in January a 50% increase in the cost of the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier. The reported cost appears to have increased from £70M in October 2017 to £100M in January 2018 (five months) and yet it went through without comment .
The cost escalation of a scheme that does nothing to address the 2014 fluvial flood is eye watering and yet, according to the minutes, no action is taken to explain why this escalation had occurred and what action was being done to mitigate it. The mere acceptance by our elected members is not acceptable if the delivery of our infrastructure is to be managed locally rather than through central government.
Bridgwater Tidal Barrier Cost History
March 2014 the cost of barrier was reported at £26M
September 2016 The EA gave the public figures during a public consultation various options with costs; site 5 the selected site was costed at £45M – £60M.
October 2017 the BBC reported on the cost of the scheme to be in the order of £70M “Bridgwater tidal barrier costs ‘could go up by £10m”
In a period of around 15 months from September 2016 to January 2018 the cost of the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier scheme rose by around £50M or 100% and not one word of concern is expressed or recorded in the public domain. This cost is now nearly 4x the original cost estimate in 2014.
Bridgwater Tidal Barrier is now a £100M scheme where
the financial investment makes no contribution to mitigating a repeating 2014 fluvial flood,
repeated saltwater flooding onto farm land from the River Parrett is seen as being an acceptable regime despite poisoning farmland and wildlife.
there is no plan in place beyond the barriers 100 year design life
brings saltwater onto our agricultural land
Looking at the numbers the only thing that can be concluded is that the cost estimates presented to the public and to councils for the purpose of decision making were widely inaccurate or inconsistent either of which is unacceptable for investment decisions; especially decisions that affect the long term future of Bridgwater and Somerset Levels beyond.
The selection decision of the current site (Site 5) was chosen purely on the basis of the width of the river and must now be called into question. It would appear that the cost of the other downstream elements of the scheme must be causing this cost escalation. A cost and concern that were dismissed at the time of the consultation.
Bridgwater Tidal Barrier is now a £100M scheme where
the financial investment makes no contribution to mitigating a repeating 2014 fluvial flood,
there is no plan in place beyond the barriers 100 year design life
repeated saltwater flooding onto farm land from the River Parrett is seen as being an acceptable regime despite poisoning farmland and wildlife.
the EA wants to dig up the very land its meant to be protecting to win the soil for flood defences.
No project should be seeing this amount of budgetary increase without challenge. Cost escalation on this scale is unacceptable and unnecessary. There is clearly a continuing problem regarding a lack of oversight both technically and financially in this project.
What should be done?
The extra £50M buys a much better scheme than the one Bridgwater is getting. £100M would allow
the barrier to be located as is normal practice as close to the mouth of the river as possible which in this case is Combwich. Combwich was never looked on the basis of cost, clearly that is an argument that can no longer be supported.
elimination of most of the downstream river works that the EA’s tests indicate will need to happen every 35 years or so.
increased fluvial capacity in the River Parrett and the King Sedgmoor Drain potentially benefiting communities beyond Sedgemoor
a solution that can be economically extended beyond the 100 year design life currently offered.
£100M is £1M a year for next 100 years on scheme that will be rendered redundant once the river banks can no longer be raised to combat sea level rise; the scheme in present form is throwing money away
The public expect that those on scrutiny committees to use there position to bring transparency and accountability to the process of public expenditure. Such bringing to account appears to be sadly lacking together with visibility of any independent engineering review that a project of £100M warrants. The project is growing in value and the oversight is not growing with it.
Unfortunately what we see happening is the management of infrastructure projects by people, primarily councillors and officers who are unqualified to do so. The SRA is a prime example of an organisation primarily engaged in the commissioning of engineering activities with no engineers in lead roles. The Bridgwater Tidal Barrier has become a Grand Designs episode of Civil Engineering
A Public Inquiry into the management of the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier scheme should be convened that should look at
Location (including the examination of Combwich)
Competency and experience of councillors and officials to manage civil engineering works such as the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier and other SRA projects.,
The Environment Agency (EA) like the many political parties with the word Democratic in their title seems ever farther away from what people imagine the organisation to be about. Protecting the Environment and the people seems not to be one of them if it gets in the way of its long term Parrett Estuary agenda at Chilton Trinity north of Bridgwater.
However any doubts that the EA doesn’t have a sense of humour or understands irony was firmly dispelled by its latest offering to the Chilton Trinity landowners. These are landowners whose land is impacted by downstream works resulting from planned construction of the £100M Bridgwater Tidal Barrier close to the town rather than is conventional practice at the mouth of the River Parrett.
The EA’s apparent lack of understanding of the impact of salt water flooding onto farm land. is worrying. The expected floodwater is not like 2014 when the water that covered the Somerset Levels was predominantly fluvial run off (freshwater). This will be seawater coming up the River Parrett from the Seven Estuary that over tops the river banks.
This document also asks farmer’s to allow the Environment Agency to dig borrow pits in the land the EA are meant to be protecting.Borrow Pits are meant to be refilled with other less suitable soil so it does not lessen traffic as the EA claim but only if they are left as just open pits in which case they aren’t borrow pits. Do we really need to excavate the land we are meant to be protecting?
