Shipston Area Flood Action Group Update

Shipston Area Flood Action Group (SAFAG) has continued its programme of flood alleviation measures throughout the lockdown period with existing health and safety procedures augmented for social distancing and appropriate use of PPE for contractors where relevant.

As all our work is outside, and being blessed with good weather, our progress has barely slowed although the Environment Agency’s monitoring training sessions were cancelled causing the subsequent postponement of community team monitoring programmes.

It is worth reminding everyone that most works take place well upstream of Shipston as the aim is to slow the flow of water reaching the main river in heavy rainfall. I am pleased to report

that following 2018’s programme of more than 300 NFM (natural flood management) interventions and last years’s programme of more than 100 NFM interventions in and around the Upper Stour upstream of Stourton/Cherington, the 2020 programmes for Long Compton and Brailes are now well under way.

Work at Long Compton should be finalised in July with the installation of over 140 interventions on and around Nethercote Brook and its feeder watercourses.

In Brailes we have already completed 50 interventions around Sutton Brook with a further 70 planned after the harvest period. Some finishing off work is also to be done in the Sibford area with another 15 features planned for July/August.

Last winter’s rain caused damage to several of our dams on Pigbrook, Paddlebrook and Kneebrook which need repair. This has also highlighted the opportunity for some augmentation with 25 additional dams and some water retention areas now planned within the 2018 scheme area around Kneebrook. This additional work and repairs will be done later this year.

The damage from last winter’s rain has also led to Long Compton and Brailes’ Parish Councils agreeing to include funding for long term NFM maintenance within their annual precepts. It now seems clear that climate change will continue to deliver extreme weather at increased frequencies, so the interventions we are doing will require maintenance. We are therefore now encouraging all Town and Parish Councils to allocate the necessary funding.

By the end of summer 2020 our programme should total around 800 interventions on the main watercourses feeding into the River Stour above Shipston. Considering only 50% of these were in place last November when we had the heaviest rainfall since 2007 and we know that they helped alleviate flood risk to the town and downstream villages, this further work can be reasonably expected to improve protection still further.

We are also scoping out further programmes elsewhere in the catchment, including further upgrades to existing schemes, and we are seeking additional funding to undertake such work later this year or in 2021. Besides Long Compton and Brailes, other community groups from Cherington/Stourton, Darlingscote and Sutton-under-Brailes have also joined with us so we really do have full catchment wide community involvement.

There is a need for a major upgrade of SAFAG’s website which we currently do ‘in house’ as best we can. We simply do not have the professional skills, time or money to undertake this properly and despite being one of the leading flood groups in the country in terms of results the presentation and promotion of our achievements, particularly via social media, is being left behind. We need a modern website to promote our work and secure new funding to build on our success. This will also help us attract the volunteers young and old which we will need to sustain the programme into the future. If anyone with experience in web design would be willing volunteer their help it would be much appreciated.

Meanwhile, and as ever, we would like to thank all our agency and local authority partners for their help but especially the approximately 40 farmers, landowners and others in the catchment community whose unstinting support has made and is making all this possible.

Phil Wragg, Chairman.

Shipston Area Flood Action Group

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