Castle Point Cabinet “debated” the new Environment Agency (EA) Draft Flood Risk Management Plan that is out for consultation. A subject having great concern in the recent few years locally, not least for Canvey Island.
During the previous two years, storms have highlighted how the Canvey Island drainage system has been found wanting through ill-prepardness, lack of maintenance and basically of limited capability, in light of the topography of the area.
The two existing flood Plans, the Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP) and the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment SFRA) are open to criticism.
Firstly, the SFRA delivered some months late, in fact causing the suspension of the Examination in Public of the Core Strategy!
This delay appeared to be caused by CPBC, realising the foreboding manner of presentation of the draft documents contents, meeting with the EA so as to finalise a less sensational and public concerning document with it’s producers Scott Wilson.
This was made more evident by the empty chair, vacated by Scott Wilson’s representative, at the Core Strategy Examination on the day that Flood Risk in the Borough was debated!
The fact that CPBC published a local Plan, with the housing growth distribution agreed (on Canvey Green Belt), ahead of evidence from the Flood Risk Assessment was indication itself that “Local Factors” was influencing decision making!
The continuing reassurance that our sea defence is the finest in the UK is all well and good, however it is not the finest in Europe, by some measure. It is the best that could be afforded at the time. God forbid it is not tested in the same way that the drainage system was during the August and July floods. Ongoing work is required in the medium term to maintain the standard of its defence.
Residents should not be under the assumption that the drainage pumps will cope with flooding should the sea defence be breached.
The SWMP, gleefully adopted by the CPBC as it misleadingly indicated the mainland was at a higher risk of flooding compared with Canvey Island, is another document with serious issues.
Unfortunately the desk work failed to prepare us for the practical effects from flooding felt by residents of Canvey Island during 2013 and 2014.
There are serious faults in this SWMP that the Canvey Green Belt Campaign group have documented and challenged the Environment Agency over.
Input of historical events by CPBC officers have been a hindrance, and the checking of detail found wanting.
Further probing by us has led to the document’s whole relevance being doubted. A fact endorsed by the EA.
The apparent esteem in which Scott Wilson is held in by CPBC cabinet is correct, except where local interference of their documents effectively dilutes the messages contained within them.
The trivialising of debate by certain cabinet members was illustrated by the patronising response by one member, who defended an officer under question, with the comment: “we have professional officers who are professional!”
Locally the positive shift of responsibility for flood risk onto one lead authority,Essex County, appears to be an opportunity to direct blame for previous misdemeanours, inappropriate levels of housing growth, lack of an emergency evacuation plan etc, onto the newly appointed responsible agency.
The value of green open space, the dykes, ditches and rivers in the drainage of Canvey must be realised and their status maintained.