The alternative is a sustainable construction method that also seems to be a low priority of the EA. Construction of the bank improvements could be phased over a number of years using local contractors and material reclaimed from new developments.
The proposed pits will hold the seawater (saltwater) rather than see it quickly flushed away back to the river. Saltwater is poison to agricultural land and the habitat we currently have in Chilton Trinity. These pits will, according to the trial embankment test done for the Cannington Bends improvement scheme, need to be reopened or enlarged every 35 years of so to make up the levels as the made up river banks settle.
The EA promise going forward regarding maintaining bank levels quite rightly only talks about intent; the EA cannot provide a firm promise however they do know that once the land is poisoned the cost for further expenditure on bank raising will not be justified.
No one can say that the EA does not have a sense of humour especially when the Chilton Trinity farmers are encouraged by the EA to act as turkeys to vote for Christmas. The EA’s long term ambition of an inter tidal habitat remains our pantomime villain – he is behind us and we chose not to look around and see him. Whilst appearing to help the EA are actually creating a self fulfilling prophecy that will see the area become salt marsh.
Only talks about 2024 and not 100 years in the future (2124) which is much more interesting for long term prosperity of everyone including our farmers handing land onto future generations. ( nobody says what happens when the banks can no longer be raised)
Confirms the level of protection they are planning to maintain to farm land is very low.
Omitted the future flood maps.
Omitted to mention that the flood water will be seawater .
Demonstrates on page 4 a complete lack of understanding of the impact of saltwater onto agricultural land. (Some Lincolnshire farmland has still not fully recovered from the 1953 flood when the North Sea over topped the sea defences)
Encourages the formation of borrow pits (actually just pits) that, when the banks of the River Parrett are overtopped, will trap seawater and ultimately destroy the value of the land its meant to protect. Destroying wildlife and fauna in the process that cannot handle saline conditions A case of the medicine killing the patient.
Creates through the use of borrow pits mores areas of stagnant water that in our warming climate will be a breeding ground for insects, one of the reasons given for not damming the River Parrett.
Fails to mention the pits will need to be used and extended at least 3x as according to the embankment trial the river banks will need raising every 35 years.
Does not mention the final height of the river banks in 100 years’ time, for every metre raised the bank get wider by 2 x 4.0m and the banks will need to be raised by around 0.80m. (2’6″) excluding the continued settlement of the river banks that always means 2 steps forward and always 1 step back.
Re-confirms that agricultural land will be preferentially flooded.
The EA commitment is qualified as only an “intent” . Will SDC ratepayers pay for the maintenance when they don’t get anything back? It’s a huge liability that SDC could end up with that has no benefit to the town. In a very short period of time, the cost of maintaining river banks to protect a small area of land and some ponds (flooded borrow pits) will not be considered worthwhile.
No one can say we were not warned about this EA scheme and still no one asks what happens after the proposed scheme, the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier, can no longer counter rising sea levels?
One can only appreciate the irony and the humour of the situation along with the EA’s other recent bits of entertainment
The gathering up the local newt population at Steart and their subsequent disappearance
Diverting migrating elvers away from their normal route to our freshwater river system into the Steart Peninsula scheme.
Planning to build a tidal barrier as far inland and upstream as possible contrary to all normal accepted good practice.
to paraphrase Churchill
never has so much money been spent in such a small place to so little effect
This document is at best poorly put together and at worst a device designed to obscure the true impact of the plan from those most affected
As this slow-motion environmental, and for Bridgwater, and economic car crash occurs we should not forget that three prominent members of the Wessex Regional Flood and Coastal Committee live within a mile or so of where this unnecessary and increasingly misrepresented process is going on. No objection or question is heard regarding the impact of the EA Scheme; there is no visible oversight.
Bridgwater and the surrounding district area of Sedgemoor continues to be dominated by claims regarding the benefits of the HPC monies. This is money the community received as part of the planning process; will it actually be a tangible legacy? The litmus test might be an imaginary HPC plaque similar to the blue ones put on buildings remembering that famous people were born or lived there. In a generation or so could we take our children around the district pointing to things that we got because of HPC? The answer is probably No.
HPC has for Bridgwater and the surrounding area been like winning the lottery and like many winners the win has been frittered away on things that would in time have come anyway. New Infrastructure is always good value but difficult to do cheaply in our crowded and over developed land yet Sedgemoor until recently had everything on a plate, time, available strategic land in the right place and money. Bridgwater Cellophane site (BCL) factory in Bath Road cleared and the old Bridgwater Livestock Market cleared on the other side of the railway provided a unique opportunity to do something constructive with our HPC legacy to the benefit of the local town., its residents, businesses and the economy. Transport and communication is all.
Like the Somerset Flood Action Plan that did little more than recognise the EA’s lack of maintenance that had been permitted across the Somerset Levels whilst the EA had previously spent £20M on the Steart Peninsular project; the HPC legacy is more of the same, money is without doubt being squandered in the wrong places. Sedgemoor did it before with the now demolished Splash when it sold the Lido to Morrisons, its decision not to go for a Northern Bridgwater bypass a recent example and not to spend this money strategically and well when you have the opportunity is not a track record to be proud of.
