12:00PM, Friday 04 June 2021
A parish council is preparing to pursue a judicial review of the decision not to build a flood relief channel that would have run through the borough.
The channel was to be part of the River Thames Scheme, which includes the construction of several flood relief channels running through a number of local authorities.
Surrey County Council (SCC) stumped up £237m towards the £640m scheme, alongside other authorities contributing similar amounts.
The Royal Borough was asked to contribute about £52m for Channel 1, but only committed to £10m.
As a result, the scheme – which was originally supposed to run from Teddington, Richmond to Datchet – will now only go up to Egham, Staines.
Almost 1,600 people signed a petition asking the borough ‘to honour its commitment’ to partnership funding in April. The petition went to full council at the end of the month.
In the meeting, the Royal Borough said it would cost it £1.3m per year for 50 years to cover the £40m of additional funding for Channel 1 and that this would equate to an extra two per cent council tax per year.
Since there was ‘no Government action’ on the borough’s request for a flood levy, this would ‘remain unaffordable in the present referendum limits,’ the borough said.
The scheme is continuing without the Royal Borough branch.
However, Wraysbury Parish Council is now in the process of drafting a ‘letter before action’, advising the Royal Borough and the Environment Agency (EA) of its intent to pursue a judicial review against the decision.
The absence of Channel 1 makes the River Thames Scheme an ‘incomplete project’ and thus a ‘substandard scheme’, according to one councillor.
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Councillor Ewan Larcombe is both a Wraysbury parish councillor and Royal Borough councillor for the National Flood Prevention Party (Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury). He said: “This will expose what the borough has done. The borough had no intention of putting money into Channel 1. They knew what was involved and they made no provision for it – and nobody is answerable.
“The Environment Agency should be worried, and so should the borough.”
In response, leader of the council Andrew Johnson stressed that the decision not to proceed with Channel 1 was not taken by the borough but by the River Thames Scheme sponsor group (co-chaired by the EA and SCC).
“They were quite clear they were proceeding without us,” he said. “I genuinely would have wanted to progress this if funds allowed – it’s deeply regrettable and disappointing that we can’t.”
He added that, as the scheme is now many months in, the cost to re-join may even be higher than the original suggested cost of £52m.
“If we were asked to review our position, we would be bound by the same restraints we find ourselves in now,” Cllr Johnson said.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Although the proposed Berkshire stretch of the River Thames Scheme is no longer going ahead, we will continue to work with Royal Borough to reduce local flood risk, as we take forward the wider River Thames Scheme in Surrey and south-west London.”
Police were called to the River Thames between Cookham and Bourne End yesterday at about 3pm, to reports that a teenage boy had entered the water but hadn’t been seen to leave.