Stunned members of King’s Sutton parish council were given the shock news last night that South Northamptonshire Council’s cabinet will almost certainly decide later this month to cancel the proposed flood alleviation scheme for Wales Street. The scheme’s cancellation means years of hard work by local residents, parish and district councillors, planners, engineering consultants and Environment Agency officials, not to mention tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, will go right down the drain.
Extensive flooding of the Wales Street area of the village in the late 1990s and noughties gave rise to a long, hard-fought-for campaign by local councillors and residents to implement the scheme, and everything seemed set fair for the future when all the financial requirements were met by the local authorities concerned and the Environment Agency earlier this year. Unfortunately, just one Wales Street householder has been able to stymie the entire scheme by refusing to give up his riparian rights to Black Brook, a stream to the rear of his property that would have required diversion to allow construction of the scheme to take place.
SNC’s director of operational delivery, Ian Davies, told councillors at last night’s monthly parish council meeting that his report on the matter (made available today here) would put four options to the council’s cabinet:
SNC’s officers consider it highly unlikely that agreement can be reached with the one outstanding landowner given the consistent stance of rejection he has adopted to date. Even if agreement were achieved, SNC would face an estimated increase in costs of some £50,000 due to the delay in its construction. As a consequence of this increase, it is likely that the Environment Agency funding would be reduced as a result of a revised cost/benefit analysis. If no further funding could be secured from the EA or the Parish Council, the increase in scheme costs would fall to South Northamptonshire Council.
The EA has advised that it is possible to provide an alternative flood alleviation design, which might overcome the remaining householder’s objection. This would involve retention of the existing ditch and watercourse with the addition of control valves at either end to restrict flow at times of flooding. The proposed earth bund would then be constructed along the northern edge of the existing ditch with a new channel, required to drain the flood waters away, constructed across the paddock as originally planned. This course of action would result, however, in further delay and resultant increased costs estimated at £56,000. Again, a potential review by the EA of a revised scheme’s cost/benefit analysis and new agreements with land owners for the maintenance and repair of the valves would also be needed, along with revision of the planning permission.
While there is a possibility legal action could be taken against the landowner who has so far refused to agree to the works being undertaken, it is likely that this would require SNC to seek external legal advice, would incur further expense on top of the costs arising from the delay to the scheme. The extent of the further cost is uncertain as legal action could be challenged by the landowner and therefore, given the whole range of additional costs and risks, this option is not recommended.
This option would offer the least financial risk to SNC, despite the £66,000 the council has already spent on the scheme.
Of these four options, Mr Davies told King’s Sutton parish councillors that he would recommend the last, withdrawal of the scheme. Today Cllr Dermot Bambridge, SNC’s portfolio holder for environmental services, confirmed that the council was likely to adopt that recommendation. Cllr Dermot Bambridge said:
“It is with great disappointment that we have so far been unable to reach a resolution for this project, which SNC has worked tirelessly to bring to fruition.
“A number of options to decide the future of the scheme will be considered by SNC’s Cabinet on Monday, November 14. However the recommendation, regrettably, is to withdraw.”
A total figure of £672,000 in funding – made up of contributions from the Environment Agency (EA), SNC and King’s Sutton Parish Council – was secured for the project, To date, SNC had committed £124,000 of that funding and of that, £66,000 was spent.
A spokesman for King’s Sutton parish council said councillors are currently considering what, if anything, can be done within the village to revive prospects for the Wales Street flood alleviation scheme and an announcement would be made in due course.