A quick look back
Bridgwater over 40 years like most towns has changed. Once our manufacturing sites were spread throughout the town, Clarke’s beside the railway station, Wellworthy in Colley Lane, Gerber in Wembdon, Cryptons in Bristol Road, Van Heusen and Leffmans in Bath Road. The multiple locations and predominance of cycling to get to work meant our road system could quickly absorb and dissipate traffic whether on two or four wheels. Employment and where we live have become divided, employment has largely migrated to the outskirts of town mostly to the north and we mostly live in the south and west with development slowly marching towards North Petherton. If not we have to find our way over one of the inadequate number or river and rail crossings we have. The Railway and the River Parrett dominate how we live.as they divide Bridgwater into a series of strips running north to south.
Every day the town get up and has to traverse the Cross Rifles roundabout whether to commute, shop go to school or get to the bus and rail stations largely because of the Bath Road railway bridge. There is no sign of a plan to deal with this problem.
What could have been done
In my view two related and not too grand things to improve the town and areas with HPC money could have been done. and still should be pursued.
Move the Bridgwater Railway Station north onto the then empty BCL and market sites and include a public foot/cycle path over the railway.
Extend The Drove through to the market site linking the NDR directly to relocated railway station.
This would put the railway station near business, the Bridgwater College, The McMillan Theatre and on existing bus routes. HPC workers could have arrived by train directly to the HPC accommodation on Bath Road. Rail would provide a viable alternative to inward commuting. Encourage people going to work in the town to cycle. avoiding the Cross Rifles roundabout. If you cant fix the road at least give people choice of other methods to get to work or to the station. There is no bus link to the existing station.
Bridgwater Railway Station is simply of the wrong era has short low platforms and is in the wrong place. It serves nobody at the end of St John Street. Spending money on it is throwing good money after bad. Its time is up.
With the delay of HPC starting and the availability of these sites there was plenty of time to ensure the HPC legacy was used to secure long term infrastructure benefits that would generate increased economic activity. Activity that would in turn generate wealth that would have multiplied the HPC money many times over in the generations to come, there is simply no excuse for the lack of vision and competency shown at County and District Level.
Bridgwater will not be getting a northern bypass anytime soon. Sedgemoor District Council’s HPC strategy to pursue in town traffic improvements in place of a bypass is now widely known. It was delivered in no small part by an option report commissioned by SDC and others Strategic Options Appraisal of Transport Proposals In Bridgwaterthat came up with a scheme whose cost and schedule ensured that both EDF and SDC could kick the bypass into the long grass.
Following on from the flood of 2014 the Government select committee Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) published its report in 2016 Future flood prevention. It proposed that common infrastructure with multiple uses should be built that would maximise value for money; in Bridgwater’s case a bridge with a tidal barrier is value for money. Despite the delay in the start of the Hinkley Point C and the promise of money for the Tidal Surge Barrier no councillor or official considered looking at or revisiting the bypass option.
Logic said put a bridge on the barrier it makes sense.
B300 was a project that started life in 2013 six months before the 2014 floods; it is a commercially viable scheme that includes a proposal to relocate the proposed Bridgwater Tidal Barrier downstream of Dunball and incorporate a road bridge over the River Parrett. The road bridge providing the important first stage of a Northern Bridgwater Bypass and allowing the expansion of Bridgwater to the north of Chilton Trinity.
Technically there are no major issues with building a barrier downstream of Dunball and in someways its simpler and easier than the proposed site. No need for a diversion channel. The EA did work during its option studies that indicated that if the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier is sited downstream of Dunball the flows in the river system of the River Parrett and King Sedgemoor Drain would be increased ; there was fluvial as well as tidal benefit . Nor is it difficult to put a bridge on the barrier structure. Experience gained on such projects as the Severn Second Crossing brought the costs of the alternative scheme towards the budget for the EA’s proposed site near the Police Station. B300 also proposed to close the gap between the end of the Polden Hills and Wembdon Hill sealing off the South Somerset Level’s from the sea. A proposal with considerable greater integrity than the present novel scheme of an in- town tidal barrier and raised river banks on ground that cannot allow the process of raising them to continue into the future . The B300 scheme would have seen everyone protected and new banks that could be raised in the future unlike the existing scheme that is limited by existing ground conditions.
There was a solution and the additional funding available to deliver a large more comprehensive scheme including tidal flood protection to 1:10,000 return period compared to the 1;200 offered by the EA, a development including low energy homes and industry. The problem is that not all landowners want it. They reason that the ratepayer will ultimately build a bridge to their land and they will not need to make a contribution to the cost, The landowner taking maximum possible value whilst someone else (SDC ratepayers) pay.
Sadly with the EA delivering its Business Plan at the end of the 2017 those few landowners have run the clock down and the opportunity to implement the scheme is fading.
