MP welcomes public inquiry for River Arun
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has welcomed a decision by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to hold a public local inquiry into the proposed abolition of the River Arun Internal Drainage Board (IDB).
Last week Dr Therese Coffey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment, wrote to Mr Herbert to advise him of her decision after he raised concerns on behalf of constituents about the proposed abolition.
In January of this year Mr Herbert held a conference of local stakeholders to address the issues of river and land management in the Arun valley. The event was partly prompted by local concerns about the Environment Agency’s proposals, submitted to Defra in September 2015, to abolish the internal drainage districts (IDD) for the River Arun, River Adur, South West Sussex and River Ouse.
The conference led to a collaboration between stakeholders and the formation of the Arun Valley Vision Group (AVVG), a community-led group that includes farmers and landowners. Over the past year they have been working with the Environment Agency to develop a plan to address issues such as flood management responsibility.
The Group’s aim is to develop a sustainable long-term vision for what is needed in the Arun Valley. They are looking at the strategic challenges and opportunities that exist so that they can propose an action plan that would protect properties, habitats, and farming.
The Arun Valley Vision Group is jointly chaired by Arundel residents Gill Farquharson and Dr John Godfrey, who welcomed the Minister’s announcement. They said: “The public inquiry will enable the implications of the possible abolition of the IDB to be fully considered in the context of the work which the AVVG is doing to develop a community vision for the management of the Arun Valley.”
Mr Herbert said: “I don’t think it made sense to abolish the IDB until the newly-formed Arun Valley Vision Group, which is after all bringing all the interested parties together, had a chance to consider the issues and recommend a way forward.
“Everyone will now have the opportunity to make their views known at the Inquiry and I hope that ministers will wait until the Vision Group reports before taking final decisions.”
1. To read the letter from Therese Coffey to Nick Herbert, confirming the public local inquiry see here.
2. To read more about the Arun Valley Vision Group see www.avvg.co.uk.
3. Internal drainage boards (IDB) are public bodies which manage water levels in some areas where there is a special need for drainage. These areas are known as internal drainage districts (IDD). Until 31 March 2017, the Environment Agency Board acted as the Internal Drainage Board for 4 internal drainage districts in West Sussex.
These were the only remaining areas in the country where the Environment Agency still acted as an Internal Drainage Board. Responsibility for managing local watercourses (ordinary watercourses) is more appropriately dealt with by local councils and individuals who can act effectively to achieve the outcomes communities want to see.
The Environment Agency is aiming to transfer the management of ordinary watercourses within the 4 Sussex IDD to local ownership by abolishing the IDD and helping local councils and landowners put alternative arrangements in place.
In September 2015, the Environment Agency submitted proposals to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to abolish the River Arun, River Adur, South West Sussex and River Ouse (East Sussex) IDD and advertised the proposals locally.