Nick has been supporting residents affected by the collapse of a section of river wall in Arundel in January 2016.
The wall forms part of the town's flood defence and the damage has put three properties at immediate risk, as well as increasing the risk of flooding to a further 16 properties in the town.
The Environment Agency (EA) stepped in at the time of the wall collapse and shored up the defence with temporary ballast bags to stabilise it and prevent further deterioration. However, it has since transpired that it is not the Agency's responsibility to repair the wall, as this lies with the householders as riparian owners.
Nick has chaired successive meetings with the residents, the EA, Arundel Town Council and Arun District Council to try and broker a solution, and he convened a meeting of the insurers at the House of Commons, successfully obtaining ex-gratia payments from them to cover some of the work.
He also succeeded in persuading the EA to offer £200,000 towards the repair costs, a sum which the Agency says is justified by preventing an increase in the risk of flooding to the additional 16 properties.
A contractor is currently working nearby on the River Arun at Arundel and is able to undertake the repairs, but the authorities have so far declined to commission the work because of concerns about risk and cost overruns.
Nick believes that the residents are being trapped in a ‘Catch 22’ situation where, despite having raised the funds to pay for the repairs, they are not being permitted to get the work done.
In June 2018 Nick met the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to raise the issue and ask for his help to unlock Environment Agency funds.
The Environment Secretary said that the River Road situation appeared to be a special case where it made sense to allow repairs which would cost much less than the official estimates.
Mr Gove wrote to the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, to ask if a solution could be found to enable the repairs. The EA have responded by announcing that they will accelerate a flood defence scheme in Arundel, which was proposed in the Lower Tidal River Arun Strategy (LTRAS), and will include the repair of the river wall as part of the works. Work is planned to begin in Autumn 2019, some two to three years earlier than the originally proposed work.
Nick believes that there is a very strong case for the Agency to act pragmatically to enable these essential repairs, and he welcomes their response to deliver work next year, including an inspection in February.
Nick has been given invaluable support throughout by Derek Waller, a local resident who has given a great deal of his time to help resolve the problem.
1. PRESSING THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO ACT
Immediately after the wall collapse, Nick got in touch with the residents, Arundel Town Council and the Environment Agency (EA). He met with the residents and local councillors at Arundel Town Hall on 16 January 2016 and again the week afterwards.
In February 2016, Nick again spoke with the Area Director of the EA to ask for their support in repairing the wall. You can read their response here.
Nick chaired several meetings with the residents, Arundel Town Council, his advisor Derek Waller, and Arun District Council. Arun District Council, West Sussex County Council, Arundel Town Council and residents commissioned a special report – The Archibald Shaw report – to provide a detailed analysis of the issue and the solution.
In March 2016 Nick raised the issue with the Environment Minister, Rory Stewart.
In September 2016 Nick challenged the EA’s response and asked them to reconsider their position. You can read Nick’s e-mail here.
2. WORKING WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANIES AND THE EA TO SECURE FUNDING
In July 2016, the residents advised Nick that they had reached an impasse with their insurers, with two out of the three saying they would not make any settlement. Nick wrote to each of the insurance companies - a copy of his letter can be read here.
In October 2016, Nick called a meeting in Westminster with the senior executives from each insurance agency, the Association of British Insurers and the EA. Shortly afterwards, the insurers contacted their clients to agree on individual settlement sums, including ex-gratia payments. These sums go some way towards the repairs, but could not fully fund them.
Following this meeting, the EA also agreed to fund £200,000 towards the repair costs, a sum which the Agency says is justified by preventing an increase in the risk of flooding to the additional 16 properties. However, it subsequently transpired that this offer was conditional on the EA, or another Risk Management Authority, undertaking the work, which the EA claimed would cost between £1 million and £5 million. This meant that there was insufficient funding for the repairs. Nick raised this issue with the EA – read his e-mail here – but the EA maintained their position. You can read Nick’s e-mail update to residents here.
3. BACKING A NEW SOLUTION
In January 2018, the residents, working together as River Road Action Group (RRAG), advised Nick that they had received two quotes from engineering companies. Their preferred option was with a company already working on another section of the river wall in Arundel, WPH Marine Ltd, and because the equipment needed for the work was already in situ this helped to lower the project costs.
In February 2018, Nick convened meetings with the RRAG, Arundel Town Council, WPH Marine Ltd, and Derek Waller to discuss the new quote and the way forward.
In March 2018, Nick met with WPH Marine Ltd to discuss the project in detail. Nick then personally prepared a funding spreadsheet on behalf of the RRAG to assist them in taking the project forwards, asking both the EA and Arun District Council to consider commissioning the work as Risk Management Authorities. After weeks of consideration both authorities declined to commission the repairs, on the grounds that they believed the costs would be higher than stated, and they were unwilling to carry the risk. The e-mail from the EA can be read here, and from Arun District Council here.
Faced with this impasse, Nick brought the case directly to the attention of the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, meeting him in June 2018 and following up with a letter to him which you can read here. The Secretary of State agreed to intervene with the EA. You can read more about this here.
4. the solution
At the beginning of October the Environment Agency announced plans to bring forward the Arundel part of the Lower Tidal River Arun Strategy (LTRAS) to improve flood defences in areas of the town at highest risk. This will include repairs to the River Road wall to be started first and work is proposed to begin in Autumn 2019 which is some two to three years earlier than originally planned. The whole scheme is expected to be completed by Autumn 2020. The EA have stated they will be doing an inspection in February to identify any changes or deterioration. The whole scheme for the Arundel section will protect around 130 properties from flooding and up to 30 properties from river erosion on both river banks. It is estimated to cost £4 million, with the majority funded by a Government grant, along with local contributions of £750,000. The local contributions will be made up of Arundel Town Council funding raised through its precept, and the insurance payouts which Nick helped to secure for the residents immediately affected by the River Road wall collapse. West Sussex County Council and Arun District Council are also expected to contribute. A copy of the EA’s newsletter to residents can be read here.