Note of meeting held it St Helen’s Church with the Environment Agency and Derbyshire Dales District Council 10 February 2022 in St Helen’s Church
From the EA: Alex McDonald, Senior Flood Risk Adviser; Reece Oakden, asset performance and remotely, Lucy Jarvis, flood resilience.
From DCC: Alex Back, Flood Risk Management.
From the Parish Council: Bob Wilson, Chair; District and Parish Councillor Peter O’Brien; Cllrs Andrew Battarbee, Elizabeth Coe, Ray Whitely, Rob Tamlyn, John Morton, John Mottershaw and Hilary Hart. Sarah Battarbee, Clerk.
From the village: John Wood, Phil and Jill Edge, Mary Armitage, Andrew Battye, Jo Simmonds, Paul Thorpe, Nick Bater, Dave Kirkup, Simon Seligman, Nina Blackwood, Sue Fairbrother, Adrienne Kay, Paul Moore.
In summary the meeting identified two phases of work, short and long term. From about 2024 projects to increase the amount of water going onto flood plains, with the possibility of artificial dams in tributaries and perhaps in the Derwent itself, are being explored. That leaves potential flooding in 2022 and 2023 to guard against.
Short term measures
Tree Clearance. This is a key element of short term defences; if trees don’t reach the bridge then there will not be a build-up behind it, and water running freely down river may mean less or no flooding.
Tree clearance by the EA was generally thought to be working well. Local residents regularly patrolled the banks and reported trees in danger of falling in and going downstream. They also report direct to Tony Houghton EA who is doing a good job. There were issues with fisherman tying trees to the bank to attract fish, which were not secure in a storm, and landowners not taking proper responsibility for vulnerable trees on their land.
More proactive removal of trees, ie while they are still on land and more accessible, was discussed. EA said that it was a matter for landowners to manage their trees, although they would write to any landowner with a tree clearly in need of attention, and remove trees where the landowner was unable to do so.
Tree clearance also reduces the risk to the sewage pipe. The pipe is the responsibility of Severn Trent and is regularly visually inspected.
Residents spotting tied trees to take a photo and report either to Alex Back at Alexander.Back@derbyshiredales.co.uk, or the parish clerk on email@example.com
Ditto trees which look like they are in danger of falling into the river
Grindleford Parish Council to compile a list of landowners along the banks of the Derwent up to Hathersage.
JW asked if EA could walk the riverbank to see the trees which are in doubt – maybe when RO does the levels for us if there is time.
If the pipe breaks whoever spots it should report it immediately to the Severn Trent emergency line, the Environmental Agency emergency line, or both.
SB, RO, JW
Water draw down from the reservoirs. It was made clear that changing the underlying legislation on this is not going to get agreement from Severn Trent. However the EA are in discussion with ST lawyers about making arrangements which reflect local circumstances as far as is possible within the existing legislation. There is a legal agreement between ST and EA that ST will respond to EA’s request for draw down within 24 hours (although ST have the right to refuse if they have a cast iron argument as to why not.) The window for draw down is July to January.
There was an acknowledgement that projected increased rainfall would exacerbate the problem of the dam complex over topping.
We would like EA to persuade ST to give us some more detail on why a change to the legislation is not possible. We understand they do not feel able to change the national legislation because while it might favour Grindleford, so close to a reservoir, it could disadvantage somewhere else (villages and towns along the Trent?) We would like to understand better.
EA committed to keeping us updated on the outcome of the regular meetings between EA and ST.
There is quite a strongly held view that finessed management within the existing legislation could still make a big difference. EA committed to doing their utmost to get draw down as right as possible, although unpredictable weather is always a wild card.
Drains and leaves. Surface water is a contributing factor to flooding in Grindleford. Alex Back from DCC gave us some optimistic news; the Council is moving to a cyclical risk based schedule for drain clearance, prioritising those in greatest need.
Grindleford should score highly and might hope to have drains cleared every six months.