If a bridge is built sometime in the future as part of a bypass linking the M5’s Junction 23 to Cannington both rate and taxpayer will have paid twice for work in the River Parrett that could have been done once. The aims of the EFRA report on taxpayer value for money will have been completely ignored and the rate and taxpayer left to pick up avoidable costs.
It will also mean that the opportunity will have been lost to protect a larger area of land from the sea and with it the safeguarding of Bridgwater’s future economic expansion to the North West. Bridgwater’s economic expansion and long term flood security sacrificed largely through a sense of entitlement ingrained in many members of the farming community.
Landowners and farmers were recently given assurance on the long term protection of land Chilton Trinity and the Pawlett Hams. People cannot expect to be immune to their decisions; landowners should not expect those that foot the bill (ratepayers) to miss out on better tidal flood protection.
Sedgemoor District Councils’s ratepayers should now carefully consider if supporting landowners at Chilton Trinity is acceptable or whether retaining the EA’s current plan to save money through planned managed realignment of the River Parrett is preferable.
There is good reason that the current managed realignment should be implemented as described in Parrett Estuary Flood Risk Management Strategy. The economic benefit of maintaining the land is small and of no consequence to the majority of SDC ratepayers.
SDC ratepayers should therefore not be expected to provide long term financial support to protect landowners’ assets in Chilton Trinity when a few landowners chose to do nothing and actively block improved flood protection to their land. It is an issue that needs to resolved before the EA and SDC formalise the commitment to farmers in Chilton Trinity on maintaining the river banks and the liability of the maintaining the banks of the River Parrett is added to the tax and ratepayer’s shoulders.
This is the second time in a decade that Bridgwater has squandered an opportunity to create a bypass, HPC was the first and SDC chose road improvements over a bypass. This time a few landowners are blocking a possible £500M scheme moving forward that would have provided better flood protection for all and possibly a route for EDF.
Public money is being squandered on a single use structure ,Bridgwater Tidal Barrier, as well as the opportunity to secure the future of Bridgwater.
Most of us, especially if you live on the Somerset Levels or the Norfolk Broads, often see our rhynes (ditches) and ponds covered in duckweed.
It is not the pest we think it is.
This week after nearly two years preparatory work and 40 years of passion by Texas based inventor of the system Paul Skilicorn. I am in Peru as part of Lyndon Water‘s management team led by CEO Ray Anderson working to deliver a truly unique water treatment project. Using duckweed as a key element in the treatment process we will clean urban wastewater on an industrial scale and then turn it into potable drinking water to WHO standards. Water to the same standard that in Europe we take for granted 24 hours a day.
If all goes to plan in a little under 18 months people in an area of northern Peru will be free of a 30 year stench from its failed sewage treatment plant and the region receiving additional potable water to increase availability of drinking water and reduce the strain on depleting aquifers.
October 2018 Update
Paul Skillicorn recently left Lyndon Water and has set up a competing business. with Ramiro Priale.
Duckweed is just about the fastest growing plant in the world. As duckweed grows it removes nutrients and other contaminants converting suspended elements in wastewater into usable biomass. We separate and take the suspended solids for anaerobic digestion to generate power before the duckweed cleans the water.
Duckweed under the Lyndon Water process is harvested and converted into fish food, animal feed, high protein superfoods or for energy generation. Some of the feed we produce will then be used to support Lyndon Water‘ s food production at a new and nearby integral fish farm and Aquaponics facility that forms part of the Lyndon Water system. Nothing is wasted.
The harvester design and the lagoon system design is by my engineering consultancy Glue2 Limited. We have also developed a process for concurrent transportation and processing of duckweed suitable for use in remote locations using minimal permanent infrastructure. All equipment and buildings are modularised and based on ISO containers and dimensions.
We take wastewater and make drinking water, the waste we turn into food and power. What’s not to like?
When you next see duckweed covering a pond or rhyne it’s not a pest but it’s cleaning up our water. It’s not all of the story of the process but it is the key.
Director Paul Bryant, CEO Ray Anderson, Lyndon Water in Country Manager Ramiro Priale & Chairman Lewis Jeffery
Designing concrete mixes for specific purposes often raises questions that you don’t know the answers to. Familiar products have fallen into disuse and new products are just new. A recent project in Shetland required a mix able to get into areas of heavily congested reinforcement that had previously failed the first time around.
Highly plasticised mixes look and behave differently from “ normal “ concrete and the current mix was a 100% Portland cement mix that appeared to have followed me over from Abu Dhabi with the same original contractor having developed a similar mix for two different projects. Shetland and Abu Dhabi having in common a lack of cement replacements particularly in the oil & gas industry. A situation further complicated as the current mix had a very high cement content was plasticised but not retarded making it very difficult to use in all but the simplest pours. It has very little time to be placed.
The rework had a number of challenges that followed from the earlier pour.
Hanging shutters that obstructed the passage of concrete.
A relatively small volume; less than 10m3
Over detailing of reinforcement; surplus reinforcement that had not been removed during original fixing.
Complicated shuttering and finishing that required considerable time to complete after the bulk of the concrete had been placed.
For the revised rework mix a new mix with the following requirements was developed.
A 10mm aggregate for congestion and cover issues.
