Ironically the sun was shining kindly outside as St Mary’s Parish Hall in Lower Sunbury was filled to capacity with river dwellers from the area. Concerned at the possible impact a flood alleviation scheme might have on Sunbury and Shepperton, Village Matters had taken the initiative to call a meeting, gathering Spelthorne MP Kwasi Kwarteng, the Environment Agency and local councillors.
Comparing this year to other great floods of 1947 and 2003, David Murphy, Project Executive for the River Thames Scheme (RTS) explained in his presentation that more water had been recorded going over Teddington weir in February 2014 that during both previous floods combined. That the events of winter 2014 were extreme was not disputed. What we were concerned about was the effect the RTS might have on Sunbury and Shepperton. The channel is proposed to re-join the Thames just above Shepperton and as Wraysbury was severely flooded this year, arguably because of the Jubilee River, we needed answers.
The EA had a chart on their website on February 14th this year showing where river levels had exceeded previous records. It clearly shows that only Walton and Sunbury exceeded previous record levels.
The worry is that the chart showing the potential benefit to riverside communities of the RTS indicates no benefit to exactly those places (see chart):
In other words this expensive scheme may not help us and the EA was quick to admit as much.
It this is the case we need to look at what might help us. Part of the plan is increasing capacity of the weirs at Molesey, Sunbury and Teddington. This would allow water to disperse faster.
The message from MP Kwasi Kwarteng was that we have opened a dialogue and that we should treat this as the beginning. He himself is willing to continue to meet with concerned residents, as is the EA. As a community we must work together to find a solution that will keep us safe.
Meanwhile the EA is also keen to work with residents to create Community Flood Resilience Groups to help us be prepared for the future. We all agree that this will not be the last flood we experience. Dealing with the catastrophe brought out the best in many. Now we have to tap into experience, good will, knowledge and work together to get the best deal we can for our communities.