Monthly Archives: December 2012

Flood Alleviation Report

 This was sent to Shropshire Council’s Chief Executive in August 2011


 I didn’t realise, I fear, that you chair Shropshire’s Flood body so am somewhat abashed!  Nonetheless, I did tell Keith I’d offer suggestions …. After attending a Catchment Management Conference at Lancaster University, I did establish a few contacts – AND it was confirmed, as Professor Bains told SCC a few years ago, that a couple of simple strategies can have a very significant impact in terms of run-off retention and flood alleviation, viz:

 1.         buffer strips (fencing against grazing a few metres alongside watercourses; and

 2.         afforestation.

 [Associated strategies might include : contour ploughing; replanting by brooks; fencing off old watercourses; appropriate crops, e.g. no potatoes, by streams].

 First question – Do they work?  Yes! as I’m sure you know.  The evidence base is very strong.  Indeed, buffer strips clock in within a very short rime.

 [See notes at end].

 So : The key questions

 1.         Who leads?

 2.         Who pays (indeed, to whom!)


1.         Leader?  Frankly, I’d always thought it should be the E.A. …. But there’s not clear evidence of their coming forward.  However, I’ve no reservations about their keen‑ness as partners.  Shropshire Council is unique in having a democratic legitimacy, so your leading it – perhaps with the Cabinet lead – must be entirely appropriate.

 2.         Other partners – clearly intimately linked with funders/fundees – could include CLA, NFU, EA, E.Nature, S.Trent, Defra, OFWAT (who gave a prominent report at Lancaster) … etc.  (National Trust and other large landowners?).

 3.         Funders that have been identified to me include : Defra, SITA Trust (or equivalents), Nat England, E.A., EU Agri-Env. Schemes?

             We can press this more broadly.  If you looked at who paid the costs of clearing up Tenbury – twice, I think? ….

 County Council

District Council




             We could add to the list.  The basic point being, of course, that all these ‘victims’, by paying relatively small amounts on preventative measures will avoid disastrous events/costs in the future.  Preventative measures, at least for quite a few years, will perforce be cumulative – short-term ‘project’ funds do not answer.

             Similarly, farmers especially need the carrot of eco-friendly farming funding since no government has ever had the stomach for the stick of legislative prohibitions.


             Our own Highway Department could be a very interested player (+ funder!) … water across roads does huge damage (meaning ice, too, of course).  We have a large severe water reserve …. we should be looking at prevention of run off.

             Highways solution to standing water – culverts – may not help the matter.

             Else within the Authority, we have Floods Officer, Land Drainage responsibilities and a Bio Diversity brief.  This – I expect there’s more – is enough to give us a role, indeed a responsibility.

             All the foregoing is by way of appealing to Shropshire Council

 –        to acknowledge the problem (I’m sure we do);

 –        to identify key/simple strategies; and

 –        as Community Leader to:

 (a)        bang the drum;

 (b) .. knock heads together (gently)

           HOWEVER – As Lord Smith acknowledged 3 or 4 years ago – some good things ARE happening : drum-banging would aid them, disseminate information and good practice : and encourage rollout/replication.

            Taking communities – geographical as well as interests – with us is clearly vital.  The AONB’s Blue Remembered Hills activities led, inter alia, to the Upper Clun Community catchment which sustains itself long after the initial funding expired.  These people support catchment-sensitive farming etc.  I’m indebted to our own Mike Perry for his briefing.  BUT the activities are facilitated (paid for) via the threat to the pearl mussel :  Upper Clun is one of only three sites in the UK for these bivalves and is a S.A.C.

            Similarly, Martin Davies – who formerly worked for our Museums Services! – has a similar project running on Nat. Trust land in Upper Wharfedale, Yorks:

* I attach his Report on this (I met him in Lancaster) (1)

            (He also sent an E.A. book on river management techniques – I’ll give this to David L Edwards, together with the other presentations).

            Prof. Keith Beven, who chaired the Lancaster event sent an email which was very poignant …. very academic twitchiness about jumping off the fence as to what really works!!!

            * I attach his email ² not so much for that as for his attached summaries of catchment management techniques which probably do work …. possibly he softens my brutal simplicity!

Finally, Mike Kelly at the AONB and David L Edwards are clearly very well informed : my report is merely a few footnotes to expertise/knowledge held within Shropshire Council and other bodies.  The AONB, interestingly already links with Lancaster University; and I think David sees opportunities in their offer.

As with so many things – and I think Shropshire Council has now had THREE Task and Finish Groups on these matters! – It would be great to distil a couple of simple messages and Take Action !!

In which context, I hope this may be helpful.


Best wishes.


P.S. For completion I attach ³ my Conference report from last summer.

Meeting the Challenge: 100 Not Out!

Party President Tim Farron,MP, issued a stiff challenge to party members in March. He challenged everyone to sign up 50 members by the end of the year.

It proved such a stiff Challenge that only one member has met it!

I have (to date) recruited 104 ‘subscribers’ – 65 members and 39 donors – virtually all of them are within the branch are of Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire, which now has 92 members !!

We an excellent reputation for local activism. Local people are generous in expressing their appreciation. Our great councillors-Charlotte Barnes (my successor), Heather Kidd (one of the party’s top campaign managers) and Nigel Hartin (group leader) all do a fantastic job. Everyone wants them re-elected in 2013 !

There is support,too , for our Coalition. Policies like the pension triple lock, the pupil premium and support for apprenticeships are applauded, and the raising of the tax threshold is really important in a low income area like Shropshire.

My key message? The main impediment is Yourself! Just resolve to DO IT ! Once you have knocked on the first few doors,you will be full of confidence—and success!’

With (seated from left) Shropshire Councillors Nigel Hartin, Heather Kidd, Charlotte Barnes

With (seated from left) Shropshire Councillors Nigel Hartin, Heather Kidd, Charlotte Barnes