Phil Wragg, 1947-2024

When the River Stour rose to its highest ever recorded level on 20th July 2007, it flooded more than 80 homes and businesses in Shipston, including the house that Phil Wragg and his wife Liz had moved into only two months earlier. From that day onwards, Phil campaigned tirelessly to find ways of reducing the risk of flooding in the town.

Initially, this meant ensuring that all planning applications for new housing contained measures to prevent run-off flooding as concrete replaced fields. In many cases, he was able to get the developers to commit to ‘betterment’ with designs which improved on the status quo.

When the Shipston Area Flood Action Group (SAFAG) was formed in 2014 to address the ongoing risk of flooding caused by the river level rising, Phil became its Chairman. As little progress had been made since 2007, he immediately set about challenging the various agencies and authorities to come up with the solutions and funding needed. He and the SAFAG team also embraced the concept of Natural Flood Management (NFM), which relies on water being held back in the headwaters of the Stour through a range of measures such as ponds, bunds and leaky wooden dams to slow the flow and reduce the peak river level.

When the funding eventually started arriving in 2017, Phil systematically went about gaining the support of more than 60 landowners and farmers across the 180sqkm Stour catchment, enabling the SAFAG team to install over 860 NFM interventions between 2017 and 2022 - more than 20% of the total UK figure. This was a remarkable achievement for the only community led catchment-scale project in the country, and in 2021 SAFAG received the Environment Agency’s Community Group of the Year award.

Phil leaves a lasting legacy, and his great efforts have undoubtedly helped reduce the risk of flooding in Shipston and some nearby communities. He was an inspirational leader who will be greatly missed.

Geoff Smith and Mike McCarthy, SAFAG

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