Place using the chute from the back of the truck.
Delay the setting time to around 3 hours.
Retain the waterproof qualities of the existing mix.
Characteristic strength of 35N
Satisfy durability requirements for a Marine Environment.
TESTING & APPROVAL
Sika provided a S4 mix design based on the above requirement; to obtain client approval and to understand what we had and how it worked a simple test was done twice.
Batches of the revised concrete mix were mixed and held in a truck mixer replicating a long discharge time on site.
The truck mixer was progressively emptied over 3 hours.
Slump test were taken every 20 minutes and cubes at hourly intervals (1, 2 and 3 hours) for testing at 7 and 28 days.
they were very good
the mix stayed at or around the design slump only marginally dropping off in the last two results but still within limits.
cube results were consistent and all passed.
One important thing that was noted was that the consistency (slump) potentially drops for a short period below the specification ,about 1 hour after batching was completed, and then regains the required consistency. It occurred on both batches.
The lesson for Contractors, Consultants and QA /QC processes is that
The time from batching to the initial test is important and that there is the potential to reject concrete that is actually ok.
When doing trial mixes develop tests that explore what could happen when a concrete pour goes wrong and placing of concrete is delayed identifying any characteristics that might explain a rogue test result during placing operations.
On the 10th of July at Bridgwater Town Hall (2-7pm) the EA and SDC will reveal the final form of their scheme for the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier. Its construction will shape the town for the next two hundred years. It is planned to be commissioned in 2024 and designed to operate for 100 years. The operational date is a political one rather than climate driven and unlike most similar structures it will be located within the town rather than at the mouth of the river. Mitigation of a similar fluvial flood event to 2014 is not part of the barrier’s function.
People have been focused on the barrier yet the river banks are the important bit; what happens to them will decide how radically our existing landscape will change and have far greater impact than a set of gates. The downstream river banks are being maintained in accordance with the FCERM Strategy (the national flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy for England).Individual polices are detailed in the local 2010 Shoreline Management Plan covering the next 20, 50 and 100 years.
For the Parrett those policies say that within the operational life of the barrier “The long term vision is for a more naturally functioning estuary, through construction of set-back defences under a policy of managed realignment.” Land is being returned to the tidal zone.
EA maps produced in 2010 show how that will be achieved at Pawlett Hams and Chilton Trinity. The recently released BTB secondary flood defence plan and residual flood risk maps show the long term policies are being put in place. Only the river banks close to Combwich and Chilton Trinity housing will continue to be raised. Farmland will ultimately be flooded and lost as the majority of the river banks will cease to be raised to match climate change. Steart Peninsula’s habitat will in due course be extended to Dunball and Chilton Trinity.
The present scheme means that the opportunity to increase the conveyance capacity of the Parrett capacity by moving a future replacement barrier downstream is lost. Taunton Deane and South Somerset may have to build fluvial storage on their land in the future. Opportunities for a cost effective bypass will be lost to the detriment of Bridgwater and West Somerset. As a naturally occurring event Somerset land owners will not receive compensation. Bridgwater will pay around £20m in lost land values towards the present scheme. A major economic impact on Somerset as a whole is just being ignored.
It is simply not true or credible that the BTB can somehow be divorced from the EA’s longer plan for the Parrett Estuary; a plan prepared in 2010 predating the 2014 flooding of the Somerset Levels.
The Bridgwater Tidal barrier in its present form passed its sell by date in 2014 when fluvial flooding moved from management on the Levels to flooding within our homes. Even today people still imagine that the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier is somehow part of the scheme to mitigate the 2014 flood, it could be but it isn’t. The Levels’ will still flood as they did in 2014 if we get similar weather conditions.
With little information in the public domain including the option studies that supported the original 7 location and the shorter list of 4 it is not unreasonable that this scheme has many questions of transparency. it is unacceptable that important and relevant information is not available to the public ahead of the final consultation on the 10th of July. That flood maps produced in September 2016 have only just been published giving people little time to understand the implications of what is planned.
If the FCERM Strategy and Parrett Estuary Flood Management Strategy are executed in their present form 1000’s of acres of agricultural land will be lost to food production. Is it morally right that the UK which cannot feed itself should export even more of its food production overseas and possibly deny food to others? This lack of responsibility on our part will no doubt be further compounded when our overseas aid budget has to be used to relieve a famine we as a nation knowingly or perhaps worse unknowingly contributed to.
To reach this situation there is a clear lack of leadership, vision, scrutiny and oversight by those organisations and people charged with delivering the plan and the infrastructure for Somerset. Neither SDC nor the SRA has any engineering or qualified staff able to lead on flooding and has chosen not to bring in people that could. There is also a clear engineering deficit in the delivery of Somerset’s flood defences.
People should go along to the consultation and ask
Is turning the River Parrett back 500 to 1000 years and extending the Steart Peninsula wildlife habitat to Dunball whilst constraining economic development really what Bridgwater and wider Somerset need?
Why wasn’t a barrier considered at Combwich and extending to Pawlett Hill that would protect the whole area. Arguments that we might impinge on the edge of the SSI is not an argument for not even looking at the possibility.
