Riverside Waste-Tip Hushed-Up for Years
By Chris Marchington,
As any local resident will tell you, Thames floods are not new. 1947 was a shocker. 2006 was also bad. Then, when the heavens opened in 2014, local residents from Windsor to Walton were promised by many vote-chasing bigwigs wearing their brand new wellies, including local MP and Chancellor Philip Hammond, that things would be different in future. Well, so far, so ineffective … and to add insult to injury, a major factor in the inevitable next flood will be man-made.
A building waste and skip hire company, T. Fowles, has built on a huge plot of land that has been key element in protecting riverside land for centuries. According to Environment Agency surveys of this key riverside site, the ground level has been deliberately raised by over a metre between 2006 and 2014. This puts at risk hundreds of properties in Staines, Chertsey, the historical iconic Magna Carta site at Runnymede, (which is literally just over the river) and acres of land downstream as far as Teddington and Sunbury. Without a hint of irony, the Fowles company website contains the classic ‘greenwashing’ message ‘we are proud of our green policies and conscious about the environment.’
New aerial photos expose an incredible story of cover-up and short sighted corner cutting by authorities. Windsor and Maidenhead Council ( also known as RBWM) have been dodging the issue for over twenty years, despite the fact that the land is designated as the highest priority for a flood plain, category type FZ3b.
Finally, the Environment Agency appears to have come to a decision. In a recent letter to the council dated 15th of January, the Environment Agency states they are aware of the unauthorised land raising on the site near Wraysbury, on the banks of The Thames almost opposite Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed by King John in 1215.
But the problem goes a lot deeper (literally). The unauthorised hardstanding is the icing on a very dodgy cake, because, as the EA letter states, over 11,000 cubic metres of rubble and other waste have been dumped on this vital section of Thames flood plain.
An Area of Seven Football Pitches of Floodplain Now Useless
This is now a raised area of over 50,000 square metres – more than seven football pitches – surrounded by a large bank about three quarters of a mile long. The timing could hardly be worse : in full knowledge of the abuse at this site, the E.A. are in the midst of planning a massive capital investment spending millions of taxpayer money in developing alternative floodplain sites and systems, in their ‘River Thames scheme’ . The E.A. claims this plan will ‘reduce flood risk between Datchet and Teddington, the largest area of undefended developed floodplain in England’. According to their estimates, some 15,000 homes and over 2,400 businesses will be safer from flooding.
It begs the question- if the E.A. had done anything to maintain the Hythe End Farm site as a viable floodplain, would those homes and businesses near The Thames be quite so vulnerable ? It will also be interesting to see if Windsor Council continue to stand idly by. There are local elections coming up and many people still remember the chaos caused by the 2014 floods.
Says one local resident, “the Environment Agency letter clearly puts the ball back in the council’s court. We should feel really positive after years of despair, but Simon Dudley’s Tory-led Windsor Council have tip-toed around this issue. They talk about protecting the environment – but it’s just lip service. If, heaven forbid, there’s heavy rainfall this Spring, and the river floods, they will wring their hands, pass round sandbags, and walk away from this disaster again”.
The Environment Agency were approached for a comment but were not available. We can only hope that their planning department and Windsor Council come to the right final decision soon, and correct a man-made environmental disaster just waiting to happen.