History shows best river management

THE flood mitigation scheme presented to Godmanchester residents for consultation is too little, too late. Letters in these columns over several weeks have expressed dissatisfaction in various ways with the service now being rendered by the Environment Ag

THE flood mitigation scheme presented to Godmanchester residents for consultation is too little, too late.

Letters in these columns over several weeks have expressed dissatisfaction in various ways with the service now being rendered by the Environment Agency, the body now entrusted with responsibilities inherited from the river boards and water authorities.

The methodology at present practised in relation to husbandry of our rivers and watercourses is all too evident - dereliction says it in one word.

The basic requirement of flood protection was best expressed by Cornelius Vermuyden, who claimed and tamed the realm of Hereward the Wake - the Fens. He recognised that flood waters should always be got away.


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The present dereliction and ignoring of the capability of exploiting the energy of the river, as used by our forebears, cries out for examination.

A diversion of the river's approach from the west formed a mill lode and a pond that is the Causeway pool. When water is drawn down, the shape exposed is clearly seen as a concave bowl, leading to the draining sluices. The river cargo trade used the boat lock and the channel bordering Portholme meadow.

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From the Causeway pool a mill race led to the old mill, where two sluices fed energy to the grindstones. The two flumes are still there, one now a sluice and the other an overspill weir. Our forebears' understanding of the importance of flow rate principles was obviously understood. They did not build the two weir overspills along the bank with bridges to the boat lock as a scenic feature - they were to boost the flow rate along the boat channel and give further flood relief.

With the sluices, this made every possible use of the energy contained in the height difference between the two levels.

The need for a bridge over Cooks Stream was realised by a benefactor, and eight arches were formed over that conduit. The recent half-hearted, pathetic effort by the EA to make better use of the eight arches is acknowledgment at least of its importance. Widening of the banks to use all eight arches needs to extend at least to the viaduct bridge of the A14. it does not need depth because there is a brick base through the arches.

The need is to lower the flood level. Most locals know that, if a flood persists, the water rises in the low areas away from the river - the erection of banks over permeable strata was a weakness recognised by Vermuyden. The only way to lower flood level is to increase discharge capability flood rate.

As to cost, surely cost-effectiveness and long-term capability should be the main considerations. Our forebears did not count the cost - they built for posterity, and I'm sick of hearing the authorities say: "No longer fit for purpose" and proceeding to spoil instead of enhance.

I did not like the disingenuous remarks by Geoff Brighty, the EA's area manager, about the opinions of a former colleague, or his patronising attitude. But I noted that he conveniently mentioned that the agency's policies reflected Government policy on managing flood risk.

Our Causeway vista needs protection - but beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

PAT DOHERTY

Former Mayor of Godmanchester

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