Why does the barrier only do TIDAL and not FLUVIAL (2014 rainfall) with equal importance?
What is the extra cost of building a barrier with a bridge on it?
Bridgwater will shortly be given its final opportunity to be consulted on the planned Bridgwater Tidal Barrier at its chosen location near Express Park. Did anyone really wonder why Bridgwater’s barrier, probably uniquely in the UK, is situated not at or close to the mouth of the River Parrett?
The reason is that in 100 years or so time it probably will be.
The start of the River Parrett will have moved to be at or just upstream of Dunball where the secondary flood defences meet the raised raised river bank.
The EA’s well concealed Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) intends over the next 100 years to return the Parrett Estuary to its original form. They intend to allow the sea to over-top the river banks spilling out over the existing farm land to ultimately form an inter tidal habitat stretching from the Steart to Dunball.
People have been told by EA that “river banks will be maintained” and imagine the EA intends to continue raising the river banks. That is not true; what it actually means is that the banks will stay at the preset level whilst sea levels continue to rise. Ultimately the sea will come over the top of the banks naturally generating the planned realignment of the Parrett and avoiding paying landowners compensation. Banks will only be raised locally and the impact can be seen on the recently released flood maps. This was known about before the September 2016 consultation but never presented. The EA’s repeated statement on protection is duplicitous at best and misleading at worse.
To compound the EA’s lack of transparency it seems to have lost its moral compass with regard to those less fortunate. Locally with nearly 2000 acres at Steart already lost to food production the EA’s SMP will see another 3000 acres lost to UK food production at time of growing food insecurity . As a country that cannot feed its self that lost acreage along with all the rest of land lost through Managed Realignment will have to be replaced overseas taking away food that could be used for famine relief and the less well off. It is the worst type of modern colonialism. It is a situation made all the worse by the fact that the UK’s aid fund may be trying to alleviate problems we are causing. Not much in the way of joined up government.
Serious questions need to be asked of the those County and District Councillors who seem to be on all the committees but do little to bring the EA to account and are prepared to promote the exploitation of other people’s land to avoid looking after our own.
Under present plans six years after the completion of the proposed Bridgwater Tidal Barrier Pawlett Hams will cease to be defended. That means that the river banks will no longer be maintained and the process of handing more farmland back to the sea will start again. The estuary will in time return to the state it was in more than 500 years ago before the levels were drained. According to the EA this will see 387 Ha or just under 1000 acres of farmland lost to food production and the local economy although only 47Ha is actually required to make up for coastline squeeze.
The Parrett Estuary Flood Risk Management Strategy (PEFRMS) is a document remarkable for its narrow vision that is more interested in extending the habitat for birds whilst completely failing to understand or chooses to stay silent on the impact of saltwater on agricultural land. The only economic impact considered seems to be tourism.
Section 2.1.6 (b) notes that
North Devon and Somerset Shoreline Management Plan (Hartland Point to Anchor Head), Halcrow, due 2010. We are concurring with their emerging policies.
As such much of the real detail is provided in the EA’s Shoreline Management Plan rather than the overarching Parrett Estuary Flood Management Strategy which is a long term plan to let down the flood defences along the River Parrett allowing the sea up to the edge of Chilton Trinity and trading off land in Sedgemoor for economic development elsewhere around the Severn Estuary. It is a step back in time with individual communities afforded long term term flood protection rather than comprehensive flood defence. The high level strategy for the PEFRMS is provided below following on is information from the shoreline management plan and recently available information for the preferential flooding of farmland as part of the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier Scheme.
Pawlett Hams Realignment is the complete loss of Pawlett Hams as can be seen from the key plan in the Parrett Estuary Flood Management Strategy and noted in item c above.
Applicable Shoreline Management Plan delivery of the Strategy that includes the loss of 387 Hectares (1000 Acres of land) at Pawlett Hams is reproduced below.
Individual policies for various sections of the River Parrett and adjacent land are listed below. 7d39 is worth noting as it has the next major realignment of the flood defences after Pawlett Hams allowing the River Parrett to come up within 1000m of the village of Chilton Trinity.
South of the Parrett the EA ultimately proposed to let the marshes return to the very edge of Bridgwater whilst Sedgemoor District Council and the EA’s Bridgwater Barrier team have left a space at site 4 for a bridge that is on the way to a planned inter tidal area and represents the expansion of the Steart Peninsula scheme up to Bridgwater.
the planned retreat of the existing flood defences
Those two policies when implemented will along with Steart Marshes and the Bristol Ports land transform the Parrett Estuary. There will be no new link possible between West and East Somerset.
Total agricultural land lost to agricultural will be around 5000 acres. There is a certain irony that the EA policies will in reducing UK agricultural land export food production abroad and potentially increase famine oversees.
In the short term the proposed secondary flood defences shown below are required because the EA will not keep raising the banks above the present levels. sea level rise will continue and the frequency of seawater flooding will increase. The route of the secondary flood defence is not dissimilar to the future managed realignment above.
