Notes of the Drainage Meeting held on the 1st September 2009

Notes of the Drainage Meeting held on the 1st September 2009

Notes of the Village Meeting about Drainage,
Called by Birdham Parish Council,
Tuesday, 1st September 2009

Present: The Chairman (Roger Tilbury) and five other Parish Councillors; 43 members of the public; Julie Whitney (Manhood Peninsula Partnership); Gavin Holder (CDC); County and District Cllr Montyn; the Clerk.

The Chairman introduced the speakers, and explained that the meeting was the result of increasing reports of problems with the drainage of surface water through the Parish’s ditch network. The geology of the area also means that water drains away extremely slowly, and because the village is near the sea the water table is very high; in places it is only 50 cm below the surface. The drainage system is easily overwhelmed because it was designed for agriculture and not to cope with the number of properties now built. Drains have often been culverted without permission, and may be blocked or too small for the volume they have to take. They also silt up without regular maintenance. Ditches are not always maintained, tend to get overgrown with vegetation, and sometimes silted up. The aim is to map all the ditches in Birdham to create an accurate baseline for action. Because the problem is so complex there is no guarantee that it can be solved by ditch maintenance alone.

Julie Whitney said that the Manhood Peninsula Partnership had grown out of the “Going Dutch” workshops and the Espace project. It is a strategic policy partnership and brings together a variety of interested parties and official organisations on the Manhood. It has commissioned land drainage studies in the past. It also supports green actions such as the use of grey water in Birdham School, encouraging cycling etc. It is turning its attention back to land drainage, including in Birdham, as well as sea defences. New legislation is being proposed which, if it goes through, will change responsibilities. A community-based approach will not solve problems, but may help sort them out.

Gavin Holder is Assistant Engineer at CDC. He is the main contact at CDC for land drainage enquiries and explained that riparian owners bear the main responsibility for ditch maintenance and keeping watercourses clear. Riparian owners are those who live next to a watercourse not owned by someone else. WSCC is responsible for drainage on highways. CDC has permissive powers to act on flooding. It can investigate on whose land a problem occurs, can tell owners to do work and enforce this if it is not done. CDC sends out flooding surveys to every parish in September to be returned in March, and these give a picture of flooding in the whole District.

The Chairman said that Birdham PC will compile as much information as possible. The PC can approach local people informally, but if that doesn’t work, it can get CDC to step in. Bosham PC has appointed a part-time water bailiff, who reports to the PC each month. He asked for volunteers to survey the Parish’s ditch network over the winter and to report back in time for the results to be presented to a meeting on Monday, 8th March 2010.

Some of the points made by members of the public were: as follows. Birdham Parish Council cannot vouch for the accuracy of some of the information. [Later information in square brackets]

- Much of the water finds its way to the sea through farmland and many ditches are silted up.
- The imminent removal of silt from the Village Pond may cause silting in the rife which runs to Birdham Pool which is in any case a constant problem.
- The ditch between the pond in Florence Close and Crooked Lane is absolutely clogged. Is HydeMartlett responsible here?
- There is a culvert running behind Cherry Lane, which needs clearing, but the cost to clear it would be disproportionate for the twelve properties involved. There needs to be research as soon as possible to find out whether any organisation or Council has any money to clear culverts like this one. [CDC does not] This culvert meets the one from Walwyn Close and there have been flooding problems there too.
- If an area is designated as being at risk of flooding, it has a negative impact on property as the owners may not be able to get insurance against flood damage. It was reported that the area of Birdham south of the Bell Inn has been called a “Flood Zone”; is this simply a way of avoiding action? [Iinformation needs to be sought from the Environment Agency which designates “flood zones”]
- WSCC says it does not own ditches adjacent to the highway (except for 38 metres north of the Church Lane junction with Birdham Straight), but some people’s deeds say they do not own the ditch either. [WSCC is responsible for the “grips which drain the road into the ditch/watercourse] There is often confusion between curtilages shown on deeds and the “hedge and ditch presumption” that the property owner is responsible for both. Borders may be half way across the ditch. Clarification is needed.
- The access to Whitestone Farm was under 6 feet of water last January and the cottage under 4 feet, but the water began to subside when the pump near Briery Cottage was switched on, having taken four months to repair.
- Even the highest part of Birdham floods although it is 7.4 metres above sea-level.
- Instead of the circulatory ditch network in Church Lane should there not be a new direct link to the pond?
- The ditch along Sidlesham Lane runs to Birdham Straight, and it is not clear where it goes after that.
- There are concerns that a current application for 50 acres of glass in Sidlesham will have an effect on the drainage from Birdham towards the sea.
- A question was asked as to whether Section 106 money could be used for improving the drainage. [A Senior Planner has said this is unlikely but developers are often given a condition that the drainage network must be able to accept additional surface water and to make modifications if it is not suitable. Planning applications can be refused on land drainage grounds, especially if the Environment Agency objects. We need to know their criteria]

Twenty-one residents volunteered to monitor particular areas of the village over the winter. They will be issued with maps and guidance areas of the village.

The Chairman thanked the other speakers and the audience and invited them back to the next meeting on Monday, 8th March 2010.