EA slammed over Parrett Barrier

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) are not happy. The IWA made a submission to the Bridgwater Tidal Barrier Scheme Project Board, which had been brushed aside.

What the IWA hoped to achieve was that some land would be set aside to allow navigation of the Parrett when the barrier was closed. The EA’s own projections suggest that as climate change worsens, this could be necessary as much as 60 days a year.

So the IWA wanted a channel built, with locks to control water flow, that would allow shipping to continue to navigate the Parrett at all times.

In May 2018, EA responded to IWA’s request for the relevant land to be reserved, stating that this would not be possible due to their access, operational and craneage requirements on the west side of the barrier.

So the IWA got their consultant engineer to work and showed that EA’s access requirements and a lock channel could co-exist. Something that was discussed in detail by IWA, Bridgwater Town Council (on behalf of the community) and EA on three separate occasions, in September 2018, December 2018 and June 2019.

The EA are not keen on having their “facts” challenged. Remember all the fuss about how the rivers did not need to be dredged back in 2012/14?

Now at the last minute, in fact when it is already too late, the IWA has been informed that a recent meeting of the Project Board decided not to reserve extra land for the scheme.

They cited the following reasons which according to the IWA had not been discussed previously:

  • Increased risk of challenge to the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) … on the grounds of using public funds to acquire land for a purpose that has no identified method or certainty of delivery.
  • The land required … would exceed the permanent land footprint of the Barrier.  This would increase risk of a challenge to the TWAO … and also increase cost.
  • If the additional land were included in the TWAO, its impact would have to be fully assessed in the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Statement, resulting in programme delay and increased cost.

The IWA claim these were not discussed previously and were raised by the EA at a point when the decision was taken. So it was too late to challenge the facts.

We only have the IWA version of events but suffice it to say, this approach would not surprise residents of the Levels who experienced the EA’s modus operandi during the floods. Or residents of Isle Brewers in their attemtps to get an illegally constructed bund removed.

The town of Langport has done much in recent years to increase the recreational use of The River Parrett. There has been the River Project success and the start of river boat cruises on the Duchess of Cocklemoor and the advent of Langport Boat Hire.

Bridgwater wants to make much more of the Parrett for recreational use too.

But once again the EA appear to be able to do their own thing without any local accountability.

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