The gap in the flood defences at Walpole still left open for floodwater to flood the area as it previously did in the 80’s
After the planned completion of the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier a 1:200 flood is expected by the designers to flood land to the north of Chilton Trinity with saltwater. The maps below represent some of the 50 maps prepared by the BTB designers to support the decision on location of the BTB barrier; the complete set of maps can be found on the SDC Strategic Flood Risk Assessment page.
The maps below show the impact of the river banks not being raised to match rising sea levels apart from the protected communities. The end result is the preferential flooding of farmland with saltwater during certain tide and storm conditions as presented during the Severn Estuary Forum 2017 held in Bridgwater.
None of this information was presented during the two EA/SDC public consultations in 2016.
The map below shows one of breach locations modelled. A breach can occur anywhere, the map does not say its saline (salt) flood waters escaping from the river. They are merely designed to provide an idea of the likely consequence of it happening. The full pack of maps shows a number of breach locations and these are yet to published by Sedgemoor District Council.
One of the maps produced by the designer showing the safety risks associated with their present scheme.
A year or so ago when Sedgemoor District Council (SDC) and the Environment Agency started work on the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier (BTB) scheme they jointly decided not to spend money on an economic impact assessment.
As a result of that decision there is now no way for councillors, ratepayers and business to measure and benchmark the wider commercial and economic impacts of BTB project. The project is now simply valued and measured by government rules. This is especially important for those ratepayers and the HoW LEP who will directly pay for a proportion of this scheme. For Somerset’s councillors there is no visibility of the potential direct local (Somerset wide) benefit. With a preferred location agreed and the full details still yet to be seen or shown to the public it is difficult to see how the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier can be proceeding as it is.
There is a need to scrutinise the EA’s proposed Bridgwater Tidal Barrier and its management of the delivery of the scheme. There urgently needs to be some form of independent peer review to support the decisions of councillors and EA employees who do not have suitable engineering qualifications and experience. No private company would do this.
The River Parrett catchment and its capacity affects much of South and Central Somerset; almost every town is on one of its tributaries. The wider opportunity that Somerset’s flood defence expenditure presents has to date been largely ignored and is in danger of being squandered. Sensible promises made in 2014 have been quietly allowed to disappear.
If you live within the Parrett Catchment or in West Somerset this article will be worth reading for economic reasons alone.
By 2024 nearly £100M will have been spent on flood related work within Somerset and the majority of the money focused to the north and north west of Bridgwater. The EA’s managed realignment at Steart Peninsula and the adjacent Bristol Ports property deal for it proposed container port that is of no economic benefit to Somerset sees nearly 3000 acres of farmland removed from the the local economy.
The Levels will still flood and as they did in 2014; they will simply drain more quickly.
A flood defence system will have been built that only works for sea water (tidal) and that will probably have to be replaced because it will not be viable to extend its design life because of the ground conditions along the river banks.
The expansion of Bridgwater over the next 100 years ignored.
The rather novel concept of putting a tidal flood barrier 5 miles upstream of the mouth of the River Parrett and into the town implemented.
An additional 2,000 acres of productive agricultural land will be in the process of being lost to agricultural bringing the total of land lost to the local economy to 5,000 acres including Steart Peninsular and the Bristol Ports land deal.
There will be no bridge over the Parrett although the myth that you cannot easily have both on one structure will have been discredited albeit too late.
No beneficial integration with a future Bridgwater bypass considered or provided.
An important relationships between the capacity of the KSD/Sowy expansion and the impact of the location of the BTB never mentioned or costed.
The planned loss of Pawlett Hams to the sea lying hidden in the Parrett Estuary Flood Risk Management Strategy.
Perhaps the most unfortunate decision to date was naming the barrier/barrage the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier and sending mixed messages as to its purpose. That single act has reduced interest and scrutiny both in Sedgemoor and further afield to almost nothing. Only 180 people came to a public consultation in September 2016.
The introduction on the SDC barrier website reproduced below implies on the last line that it “could play a critical role in reducing flood risk” (tidal) and not the fluvial flow it started talking abut; they are not the same thing but did meet once in 2014. Two different things have been conflated into one message.
with regard to fluvial (rainfall) flooding
Would it now have had an impact on another 2014 flood? NO
Could it be made to have an impact on another 2014 Flood YES.
Somerset’s councils seem to have no interest in this scheme yet they should because
Somerset County Council (SCC)
Despite having the SRA under its wing and councillors jointly at County and District level there is little in the way of a long term vision that can be see being developed.
A shorter more strategic tidal scheme closing off the South Somerset Levels from the sea by closing the short gap between the hills from Combwich to Pawlett Hill has not been considered.
Such a scheme would
Secure the south Somerset Levels from the sea.
Improve the fluvial capacity of the River Parrett to the benefit of Taunton Deane and South Somerset as well as Sedgemoor.
Provide a bypass and improved road link to West Somerset using EDF’s extended Cannington Bypass.
West Somerset’s economic development is constrained by two roads (A39 & A358) and the need to navigate across either Bridgwater (A39) and Taunton (A358) road systems to get to the M5. With little or no options and no Government money available as part of its road budget it is an area of Somerset where the wealth and opportunity of its population is always constrained and likely to continue. No doubt why it loses industry and income.