The same applies to leaf clearance.
Residents spotting a blocked drain should take a photo if possible, and send to the clerk firstname.lastname@example.org for forwarding to DCC. Or report it themselves, DCC website, then ‘report a fault’ (middle bottom box). SB to advertise.
SB to find out when drains will be cleared and ask residents through the usual channels to park elsewhere so that a thorough job can be done.
John Wood to send the clerk a map of the drains in Grindeford, to forward.
Dave Kirkup and John Morton to draw a sketch of the gullies outside The Old Post Office and send to the clerk.
Levels survey. The EA confirmed that we did not need their permission to carry out a professional levels and water management survey (although we would need the landowners’ permission). The EA would not however be able to fund such a survey.
Reece Oakden then very kindly offered to take a few levels for us in the nearer future, to establish the immediate topography. SMB volunteered to find someone to go round with him to write down the information and draft a report for his approval, so that it was not too time consuming for him. The offer was very gratefully accepted.
Clerk to identify landowners and get permissions as required.
Clerk to determine, with help, where levels might best be taken
Clerk to contact Reece and find a good time to take the levels
SB and others
SB, RO, others
Longer term measures
Flood plains, artificial dams, subsidies, tree replanting. Alex McDonald reported on Derwent Connection, a project underway with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (contact Rachel Bennett) to manage the water by slowing down the river and its tributaries, identifying floodplains further upstream away from residential areas, and investigating subsidies to encourage farmers to farm water rather than sheep. (There is no legislation to insist that farmers permit flooding onto fields marked as flood plains). Slowing the river down will also prevent scouring of the river bed and banks. Tree replanting is also part of this project. It is expected to be implemented in 2024.
This does seem to be our best hope of avoiding flooding long term.
EA to report regularly on progress. LJ and SB to set up regular (six monthly) catch-ups.
The Grindleford Tree Group may have an interest in starting to replace trees which have been removed from the riverbank before 2024. They can provide manpower and trees, it’s land to plant they are looking for, could be a perfect symbiosis.
EA, LJ, SB
EA and PT to liaise?
The DCC report on the enquiry into the 2019 flooding. This report has no mention of Derwent Reservoir and only one of Grindleford (closure of the bridge). The relevant measures in this report for Grindleford were mostly to do with drains clearance, but ongoing implementation will be key.
We would like assurances that DCC is aware of the dangers posed by flooding to residents and property in Grindleford, and has a long term embracing strategy.
Q and A session
Proposal to disband the Flood Group in its current format. The Parish Council to take over liaison with relevant agencies, etc. The flood wardens would liaise with the PC on immediate practical flood resilience issues, John Baily and Bob Wilson are the current wardens, JW outgoing warden to act as liaison between the two and members of the flood group who will still be available to help. The PC discussed this at their meeting following on and agreed.
PC to have a standing agenda item on flooding.
Alex Back reminded those affected by the 2019 flood to put in their claim to DDC within the next few days, deadline end of Feb.
District Cllr O’Brien summarised. He said that if there is a repeat of the weather we saw in 2019 we should all acknowledge that Grindleford will remain susceptible to flooding, but that the village expected Derbyshire County Council to have a strategy to minimise the risk to people and property. Meanwhile local management should reduce the risk as far as possible. He welcomed the offer of a levels check by the EA and thought the Parish Council would be open to funding minor works. A risk based approach to gully and leaf clearance was also welcome and should be effective. It was important that these measures should continue into the future and we should be working in partnership with the Council’s staff.
Alex Back reiterated the importance of having an active local group, and said that certain measures are not effective, and therefore wouldn’t be implemented, without local help on the ground when flooding occurs.
The Parish Council Chair thanked the Flood Group for the huge amount of work which they had done to get us this far, in particular Mary Armitage, secretary, Sue Fairbrother, chair, and outgoing wardens John Wood and Nick Bater. He thanked those attending for a useful, informative and thoughtful session, and the church for providing the space for the meeting.