It is difficult to understand why West Somerset isn’t trying to improve its economic link to the M5 motorway and via the A39 to Frome, Wells, Shepton Mallet, Street, Glastonbury and Yeovil.
Constructing the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier at Combwich with a road bridge taking advantage of the recently constructed EDF extension to the Cannington Bypass would provide a significant economic benefit to West Somerset.
Taunton Deane & South Somerset
Both local authorities rely on their respective tributaries Rivers Isle, Cary and Tone to convey surface water to the River Parrett and onwards to the sea. No amount of SUDs, storage on the Levels or slow the flow is going to change the fact that you can only get so much fluvial flood water out through the River Parrett. That constraint will ultimately have to be faced by limiting economic development The opportunity has not been taken to leverage the long term benefits for the two districts by moving the barrier downstream.
The reason to relocate the selected Bridgwater Tidal Barrier site downstream is that its preferred location does almost nothing to improve the conveyance of surface water to the sea. Where it is now proposed above the King Sedgemoor Drain outfall means that the full benefit of the KSD/Sowy expansion cannot be achieved or the capacity of the River Parrett optimised. Capacity that would benefit largely Taunton Deane and South Somerset. That scheme is being paid for by everyone and is simply not as good value for money as it could be. Rising sea and tide levels will reduce the time the KSD sluices can discharge. That situation will invariably negatively impact both districts by limiting how much water can go in to the system at their end.
It is therefore surprising that neither council has been pushing the barrier downstream where it could be used to increase conveyance in the same way as the Thames Barrier does. Increasing the overall capacity of the system when the Levels again flood is the priority and an opportunity not to missed offers one less obstruction to those two districts economic development.
Sedgemoor District Council (SDC)
South Somerset Levels
Sedgemoor opted to support a 15Km long scheme that cannot be extended (raised) as sea levels rise. Somewhere a bigger one will be required. Its consultants never looked at what would be the best scheme for Somerset or indeed wider Bridgwater. It is just what would be the cheapest for the EA whilst the SRA and SDC looked on. A location for the barrier where a bridge cannot be added to it is hardly planning for the future but it does ensure the ratepayer does not get value for money.
North Somerset Levels
Defending the North Somerset Levels could be achieved by the construction a new barrier from the Polden Hills to end of the Mendips (Brean Down). Such an undertaking could be easily done providing undeveloped land is identified. We could create a second line of defence over the next 30 years letting Somerset contractors run recycling operations allowing trains to bring in recycled materials to form a continuous flood defence. Its time managed retreat was abandoned.
What is disappointing is that with the SDC Local Plan under development there is no land being reserved for future improvements to the flood defences. The organised surrender of Somerset’s hard won land is being orchestrated by the EA under its Managed Realignment process and no one is challenging it. Everyone in Somerset should be interested in what is being done along the coast for safety and economic reasons. There is simply no plan.
Heart of the South West LEP
The Heart of the West LEP with its support of the BTB a project will ultimately damage local businesses based in most districts (£16-20M of lost land values) whilst in a current study is looking at improving rural businesses . The LEP is an organisation facing both ways to the detriment of everyone.
Somerset needs some joined up thinking and understand the very negative implications of some of Somerset’s flood defence scheme.Only when its built and its limits apparent will people say “if only”.
The Options looked at by the EA lacked any sort of imagination or offered a long term solution; were simply variations on a theme and ignored the nearby topography that offered other options for the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier
It is unacceptable that better engineering options were not identified and presented to councillors; ultimately it should be the ratepayers decision to go for a better solution if they want to. The EA should not presume as it has in this case.
On the 14th July starting at 10.00 am the first opportunity to do something takes place when the SRA scrutiny committee meets in open session at Somerset County Hall, TA1 4DY.
Some Questions to Ask
Why is the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier not also designed to help to mitigate the effects of a similar flood to 2014?
What is the replacement plan for the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier?
What is the cost of a scheme with a bridge ?
Should we only be spending our money on such a limited scheme?
Why wasn’t Combwich and the resulting shorter flood defence system that protects a larger area than the current scheme considered by the EA?
Does the extension of the Cannington bypass towards Combwich necessitate the reassessment of the present scheme?
Should Somerset County Council be looking at a more holistic scheme for Somerset?
Should SCC commission a county wide economic assessment of what an alternative barrier scheme might deliver?
Do we need the EA or should the SRA be expanded to become a delivery focused organisation and the EA limited to a statutory consultee ?
Is the role of environmental charities in developing and influencing flood policy beneficial and do they have a conflict of interest?
Why after 3 years since the flood and 8 years since the barrier identified as the preferred solution is there almost no information about the scheme on the http://www.sedgemoor.gov.uk/bridgwaterbarrier website?
The EA plan another consultation on the full scheme later in 2017. Councillors of all Somerset’s districts might like to look at the economic impact of this scheme (BTB) on their own areas and perhaps county might look at the bigger picture.
An unintended consequence is only the failure to adequately consider a decision before it was made.